body image

Cankles, more broken body parts you can feel bad about, or please let’s just stop

tumblr_lj1vy5NkPY1qf0yrao1_400.gifQuite a few of you sent us links to stories about “cankles” and I confess I was loathe to blog about it.

Why? Partly I think we should just ignore this tendency to name unruly body bits such as muffin top, thunder thighs, and camel toe. I’m worried here about body shame and body policing. We give names to these ‘problem areas’ of the female body and then they take on lives of their own. Of course, then others sell us things to solve the problem and the ‘solution’ further advertises the problem and down the spiral goes.

In my case, I knew I had what was then called merely “thick ankles” from a young age. I’m not sure how I first knew. Did relatives remark on my ankles? That seems unlikely. I did have school uniform shoes and I remember in that setting being told I had “sturdy legs.” That later changed to “footballer legs” and “potato knees.” So maybe that’s where my “thick ankle” diagnosis first came from. But as a kid I can’t remember being much concerned. Legs were legs. Later, in my teen, years my body hatred focuses in on thighs. I’m not sure why. I think thighs were trendy at the time. These days it’s all about knees. But not about how they look. I want them to work! Perspectives change.

I like what Fit and Feminist has to say about this stuff in her post, Down with cankles, batwings and muffin tops.

“I still remember the first time I heard someone use the word “cankles,” back in the late 1990s, when this lady I worked was talking shit about a coworker, saying she had “cankles.”  My coworker was a Malden girl to her core – gold jewelry, tracksuits, flawless makeup, Betty Boop tattoo, if you’ve lived in Massachusetts you know what I’m talking about – and I can still remember the way she said, “caaankles.”  The word was so ugly and said with such great personal offense, like how dare Shit-Talked Coworker have ankles that are not discernable from her calves!

Now it seems like these words are ubiquitous, showing up in women’s magazines and on those wretched fashion-critique shows on E!, as if we have all turned into a nation of bratty 12-year-old boys.  Wobbly underarms are batwings, fat that overhangs waistbands are now muffin tops and, my least favorite, FUPA…well, let’s not talk about what that stands for.

This terminology exists for one reason, and that’s to shame women into compliance with bullshit body standards.  The phrases themselves may be silly little metaphors, but the intent behind them is nothing short of cruel.  I’ve had it with these terms, and I hope others feel the same.”

You can about the invention of cankles here and about the rise in cosmetic surgery to fix your “boot bulge” here.

A little while ago I wrote about “bingo wings” and suggested it’s time we moved on.

As with “camel toe” and “muffin top,” I have a radical suggestion. Can we put our collective wit to work elsewhere? I’m pretty sure the source of these names is women’s own shame and self-deprecation. To be honest, I don’t think straight men are much given to witty arm-shaming. So let’s stop with the jokes about women’s bodies.

Oh, and that doesn’t mean we get to start joking about men’s bodies either. I have two sons and I’m not keen to see them share,  any more than they already do, in the culture of naming and shaming body bits.

Maybe we could take our sharp tongues and aim our wit and our shame to the doorsteps of politicians. Just a thought.

This stuff isn’t new. It’s been around for awhile. See Gold’s Gym declares July “Cankles Awareness Month” It’s from 2009!

Between declaring thin eyelashes a “condition” and an awareness month created around “chubby ankles,” it seems that the micromanagement of women’s body parts is becoming so much of a trend that soon, women will begin to hate literally every fiber of their being. This is not to mention that the gym’s campaign is a smack in the face to every awareness month that works towards, you know, saving lives and fighting injustice and stuff. Shame on Gold’s, and on WSJ for actually covering this bullshit as news.

Tina Fey