Are you ready for a traumatic trip down memory lane? I can induce a spiral with the deranged power of just one word: cankles. Remember that term? Does it send a shiver through your spine and a tremble through your heart like it does to me?
If you’re on the baby end of Gen Z and don’t quite recall what cankles are – let me refresh your memory. ‘Cankles’ refers to ankles that are less defined, so there’s more of a straight line between the ankle and the calf rather than an inward curve. It’s supposed to be the portmanteau of ‘calf’ and ‘ankle’, and it’s often used to fat-shame people, and as I just discovered via Google, women in particular.
When you google ‘cankles’, Oxford languages defines it as “a woman’s fat or swollen ankle whose flesh merges unattractively with that of the calf.”
A WOMAN’S. Specifically.
If you’re wondering who’s to blame for the absolutely garbage trend that was cankle shaming, it actually came into popularity from Shallow Hal (2001). The movie is about a shallow guy called Hal (Jack Black), who is actually pretty nice aside from the fact that he can’t see women as people who aren’t limited to their bodies. He ends up getting hypnotised to only see women’s ‘inner beauty’ by a life coach, and then meets Rosemary (Gwnyth Paltrow, lol) who he sees as a super hot trophy-wife type skinny gal that is actually very obese.
Anyway, one of Hal’s dickhead friends is shocked by his interest and exclaims “She’s got CANKLES!.” And thus, an entire generation learnt to be ashamed of their ankles.
It’s kind of wild how quickly we’ve forgotten the absolutely cursed cankle shaming trend, despite holding onto cankle insecurities.
It was truly the bane of my existence when I was like, 14. To this day, I still contort my posture in deranged angles so my ankles can look as petite as possible in mirror selfies. Because, for some reason, having petite ankles is actually something I’ve been made to care about.
We really live in a society where every inch of a woman’s body, no matter how obscure, can become a point of insecurity with so much as just an offhand comment in a now mostly forgotten movie.