Hot Dog Legs Is a Disturbing Example of Tumblr's Body Image Issues

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Hot Dog Legs has been called the "Tumblr of the Summer," "genius," and "your new favorite meme," but it's also a disturbing outgrowth of the thinspiration and body dysmorphia issues that proliferate on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. For those who aren't familiar, the question posed by Hot Dog Legs is whether the pair of tan cylinders on display is "Are they hot dogs or legs"? Viewers are invited to  browse through pictures of legs that look like hot dogs, or hot dogs that look like legs. Like this one:

(Legs?) Versus this one:


The site attempts to parody the popularity of the sort of bare-legged pictures some women are fond of posting, generally while lounging outside by a pool or on a beach. In particular, the position, lighting, and summery backgrounds seen in these images make for great "inner thigh gap" shot — Inner thigh gap, or ITG, is one of the popular tags used along side thinspiration on the Internet — an absurd beauty standard that defines a space between one's thighs as an indicator of ideal thinness and sex appeal. Indeed, the first image that comes up in a Tumblr search for "inner thigh gap" surfaces a picture that falls into the "hot dog legs" genre, though not exactly the correct format. It is also tagged with "#thinspiration" and #thinspo":

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Here's one from Instagram, too.

Those who like to accentuate and broadcast images of their thighs probably don't appreciate the juxtapositions to fattening, chemical-laden processed foods. And it's a fraught comparison: The association of women's bodies to meat, and the blog's accompanying suggestion that its subjects aren't exactly human, is a centuries-old assertion of white male supremacy, notes Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. "For a long time what was human was really white male," she explains in a 2002 interview with The Witness. Seeing women as a "piece of meat," she argues, is a form of victimization. "Cultural images of sexual violence, and actual sexual violence, often rely on our knowledge of how animals are butchered and eaten," she told Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research this past June. It's certainly offensive to compare females to animals. Though, in fairness, wieners are called wieners.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.