By Kagure Mugo
Have babies, but do not breast feed them in public. Wear skirts but make sure they are not too short. Look beautiful but make sure you are not too vain. Have a summer body but do not, for the love of God, show it to anyone in a revealing short dress.
In a world where, as a woman, you are constantly told what you can or cannot do with your body breaking society’s rules is one of the most empowering things you can do. Going on to twitter during one extremely hot day in Johannesburg I found women doing exactly that with the trending topic #ThighsForJeaux.
#ThighsForJeaux is an ongoing Twitter movement in South Africa started by self-confessed ‘insufferable feminist’ @Mijeaux who encourages women to post pictures of their thighs in all their glory to counter narratives about the perfect body.
The tag went viral and the pictures posted were of an assortment of thighs: thighs with hair alongside waxed thighs, dimpled thighs, thighs on their way to being well toned and thighs so strong they could grip a pencil and write ‘squats’ on a piece of paper. There were all types of thighs, hundreds and hundreds of them all trending for over eight hours on South African twitter.
The movement started as #ThighsForMixo and encouraged women to throw of the shackles of body shaming and to seriously engage with the love/hate relationship we all have with our thighs and our bodies in general. She started the movement because she was ‘tired of seeing people shoved into conservative clothing for fear of body shaming.’
In an interview with Runaway Riot Mijeaux said:
“I was on Twitter speaking about how hot it is and that it’s impossible for us to not show our thighs and that whoever is mad about it will have to deal with it. Often times people are judged for showing off their thighs especially if their thighs are ‘imperfect’ or are against the accepted norm so I wanted to create a fun judgment free platform for people to love their thighs especially when they are told that they cannot.”
She continued by saying:
“I’m really just hoping to achieve an intersectional body positive movement that involves cis women, trans* women, cis and trans* men and non-binary people too. I just want people to love themselves in the various forms they come in. This was also a way for me to love my thighs despite stretch marks and scars and hair.”
The movement has grown with more and more women joining in and many more watching and cheering from the side lines. Although many saw it as being a fun thing to do on a sweltering summer’s day the act in itself was an extremely powerful one. In a world where women (and men) are bombarded constantly with pictures of bodily perfection it’s difficult sometimes to love one’s self with all your flaws. Even our apps tell us we are not good enough giving us filter after filter with the tag #NoFilter being something that people often engage in. We are a society that is a step away from #NoPhotoshop.
Thus the encouragement and subsequent posting of women’s thighs for literally hours was an extremely powerful counter to this perfection trend as often it is one’s thighs that we are often most critical of. From the fact that they are often the first place stretch marks take up residence to the dimples that seem to holiday there thighs are often only second to a woman’s arms when it comes to taking in a torrent of self-deprecating abuse. This is coupled with the fact that they are often a site of policing when it comes to women’s bodies with the exposure of ones upper leg being as socially acceptable as punching adorable puppies in the face.
Women’s bodies are constantly policed and no other platform is this obvious as instagram. From celebrities to women with far less followers women are constantly bombared with hateful and desrructive comments the minute they bare their body parts. One powerful example of fighting back against this tide of hate was by @Beeyroyce in which she clapped back against body shamers who commented on a photo of her in her underwear:
On Twitter she said this would be the last time she addressed this sort of hate.
#ThighsForMijeux is thus an extremely potent counter to society’s obsession with perfection. More than that, the power of the movement started by @Mijeaux, and other body positive movers on the continent who seek to control the gaze on women’s bodies, is that it goes against the notion that women must not, and should not, expose too much of their bodies in public. Skin equals sex and women are not allowed to brandish theirs in public lest someone instantly takes them up on their supposed ‘offer’.
The idea still prevails that a woman who has her body on ‘display’ clearly wants to ‘possessed’. This why we see men catcalling women ‘showing a bit of skin’ on the street. Sometimes it’s worse than that: ‘scantily dressed’ women are physically stripped of their clothes in places like South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and a whole host of other countries. We live in a world where revenge porn is a form of punishment against women, proving once more that our bodies do not belong to us. These movements seek to subvert that idea. If I want to put my thighs on the internet I will and that doesn’t mean you now have access to me.
The idea that a woman does not truly own her body, especially if any part of is it showing is challenged in this case By posting the pictures of their thighs, women took control of how and when their bodies are shown. The point of the whole endeavor was for women to control and own the narrative surrounding their bodies and be like ‘these are my jiggly bits, they exist, and I love them. Also, they are not yours just because you see them.’
Trends such as #ThighsForMijeux and other body positive movements are much needed in a world that says we can only love ourselves so much without the help of digital aids. So next time the internet requests #nofilters of your thighs, post them.
— Vuyo (@VuyoNdimba) January 8, 2016
— Benamile Zwane (@BenamileZwane) January 8, 2016
— N (@BaddieNay) January 8, 2016
— Akani (@akani_maboko) January 8, 2016
— Gogo (@noksangoma) January 8, 2016
— 12 to 21 | Lineo (@SaidDineo) January 8, 2016
— Snapchat: (@YethuIsMyName) January 8, 2016
— Hoetic Justice (@Kiiimbabwe) September 23, 2015
Thin thighs, fat thighs, girl thighs, boy thighs, wiggly thighs, jiggly thighs, scarred thighs… We love all thighs. #ThighsForJeaux
— C. (@SugaryOblivion) January 8, 2016
— Naledi Mbaba (@Dr_Naledi) January 8, 2016
— uncle murda (@_rhiitha) January 8, 2016
— do ur thing bbz (@NotYetUhuru_) January 8, 2016
— Unapologetic . Queer (@miz_thabz) September 23, 2015
— Sweetest Taboo (@uBuhleBakhe) September 23, 2015
Even men joined in:
— Msomi (@Msomifaya) January 8, 2016
This was first published on This Is Africa.