Still in the internet’s recent short-term memory is the concept of the ‘thigh gap’. A uniquely online moment of monitoring women’s bodies, just a year ago one in every three links would send you to a fan page, thinspo tumblr or hand-wringing think-piece about a very particular negative space. In our new century, a phenomena like this is less durable, forgotten in an internet minute, and the idea of the thigh gap seems to have lost popular attention. What we now can generally agree on is this – being healthy is better than being unhealthy, and focusing on largely meaningless details is by definition unhealthy.
One phenomena with more legs (get it?) is the idea of the ‘Gap Year’. First gaining popularity in the 1960’s, Australian school leavers have taken the opportunity very seriously – almost a quarter take a Year 13 after the conclusion of their study. Some work part- or full-time, fewer travel. It’s become such an ingrained expectation that it might be worth considering its implications.
It is abundantly clear that the pressures and expectations of Year 12, in any of Australia’s state-run education departments, are substantial and varied. If given the chance, who would choose hitting another set of books over earning cash or seeing another part of the world? There is nothing wrong with the gap year concept per se, but the timing seems off.
The seven-day work week is entirely arbitrary – why do we adopt the same language and units of time that HR departments prefer when we want to relax? Consider Happy ‘Hour’, Schoolies ‘Week’, Gap ‘Year’. We watch the clock while at work, counting the minutes or weeks to knock-off time, only to instantly apply the same deadlines to our recreation. So why a year? With mid-year or even third semester entry, those gappers taking university placements have no specific reason to wait until after summer to start tertiary study. If it weren’t for tradition, would gap-takers take a longer, or shorter, time away from the classroom? Why not a gap month or a gap season? Take two, three, ten years, why not? – from a certain perspective the gap ‘year’ seems like a strictly enforced ‘half-time’ in the dressing rooms, an unseen referee impatient to wave you back on to the field for another round of strife and effort.
The thigh gap’s impact and desirability happened to be in direct proportion to its inconsistency; it has been largely debunked: specific posing, considered lighting techniques and a certain hip-to-thigh ratio (entirely subject to genetics) are commonly cited as the source for much of the tumblr-bait of last year. The gap year is just as unstable, and a marketplace of school leavers, their families and employers putting an unreasonable about of faith and importance on an arbitrary length of time is just as bizarre and unhelpful. The idea that young people can only go twelve months between grindstones should be alarming, not an endearing and culturally protected tradition.