This paper will analyze the shift of the curvy women community to Instagram. The social media platform has been promoting body positivity of curvy women by breaking down the beauty standards imposed by the West. For the conference purposes, this paper will provide a brief background history of Body positivism of curvy women, its transition to join Instagram, but focusing mainly on social media hashtags especially #effyourbeautystandards and #BOPO. These two respective hashtags will demonstrate how the body positivity movement upheld their initial goals despite globalization and transmit their message on the effective and collaborative platform of Instagram using influencers who positively affect the curvy women community as well as changing the online audience’s attitudes towards the “fat” community. In parallel with hashtags activism, this paper will analyze the performance of body image by influencers on Instagram which promote body positive messages, breaking stereotypes and documenting their life experiences with storytelling creating a homogenous and bonding community despite their culture heterogeneity. The present study portrays Instagram as encouraging body positivity communities of curvy women to forge their online identity by normalizing the “unconventional” body shape.
Keyword: #hashtags #bodypositivism #curvy #effyourbeautystandards #BOPO #influencers
The conceptualization of feminine beauty is a socially constructed conviction which depicted the physical attractiveness as the most important attribute to women, who should strive to maintain and achieve in the society. This beauty standard was first illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson who portrayed the “Gibson Girl” as the ideal American woman which spread its popularity and forged the main standard of body image since 1890 in America (Simon & Mamp, 2020). This ideology of beauty led to discrimination, stereotyping and unfairness towards marginalized groups such as fat, black, gender oppressed and other underrepresented communities of women. The origins of the body positivity movement came from the first fat acceptance movement in America, now known as National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), founded by Bill Fabrey in 1969 whose wife was criticized and ill-treated by the society for being fat (Cooper, 2016). Through the fat right movement, which continually grow between 1970 to 1990, there has been a liberalization spreading slowly on national radios and newspapers by protesting in the streets of New York (Stürmer et al.,2003). Body positivism established its own identity in the 2000s as a community which unify all body types, to celebrate the physical traits, no skin color discrimination, normalizing scars and body hair according to Chamberlain (2017, as cited in Ford, 2021) which differs from the NAAFA movement now, who advocate only for overweight and obese people.
With the emergence of new media, the body positivity movement seized the opportunity to project their national public sphere community into globalization by joining social media platform like Instagram which gives a more democratic approach compared to other social media competitors. Instagram provided new types of user generated contents like sharing videos, stories, or photos compared to the traditional medias; article, magazine or radio, allowing diverse representations of beauty (Webb et al., 2017). But to what extent can Instagram promote curvy body image to its cosmopolitan audience. Despite the controversies related to the curvy body image, this paper will contend that Instagram is an influential tool that impact positively on women’s identity by keeping the society’s pressure at gatekeeping to fit in the western beauty ideal: the Gibson Girl. Hence, Instagram encourages body positivity communities of curvy women to forge their online identity by normalizing “unconventional” body shapes. This is done through the work and influence of sponsoring influencers and the use of personalized hashtags on the social media platform.
#Hashtag a new form of activism
The practice of hashtags activism is influencing the way global movements evolve in gaining mediatic attention to shine a spotlight on social, political and economic issues. Previously, the internet became the main place where body shaming and body love are spread. The ‘90s boards display and private chatroom shifted to social media, the fat activism continued building its community digitally. The hashtag phenomenon uses keywords with # symbol preceded to mark an occasion, event or feeling, but also strategically retrieve a specific information quickly on any unfolding affairs (Tiggemann & Zinoviev, 2019). The use of hashtags proved to be effective and viral as it allows content creators to attract and target a specific audience who have a common interest on a subject, allowing quick access, collection and distribution of information, and use to signpost a topic, to filter and facilitate the communication in the search process. The two most used hashtags supporting curvy women movement are #effyourbeautystandards with 4.8 million post and #BOPO with 1.2 million post, refer to Figure 1 (See Appendix). The picture of a woman posing confidently and smiling in her bikini-clad with a short description and using the #BOPO and #effyourbeautystandards hashtags which gives purpose, meaning and value to the photo. What differs from many other pictures of women, is the body size of the model as she is considerably larger than the mainstream standard. Hashtags are the small but powerful tool, which is found across Instagram, that makes a picture stand out among thousands other with a specific signpost which will regroup curvy women into normalizing the exhibition of curves in a bikini during summer like everyone else and compelling other viewers to be exposed to diverse body images.
This recent overflowing of body positivity contents on Instagram has led to a proliferation of body positive discourse, showing a visible social change in the ‘Gibson Girl’ ideal. By breaking down the body image standards, the curvy women movement has attracted and build their Instagram community with the public sphere as well as partnered with brand like Dove, who empowers curvy women to self-brand their neoliberal identity, accept their “real beauty” and advocate for liberation of normalizing and accepting ‘fat’ bodies (Murray, 2013). The significant shift of curvy community to Instagram acts as a system advocacy platform for body positivity, can speed up mobilization and help the discriminated and stereotype fat women to have a voice and seek for an online justice by storytelling as stated Chamberlain (2017, as cited in Ford, 2021). Hashtags and storytelling blended perfectly to showcase, portray and determine a call for action on Instagram. Storytelling compelled the curvy women to take actions of sharing their discriminated experiences and call for actions by doing petitions to seek justice and apologies. It is the ‘live’ connection that enables participatory culture where the body positivism movement strengthen community relationship and create social change with their online audience (Canella, 2017). Through storytelling, it was easier for the movement to engage in participatory culture. As a result, this demonstrates that there is a strategical process of influencing and normalizing body shape by the online communities on Instagram. Pictures and videos tagged with a specific hashtag are compiled with similar element, the online sphere finds it easy to partake actively or passively in the body positivity propaganda. Since other’s opinion matters as a fact of validation or approval in constructing their body image (Webb et al., 2017), this generated body confidence leading to more self-appreciation among curvy and insecure women. Instagram’s fluidity platform attracts like-minded people to support and communicate globally by showing interest and purpose on curvy body issues by using hashtags and sharing contents. The increase in authenticity of curvy contents and journey to accept their body proved to encourage women to talk and seek advice or support on their personal struggles such as body shaming, stereotyping and have a sense of belonging with the online community (Paraskeva at al., 2017).
#Influencer the new role model
The online curvy Influencers created a third space through interaction and inspiring their community to respect and forge their acceptance of being beautifully different to the mainstream ideal. Previously, the fat body shape in Western societies was synonym of uncultivated, uncared which failed to meet the aesthetics features (Murray, 2004). But today, Instagram influencers are empowering curvy women in the body performance such as exposing their generous curves, wearing the latest fashion trend in plus size and promoting body positivity through sharing photos and videos with new meaningful hashtags. The American Model Tess Holiday as shown in Figure 2 (See Appendix), founder of #effyourbeautystandrads since 2013 is the first curvy woman to sign a contract in the fashion industry in 2015. Her posts are followed by 2.1 million people and her pictures are highly liked as she exposed her generous body shape which do not fit the western beauty standards. Holiday described herself as a body positive activist, who embraces her ‘fat’ figure and advocate for plus size women to love their curves. Having a strong and organic online community, Holiday’s Instagram page is a perfect example of social media hybridity. She has used traditional media such a Tv coverage and radio interview as well as new form of communication like direct messages and filming her daily life journey. She shares her real-life struggles using stories which every curvy woman can relate to. This clearly shows how the body positivism movement has placed a body positive activist to show the dilemma of being ‘fat’ and still pursuing your dream life to emphasize on the credibility of the body positive messages across Instagram. Instagram allowed Holiday to empower the curvy women who suffers from social ostracism and the ‘fat’ should fight to change beauty norms by imposing their own labels and get things done in the fast-growing industry (Holiday, 2020). By sharing the curvy women’s testimonials and stigmas, Holiday exchanged direct messages, provide guidance and support to women facing discrimination and stereotyping around the world. Instagram made it possible for reachability between influencers and the online public sphere in supporting the curvy movement and reinforced female ties to form network individualism. Holiday broke the public and celebrity barrier by doing live videos or IGTV with an open debate on topics related to body positivism, fat rights and educate the audience to treat the ‘fat’ people equally as they have same rights as everyone and to accept this ‘fat’ body as beautiful and normalize seeing the fat figure without criticizing or discriminate them.
Influencers are powerful pillars that create body positive contents on Instagram which improve positive mood, body appreciation and normalizing being different online as well as offline (Langer & Perez-Moreno, 2020). Not only curvy women but everyone is exposed to diversity of purpose related to body positivism and interpret the message according to their struggles or mindset, establishing an identity to the online community. Accordingly, curvy movement makes it normal to engage in communal criticism when talking about ‘fat’. It reinforces the female ties and create a common responsiveness of tackling body discontent (Britton et al., 2006). Bonding with their audience is vital for Influencers to construct the power of a community and attract lifelong members. Instagram acts as a facilitator to gather all these positive and negative engagement, but Influencers who are self-objectify makes it look normal and still pursue body love and spread empowering message on body curve attributes. The body performance is a very powerful tool which knows no borders, this online influence of body positivity can be seen in real life. Curvy women associate their identity to the influencer community and are more confident to live a normal life, developed purpose to wear what they want and eat whenever they want, compared to the 80s (Bullingham & Vasconcelos, 2013). This shows that the curvy body community has reached billion of women sharing their homogeneous entity which celebrate their body shape and fighting against the westernized standards and stereotyping. By investing through Influencers, the curvy body movement communicates methodically to bring awareness, empowerment, but mainly input a role model on the social platform for women to take example from, to smooth the process of body acceptance and liberation of curvy movement (Martinez-Lopez et al., 2020). Instagram helps building the curvy body resistance to break down the beauty ideals and stereotyping, as well as uplifting the female identity to grow uniquely and remain positive with their beauty appearances.
To sum up, Instagram became a popular platform providing exposure that has increased curvy body positivism messages globally. Through sponsorship of Influencers and hashtags activism, curvy community could empower and normalize having different body shape. Referring to the above discussion, emergence of new media and globalization, brought change from the ideal ‘Gibson girl’ to break down the western ideologies and liberate this oppressed community. Instagram allowed the movement to build and nurture their culture online as well as offline assuming that every curvy woman can influence the discriminated and underrepresented communities with body related issues to effectively guide them to body positivity and build a sense of belonging. Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran (1973, cited in Rothblum & Solovay, 2009) who wrote the Fat Manifesto,
“We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together. And if together exclude the fat people, black people as well as other marginalized bodies who made Body Positivity possible – it’s not Body Positivity at all”.The Fat Manifesto By Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran
However, even if there are a lot of articles written on body positivism movement, further research needs to be done on specific topics like hashtags activism and influencers’ power. Most of the studies conducted are correlational and this limits the approach of this paper to delve deeper with the evolution of Instagram and persistent change of community behavior resulting to assumptions and user experiences to convey a clear statement in this conference paper. Hence, more research with experimental methods should be carried out and examine the direct relation of body positivism movement on social media.
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47 thoughts on “From New York streets to Instagram community: The chronicles of body positivism movement of curvy women and its transition to social media”
Hi Ruby! This is an excellent paper!
Social media, specifically Instagram has revolutionised the ways in which individuals can control the representations of their bodies and identities, paving the way for inclusivity of people in every shape and form.
I have discussed something similar in my paper about social media facilitating fourth-wave Feminism, as the practice of Feminism has evolved to be intersectional – allowing those previously excluded from the female archetype to be recognised and to have their voices heard. (you can read it here if you like! https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/27/the-fourth-wave-how-social-media-has-revolutionised-feminism/)
You have highlighted particularly how the influencer community has assisted with the inclusion of curvy women in society, however, there are still many celebrities and influencers who are showcasing unrealistic body standards to their millions of followers (e.g. the Kardashians). What are your thoughts on how the body positivism movement can combat these unachievable and damaging standards?
I went through your paper and I must say that it is a fact that women were judged by their body shape. They had to face a lot of criticism due to the lack of knowledge other people had on how a human body function.
However, your paper mention that due to the social media platforms, being fat is no more considered as being a critic and people are showing how beautiful a curvy body can be but do think it is ok to speak about the acceptance of being fat only? The acceptance of curviness and thinness should be accompanied with ‘I got some fats and I’m healthy’? Don’t you think that it should be more about being healthy, as being fat/thin leads a lot of health issues. I think body positivity should be more of an acknowledgement that a person should have with its own body, as in ‘I know I got some fats, I know I’m beautiful and I know that I am healthy’. I feel that people speak more about body positivity rather being healthy when actually ‘how to be healthy’ is something that many people should be aware of.
It is a two way traffic because some influencers talk only about body positivity and some influencers talk only about exercises, diets and so on but majority talk about being healthy and people who speak about body positivity should also include the consequences of being too fat or slim.
I really enjoyed your paper. As someone that is considered to be a “curvy girl” this really highlighted to me my own journey to accept my body and Made me realize how much the shift in the body positivity movement has had an effect on that. I completely discounted the fact that there are so many more “curvy” influencers out there and more acceptance when I looked back and wondered why it was so much easier for me to accept my body now than it was 5-10 years ago when I was 30-50kg smaller. This has definitely brought my attention to the changes in opinions on body shape on social media and also caused me to wonder if “curvy” will be an upcoming body shape trend like in the 90’s how being stick thin and having the heroin chic look was all the rage and how more recently the “kardashian booty” is what everyone has been after.
Thank you for a thought provoking read!
Hello, Ruby! Thank you for sharing your excellent paper. I remember the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and how refreshing it was to see so many different types of “real” women represented, instead of only models with “ideal” thin figures. While you talk about the “Gibson Girl”, I note that if we search further back in history, we find that societies’ ideals for women’s figures have changed a lot through the years. Swami (2016) explains here: https://theconversation.com/womens-idealised-bodies-have-changed-dramatically-over-time-but-are-standards-becoming-more-unattainable-64936 the earliest recorded portrayals in history show ideal women as very round, with large breasts, stomachs, and hips. This is because humanity experienced regular food shortages, so women with these features were able not only to survive, but to birth and nourish children easily, making such women ideal partners (Swami, 2016). Much of 19th century art portrayed women in this manner (Swami, 2016).
As our global food supplies have become more assured, it has been less important for women to birth large numbers of children, and more important for us to be seen as healthy and able to live long lives. I believe that in some countries with less secure supplies of food, “curvy women” are still admired as representing a wealthy (and therefore “higher”) class of society. Obviously, that is not the case in Western countries, and the easy availability of the internet combined with globalisation has led to so many of today’s influencers presenting as (for many women) unrealistic archetypes.
I have struggled with Instagram due to feeling it is saturated with content portraying unattainable ideals as the norm. Your paper, and that of Alicia Lyon’s paper here: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/26/instagrams-fitspiration-community-and-its-negative-effects-on-womens-self-esteem-and-body-satisfaction/ have shown me that there is content available which can inspire me to feel good about the person I am and the body I have, instead of depressed about the person I am not. Thank you! Regards, Karena
Hello Ruby! I enjoyed reading your paper. Thank you.
It’s interesting to observe how social media platforms, like Instagram, are used to negotiate narratives about “unconventional” body shapes. I think it would be interesting to investigate further these collective/ individual narratives and observe how they connect with real life situations.
Good job 🙂
Actually I should thank you! I’m glad you liked it.
And I agree with you, this is an interesting topic which needs more investigations to know how far is it really changing lives as well as the impact of these narratives; is it influencing the community or is the community being influenced ? This is definitely going to be another topic to debate on for future projects and studies.
Dearest Ruby ,
You wrote such an inspiring and informative article. Kudos to you!!!!
It really depicts how far we’ve come along…. the way we have progressed and most importantly shifted our ways of seeing curvy women. and emphasize more on body positivity. Nevertheless, we both know, there’s still a looong way to go since its such a complex matter.
I’ve seen it on Instagram and Youtube where women who struggle with their body images really express their feelings and frustrations towards the fact, they often cannot relate to influencers and also celebrities( like Kim K, Khloe/Kylie). Sometimes, just because they seem to perfect and being way too filtered. I think that’s where the hashtags really come in handy and powerful because every women from around the world can use those. In turn, it fully broadens and amplifies those hashtags and the diversity through it as well.
But then, when we talk about body positivity, it makes you think only about the physical aspect of it and not the mental part of it. Often we overlook the importance of mental health and physical well being. Being healthy is crucial .
Hello Sephora! Thank you for your comment.
Indeed the body positive movement successful joined social media platform and everyday is a battle to impose our footprint and identity in the modern and judgemental society. You are absolutely right, there should promote more mental support and to be physically healthy.
And according to Folkvord et al (2020), the online audience will support and appreciate an unhealthy influencer with unhealthy food habits rather than an unhealthy influencer which they classified as ‘fictional fit’ with healthy food consumption. The experimental studies showed that the online audience has associated and categorized influencers according to their online identity, their branded contents and they are very judgemental towards influencer marketing. There is a lot of Psychological patterns taking shapes which change the online consumer behavior. Moreover, the same study found that the audience would associate healthy food habits and consumption with a ‘popular real fit influencer’ and they are willing to change, adopt and care for their health. This study shows and confirmed us that even if the ‘fat’ influencer (fictional fit) tries to add healthy food consumption and behaviors, this would not change much. But again as I mentioned in my previous comment, some ‘fat’ influencers who faced health issues are now voicing out and trying to sensibilize their online audience to adopt healthy food habits to avoid health issues in the future. In my opinion, this topic is taking shape slowly but surely on social media platforms.
Folkvord, F., Roes, E., & Bevelander, K. (2020). Promoting healthy foods in the new digital era on instagram: An experimental study on the effect of a popular real versus fictitious fit influencer on brand attitude and purchase intentions. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1677. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09779-y
This was a very insightful and well-researched paper and I really enjoyed reading this! I believe this is a very important topic that needs to be spoken about more, especially on social media platforms as in this day and age, social media has become one of the most influential platforms in society. You make some really good points, especially in relation to Instagram and how it’s being used to shed light on this particular topic. I believe we often forget or overlook Curvy people and this should be something we all keep in mind and speak up about.
Well written paper!
Hello Saranya! Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.
Yes, we should support and promote not only curvy women but EVERY WOMAN! and this is what I appreciate with body positivism, the movement englobed all the represented and underrepresented communities of women. Be it black,white, brown, muslim, handicap and cancer survivors, everyone has their contribution and history to make in the society and Instagram is a tool for message propaganda.
Hello, Ruby! I have finally gotten the chance to read your paper. I find this paper to be incredibly well- researched and informative. I did not realise that the use of Instagram had played such a big role in the curvy women community! It warms my heart to learn that curvy women are able to see themselves represented in a positive light online and obtain the love and support they deserve.
Instagram is a platform that functions of users posting images, which makes it perfect for curvy women to share images of themselves posing in pretty outfits that highlight their curves and body shape. These women are confident and comfortable in their own skin, and they are showing it to the rest of the world. The normalisation of curvy women as being beautiful is great for other plus-sized women out there, especially the younger generation! I talked about how the normalisation of mental health issues and treatment has also become apparent through the use of platforms such as Instagram in my own paper, which you have read.
It was also very interesting to read about the ‘Gibson Girl’ ideal, also known as the Western beauty standard. Being a woman of colour, I can relate to feeling underrepresented in the media and not fitting into this standard of beauty. The beauty standard for women is still very much “white” if you know what I mean. Many people of colour are not even considered to be attractive due to our darker skin colour and facial features that are not Eurocentric.
I would have loved to hear your thoughts about how social media, especially Instagram, may impact curvy women of colour? They already face discrimination in terms of their body size, and being a woc may add another layer of oppression.
Hi Levinia ! Glad you could read it and thank you for your comment.
I understand what you’ve been through, being a woman of colour in real life as well as on social media, seems like an everyday battle to impose yourself in our society. I’m glad you raise that question! At first I wanted to write on Curvy women of colour then when I started reading the roots of the fat movement, I had to tell this story about the Gibson Girl. I mean who would have thought we are still following the rules of the western people dated decades ago who are six feets underground !? Well coming back to your question, it is very sad that curvy women of colour are not represented as it should be in reality, and even on Instagram. The hashtags of #blackandcurvy or #brownandcurvy are very limited maybe around 1000 posts only. The fact is that it is easier to associate fat and white in body positive, rather than black or brown. Even in 2020, Facebook set new rules as Instagram has deleted photos of black women for promoting #BOPO, this shows how social networks are still classifying and controlling what the audience is viewing. Here is the article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/oct/25/instagram-row-over-plus-size-model-forces-change-to-nudity-policy
However, there are some brands giving curvy women of colour the opportunity to have the upper hand and break these stereotypes! Such as Dove.
The article below is an in-depth investigation of the matter, the authors argues that there are silent political hands on social media platforms, on what is accepted as per their aesthetic ideal and how they try to create and influence the online audience (Caldeira et al., 2020). That’s crazy, right?
Curvy body positivism became a mediatic social buzz and for every post preaching diet and healthy lifestyle, there’s another who’s reminding women to love themselves no matter the size. Unfortunately, most fat and curvy influencers also face harassments, banned accounts if ‘glorifying obesity’ and the intersectional activists who are still dealing with culture oppression in other areas are outspoken. These pushback on Instagram shows the limitations of its advocacy towards the curvy women community and gives an insight that the latter has an underlying political aspect. Instagram may cover a wider diversity of curvy representation that is absent from other popular media but maintain slacktivism and do not endorse the full participatory culture for example some posts or photos of curvy women who are handicapped, black or cancer survivors are considered too ‘gross’ or ‘disgusting’ are removed or display to a very limited audience as well as removing a particular hashtag pertaining to a specific cause (Caldeira, 2021). In terms of global impact, Instagram proves to be unbeatable as the curvy community got exposure to be closer to their audience, a platform to express views and support each other with the hashtag activism but there are limitations to the extent of body positivity propaganda for women of colour.
Caldeira, S. P., De, R. S., & Van, B. S. (2020). Between the mundane and the political: Women’s self-representations on instagram. Social Media + Society, 6(3) doi:http://dx.doi.org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1177/2056305120940802
Caldeira, S. (2021). “It’s Not Just Instagram Models”: Exploring the Gendered
Political Potential of Young Women’s Instagram Use. Cogitatio.
Hi Ruby! First of all I would like to say that this was a very interesting piece to read. I believe that your paragraph on the influencer trend is very much relevant nowadays. Now that influencers are all over our feeds and everyone is becoming an influencer, it’s easy to imagine that they have an impact on body image but not to forget that social media and body image/ body positivity is still a topic that is in its early stages though we know they can be correlated. We should also have a look at the statistics of influencers who are ‘curvy’ and promoting this aspect of body positivity and influencers who are ‘skinny’. However, I must say I agree with most of your views. And indeed social media has opened the doors to a wide range of people. Luckily this shall shall give more opportunities to all body sizes.
Hi Ryana! Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.
Yes I did invested a lot of time exploring ‘influencers’ and what they are doing. And you are absolutely right, body image and social media have a long way to go, especially when the audience decide of what they want to see or ignore it. I actually chose this topic for showcasing the story of the body positive movement, but deep down we both know there are so many negative aspects concerning social media. Hoping that there are more positive than negative outcome on the body image topic!
Nice piece of writing. I enjoyed reading your perspective about the curvy body movement and acceptance. Absolutely, body shaming is not acceptable. It reduces someone’s self esteem and make them feel bad about their own body. Some people unfortunately are prone to certain illnesses which makes it extreme difficult for them to lose weight or simply require surgery. For example, Lipoedema is a chronic condition where mostly women gain abnormal fat bulid up in their lower body and it is extremely difficult to lose that weight (https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a13384085/what-is-lipoedema/#:~:text=in%20this%20article.-,Lipoedema%3A%20the%20chronic%20condition%20that%20could%20be%20the,you%20can't%20lose%20weight).
Fat shaming is not the way to encourage someone specially if the person is try to bring a change and lose some weight as well. I saw some comments on your paper and they are right. We should not body shame but we should not encourage unhealthy lifestyle as well. People simply need to learn to be polite and voice out their opinion constructively without the intent of hurting someone. Think twice before typing something on the internet because it can be hateful.
Great job Ruby!
Hi Devhuti 🙂
Thank so much for reading my paper.
Actually I must admit you have inspired me to choose body positivity as topic for this paper. Everyday when I log in Instagram, seeing you happily smiling and talking on body issues, acne and to still love yourself. I felt happy for you and also to pass on the message. I was reading on lipoedema, unfortunately many people are not aware of it. I think that to avoid or reduce criticism, body shaming, one should open up and educate the others. Influencing people by debating and raising awareness are good factors to start with. But well, there is a long way to go because you can’t force an influencer for e.g to talk on certain topic or illness. But others openly talk about this. We are getting there very slowly but surely. And I agree with you that people should think twice before commenting or sharing contents. I have seen many influencers as well as online people who committed suicide due to negative comments and sharing leaked videos of them. Social media platform is a powerful tool in connecting people as well as destroying them if wrongly use.
I feel very much honored to have inspired you to write about these issues! Acne has been part on my adolescent and I still suffer from hormonal acne. I learnt to live with it despite hearing remedies from left to right. Acne, having a tummy, have some extra kilos, having dark circles and so on, I believe this is what makes us human at the end of the day. We all are fighting some kind of fight and it is okay to have “imperfections”.
Hello Rubs!! I’m finally reading your paper. I’ve enjoyed it, its very informative and nicely written. On a personal level, I often see these… That is, what comes to your mind when you hear the term “body-shaming”? I bet you are picturing an ‘overweight’ person and hear the bold terms like ‘fat’. ‘oily’…’fast-foods’ right? And I know back in your mind, you are already formulating that body positivity is not just for fat people, well before I proceed with my argument haha. Our society has taught us for so long, being “fat” or “curvy” was deemed wrong, that is why we see a lot of campaign on body positivity. There are so many ads, just like the real beauty campaign by Dove you’ve mentioned on your conference paper. These women are looking ‘feeling proud of their bodies’ and so forth.
But on the other side of the spectrum, we find all the naturally thin people. They are also subject to daily body-shaming, but no one speaks about or defends them. On the contrary, it seems ok to judge them. I have been through this, and skinny shaming is not ok! I have often get these comments from people telling me “you are so bony, you look too young for your age, you don’t eat, your mom doesn’t give you food, you look sick”. Dude, that was not easy for me, cause its the same thing when I went to see my relatives. With the grace of self-love, I now see me as a perfect and healthy women., and I am glad that I know how to answer back, (which of course led to many conflicting relationships haha) But this is not my point here, there is that mentality where ‘fat’ people are developing are aggressive attitude against ‘skinny and healthy-looking’ people. I opiniated this based on one of the media I encountered, which was a video on Instagram, “Insta versus reality”, where a ‘fat lady’ was talking ill-words on skinny people, saying that they are palpable . When I saw this, I felt so angry and sad at the same time, because of her way of thinking and the hurt she is carrying on her shoulders. She even used the term ‘privileged body’, :/ why? People work hard on their bodies to be in the shape they desire. She is confused with idealized body images versus someone taking care of their long term health…..
I love my body and I feel healthy, but then, does being in the body positivity community makes one toxic? Or do we need to blame social media? I just do not want body positivity to be a movement against ‘ideal bodies’, else it will be a toxic movement. Ruby, what can be done to battle this issue?
*And yes, to anyone reading this comment, please forgive myself to use words like “skinny” or “fat”/ “oily” “ideal”… we are all beautiful in our own way. In case on your bad days you feel like hating your body, saying that you are too fat or too skinny whatever… just replace them by the word ‘human’. Make it more neutral. Say my HUMAN arms, my HUMAN tummy….this automatically neutralize yourself and your critics over your body. There is no good or bad, ofc you can replace them by positive phrases, but sometimes by the heat of the moment you may start critisizing your body negatively. So just use, ‘human’.
Thank you for your comment and reading my paper too!
You are absolutely right, body shaming is a really big issue affecting plus size as well as ‘skinny’ people. Actually if I had to delve deeper in this topic, body shaming would have been one of arguments as well as bullying. I really wanted to portray the history of the fat movement and their transition to social media. But to be honesty with you, social media is a place where hate is also openly spread. I find this very unfortunate and it gets me mad too. In fact, we have been exposed to the western life and style that it is ‘normal’ for people to criticise others on their appearances and behaviors. As I mentioned in another comment, we are still following rules imposed by western people who are 6ft underground, how ironic! It must have been hard to hear backbiting from people who were criticizing your body, but you should not pay attention to them! Showing self acceptance and self love to yourself are to be nurtured and nourish to achieve body positivity! You are a beautiful human and we have so much to do to educate people around us. Lets keep going!
Hi Ruby! Fabulous paper!
I really enjoyed reading about curvy body positivity and the historical aspects that you have mentioned. It is crazy to think over a century later than humans have evolved so much yet ideals about a persons body image ha velacked in development.
I am seeing more curvy women on social media now than ever. After reading your paper it brought light to a though I have had for a while. I, maybe it is just my feed, hardly see mid-size models and definitely think that there is a gap in the influencer and modelling world that could be filled. I see a lot of plus-size which is amazing and would love to see the mid-size women represented as well. Two places I have seen bridging this gap is Lounge Underwear and Moana Bikini (Aussie, curvy girl owned).
I had not heard of Tess before reading your paper so I had a look at her Instagram page. It is refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t fit the ideals being unapologetically herself. I could imagine many women look up to her as it shows many people that you don’t have to fit the ideals to be beautiful and confident!
Hi Alicia! Thank so much for reading my paper.
Well, our papers are co-related on the topic. Plus size women are winning small battles each day, but the war of liberation and self-acceptance is a very long way to go. You are absolutely right, there are more plus size joining and building communities as well as advocate for other underrepresented bodies. Tess Holiday is definitely an inspiration, an activist who is encouraging, engaging and voice out against the mainstream ideal. Such a fighter! Hoping other plus size models support the body positivity movement as she does despite the society pressure.
Being a curvy woman, I could totally relate to your paper. Body shaming forms part of everyone’s life unfortunately and it is a real issue even if we live in modern society.
Even though we see the plus-size community growing in popularity, I can, however, see that in many cases there is only a type of plus-size woman that is portrayed on social media platforms.
For example, most of the plus-size models that we see nowadays have unrealistic bodies. With big thighs, big bum, big chests BUT no belly or no double chin. We are again putting forward the ideal plus-size woman where in reality, bodies are shaped differently.
While doing your research and writing your paper have you come across this issue? I will be glad to discuss this with you.
You can also check out my paper on Natural Hair Vloggers on Youtube and their impact on black women’s identity:
Hope to here from you soon
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my paper.
Coming to your question, yes I did come across plus size influencers who go through facial or minor surgeries to look better. Unfortunately, this type of influencers are what we call fictitious; some do it to attract brands & gain audiences. They are plus size but do not really belong to a movement like body positivity or fat movement. And you know you can’t force them to be an activist or advocate. Social media platforms are pillars of liberation to self expression and self-branding, plus size women should set up their own labels. Again, there is this ‘industry approval’ which comes back repeatedly affecting their identity and beauty standards. It’s like “I’m body positive but am I the right kind of fat ? “. Women have been oppressed and discriminated for decades that it’s an everyday battle to expose ourselves on social media platforms and if you are not mentally strong, well we do go back to square one.
Here is a blog you might like:
The blogger is reflecting about the right kind of fat, and women should not get down or accept these influences, but rather get mad about it! This discussion here got me thinking that some plus size influencing are attracting plus size audiences for business purposes rather than encouraging them towards self love and self acceptance. You know while doing this paper, I came to a conclusion that the use of social media platforms have a lot to do with psychological and social behaviors that are in constant change with the technology and globalisation. As Ignesh mentioned in his comment on this topic, the role of an influencer is not predefined and this is a game changer with either a positive or negative impact on the online audience.
I totally agree with you! I just hope that more plus-size models would actually encourage self-love and body positivity. I am looking forward to a change in the way plus-size women actually accept themselves and their bodies.
As you mentioned in another comment, plus-size women are winning small battles and it is the most important.
Thabk you for you reply it was really informative.
Your paper was indeed interesting and insightful, the ideology of a perfect body should be erased from social media so that everyone is comfortable with their own body. You have brilliantly showcased the struggles that fat women face in their everyday life.
However, in a health perspective I do disagree with certain points. I know for a fact obesity is a disease which can lead to further complications such as diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. Even though influencers are promoting body positivity don’t you think they should also promote healthy tips and tricks to tackle with the weight problem. From your example such as Tess Holiday it can be pointed out that she is above her bmi which means she will eventually encounter health problems in the long run as an excess of fat in our body is not beneficial at all for our health. Would you agree that curvy body is not totally good for an individual own health benefits?
I do support the good cause to normalize having different body shape because body shaming is detrimental to society as one might feel ashamed on himself/herself. You could have reinforced the importance of body positivity by illustrating cases of suicide related to body shaming.
You might want to check this out: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/13/body-image-survey-one-in-eight-uk-adults-suicidal-thoughts
Thank you for your feedbacks.
I see what you did here, you know how much I like debates, right?
Well, Weight loss among fat-acceptance influencers a fraught topic. Very few influencers talk or disclose how this is affecting their health. And I agree with you that they should raise more awareness on being ‘fat’ but healthy. In this context, Tess Holiday isn’t the best example at all, in fact the latter unfollower another curvy influencer for doing a diet as she was diagnosed prediabetic.
Here is a link to the article and it mentioned other ‘fat’ influencers who had health issues:
In my opinion, I believe that Tess Holiday has branded the identity in a way to reach and attract the fat/ curvy/ unconventional bodies. Maybe she thinks that if she talks about being and eating healthy, her audience might be judgemental and will lose credibility as she preaches body acceptance; so why you’re talking about this? and also losing followers. Because of the power of the audience, ‘fat’ Influencers either keep their healthy lifestyle lowkey or simply don’t agree to it. I believe to really raise the topic, influencers should educate their audience, so that they understand the negative impact and maybe engage their audience to live and share their health journey by doing vlogs for doctor’s appointment and then share tips on how to care for your health.
Coming to mental health and body image, this has been a major and viral issue happening on social media platforms. In fact there are so many mainstream contents that it automatically bring discomfort, low self esteem and depression. Again this is due to the West imperialism, they created a binary and set up the beauty standards, which later expanded with globalisation and digitalization. This is why communities found is vital for them to join social media platforms so that they can break these socially constructed standards, fight online discrimination and stereotyping. They provide guidance and support to their online audience. Unfortunately, as NGOs, they have very limited resources, they are oppressed and banned from news. The West is still controlling the way media is being distributed and they still influence the public sphere with the beauty ideals with branded ads for e.g luxury perfume ads, with that slim actress or model. If I had to argue on body shaming, I would have come up with more negative than positive impact in this paper. But I really wanted to illustrate the background history of fat movement and how they are winning battles on social media platform for building an organic audience, then again the war isn’t over. There is so much more to explore in this topic, but I had to limit my choices.
I hope I could enlighten your mind on the topic above.
Hi again Ruby,
Thank you for replying
Well I do disagree with part of your opinion, as you said that she thinks might lose her audience, credibility, etc… but is not she doing it for fame then? Putting aside Tess Holiday, there is no predefined role for an influencer. They act on their own will as a result they share contents that would make their fanbase/community happy. It is all about attention economy that most individuals crave for nowadays. Body positivity is good against discomfort, low self esteem and depression but they should really pass on the message of how detrimental it can be in the long run. Ugly or not the audience would have to face the inevitable truth one day or another and its up to the influencers to help them as they are perceive as people with power and confidence.
This was just my opinion, I would be happy to hear what you think.
Well we must admit that Instagram allows self-expression and self-identity. Fame or not, the ‘fat’ influencers are powerful pillars of information distribution, whether they want to preach about healthy habits and embracing body positive or only act as ‘marionette’ of a movement, we can’t force them to adopt or compel them to talk about health issues. I understand and agree to the message you’re trying to convey, and as you mentioned the role and aim of an influencer is still questionable. However according to Folkvord et al (2020), the online audience will support and appreciate an unhealthy influencer with unhealthy food habits rather than an unhealthy influencer which they classified as ‘fictional fit’ with healthy food consumption. The experimental studies showed that the online audience has associated and categorized influencers according to their online identity, their branded contents and they are very judgemental towards influencer marketing. There is a lot of Psychological patterns taking shapes which change the online consumer behavior. Moreover, the same study found that the audience would associate healthy food habits and consumption with a ‘popular real fit influencer’ and they are willing to change, adopt and care for their health. This study shows and confirmed us that even if the ‘fat’ influencer (fictional fit) tries to add healthy food consumption and behaviors, this would not change much. But again as I mentioned in my previous comment, some ‘fat’ influencers who faced health issues are now voicing out and trying to sensibilize their online audience to adopt healthy food habits to avoid health issues in the future. In my opinion, this topic is taking shape slowly but surely on social media platforms. In fact, curvy body positivism became a mediatic social buzz and for every post preaching diet and healthy lifestyle, there’s another who’s reminding women to love themselves no matter the size. The aim of my paper is to talk about where the movement came from and what they are currently achieving knowing that women are oppressed and underrepresented, facing discrimination and stereotyping because of their body appearance; all this because the beauty standards were set by the West. I mean who would have thought that we are following beauty rules from people who are 6 feets underground. How ironic! Nevertheless, your point of view is questionable and definitely needs more research to come up with a clear statement of what an influencer can or cannot do, and what they should or should not do. This debate has added up more interest to delve deeper for future research purposes.
Folkvord, F., Roes, E., & Bevelander, K. (2020). Promoting healthy foods in the new digital era on instagram: An experimental study on the effect of a popular real versus fictitious fit influencer on brand attitude and purchase intentions. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1677. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09779-y
Hi Ruby! Your paper was very interesting and also informative. it feels great you are addressing a topic that needs more attention in the world we living in. Everybody, including men and woman, face body shaming in their everyday life but there are not many who addresses men who face it, which is quite sad. Instagram is proving daily how it is an effective tool to pass on messages and also having freedom of expression. I hope many other famous influencers address this issue which is faced by everybody. Traditional media also should be used more to pass on such messages and not just only on social media through sensibilization programs on television and radio. What do you think?
Thank you for your paper, liked it!
I’m glad you could hear my message in this paper.
I totally agree with you that traditional media should also promote body positivism messages, but we must admit that most traditional media like Tv are owned or controlled by the States and the same States are influenced on economical and political context with the West. Take MBC as an example! Magazines started to give a voice to these underrepresented movements with interviews but then again, they don’t do long term or real mediatic coverage on the topic. I believe that traditional media are just passively participating in the body positive propaganda but you do find their strong presence to cover the mainstream ideal. What differs with social media platform is that there is this freedom of self-expression, a form of citizen journalism and shift to online power, all these aspects can’t be controlled by the different States or the West who try to keep the public sphere at gatekeeping by imposing only what they want the people to learn and adopt. Your debate got me thinking about that ICTA issues and how the government is trying to take ownership and controlled data of online users. This shows you how they try to ‘block’ the online audience power to voice out, call for actions or spread messages. Replying your question, they won’t promote curvy messages in traditional media because first there is more economical opportunities by agreeing to display ads like Anaca3, Slim&Trim, Fitness Park as they would pay the latter to advertise these products, they have the funds to do so compared to a body positive movement which is an NGOs, secondly this will have negative impact if wrongly advertised about body positive; the audience might think that this is encouraging people to be fat as some point as well as affecting the purchasing power of online consumers. It is a fact that there are mostly body related products being sold in the consumer industry such as the different types of tea to slim, milk, pasta and so on. In my opinion, the ‘eyewash’ imposed to online consumers will go blur and decrease the purchase of fitspiration and diet products which are very present. Do you see now why traditional media do not actively promote body positive here? As I mentioned there are underlying political, economical and social aspect if we delve deeper in research. I hope I could help you to see it clearer.
This is a very good article. It really touches everything about curvy women to social media. I’m really proud of you Ruby.
I’m glad you enjoyed my paper.
I tried to convey a clear statement knowing how curvy women have been oppressed regarding their body image and faced discrimination as well as stereotyping. But the online communities are supporting the underrepresented women movement which is breaking the mainstream standard imposed by the West. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and analyse it.
Hi Ruby! This is a great piece of work which you have done here. I really enjoyed reading about this topic and the way you have written it made it even more engrossing. I took a glance at Tess Holliday’s Instagram page and was pleased to see how she indeed reminds her community that having a body like hers is valid. She acknowledges that society has done a progress but still, more needs to be done for the world to collectively respect and accept bodies that do not form part of the stereotypes and beauty standards that they have been imposing on women. Influencers promoting self- acceptance have such a strong impression on people nowadays, so I think to furthermore support this cause, social media platforms is the key to do so. However, according to the online communities, sometimes influencers tend to promote misleading information. For instance, there is this Sienna Gomez, she became famous on Tik Tok for embracing her thickness but later on she started to post videos of her body which seemed to have changed as her belly became flatter and she became skinnier. She received a lot of negative and antipathetic comments due to that, do you think the hatred is justified? I would love to hear your point of view on the subject.
Hi Valentine !
Thank you so much for reading my paper.
Coming to Sienna Gomez, it is unfortunate that the audience is judging her for not sticking to the ‘full’ body positive category. In fact she is not an activist or advocate of body positivity movement, just user who decided to have fun during confinement. As we keep evolving each day, Gen Z, including Ms. Gomez, continue to bring different, unique and original content that is inspiring with hopes to bring real social change! We have witnessed significant progress, “societal beauty standards” still exist on most of the social media platforms. Majority of the audience on the platform, especially the younger users, are influenced to an extent, by most young TikTokers who fall under toxic beauty standards. Sienna is still very young and her body will keep on changing, but the online audience already classified her online identity to be among the unconventional bodies and any change occurring with her attitudes and body image will directly cause negative reactions. She argues to be a promoter of self and body confidence and not associated with any movement, and she just wanted to spread body love and breaking the beauty standards by normalizing her body performance despite her supposingly ‘imperfect’ body compared to the western ideal. The hatred she has faced is not justified, but by being an influencer on the body image will come great criticism as she hasn’t picked a side yet. It’s a fact that social media platforms forms online communities and a sense of belonging, but we must admit that there are psychological and social behavior contributing to the online audience’s opinion, for e.g they automatically associate body positivity to self-acceptance, self-confident, eating disorder when actually it could be 4 different community movements and Sienna actually participate in all these categories which affect her viewers as they can’t ‘classify’ her motives behind it. Do see what I mean ? Flat or skinny, Sienna is a dynamic and young woman who is spreading body love on social media platforms and I believe only time will bring more clarity on her body performance objective in the future. This debate got me thinking that Sienna should educate her online audience so that they can accept her mindset and motivation to contribute and support the body image in general. What do you think ?
Thank you for your insights.
The article gives a good brief overview of the current trends within the scope of the movement. It does however lack in-depth details upon the impact that such movement would bring if maintained on the current tangent. Especially in regards to your analysis, backed with data. This sort of study however is much more advance and not related to the message you were trying to convey. Only a tentative idea for future papers.
All in all a good paper
Thank you so much for this constructive feedbacks.
I totally agree with you regarding the lack of in-depth details, but as I mentioned above there are no direct research to examine the whole concept of body positivism movement on social media. Also I believe that more experimental research should be carried out to know the impact of the movement on the current audience. And you are right, this is definitely a topic to be considered to delve deeper but at least you could hear my message.
Hi Ruby – I really enjoyed your paper and was fascinated to read about the creation and influence of the “Gibson Girl” (it sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole). I also appreciated your point “Curvy women associate their identity to the influencer community and are more confident to live a normal life, developed purpose to wear what they want and eat whenever they want, compared to the 80s”. Growing up in the 80s we were bombarded with one-way messages of images of thin supermodels and articles on how to become just like them if we survived on 800 calories a day. To be anything but thin meant you were always considered less than. You note that Holliday interacts with her audience and provides guidance and support which I think has become one of the catalysts for change in the acceptance of all bodies. Social media has provided a place for this conversation to be had instead of having a passive audience that is being force-fed what the media’s portal of what healthy and happy bodies look like. Great work!
Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it.
I’m glad that you could relate to this topic and understand my point of view.
Being myself an active social media user, I constantly keep seeing the mainstream ideal in my news feeds. And if I wasn’t mentally strong, I could have been easily influenced by the slim contents. We need to support women, even the underrepresented bodies. You are right about influencers interacting with their audience, this is definitely a powerful process which brings a call for action and social change.
You are right about the newsfeeds. In my “discover” section of Instagram I have the welcomed body positivity posts sitting next to the not-so-welcomed “before and after” weight loss posts which vie for my attention and as you say, it requires a strong mental outlook to not be swayed by these posts.
An interesting insight on a topic which does not often get media limelight.
Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.
You are definitely right, we don’t have much media coverage on this topic. In the meantime, we need to support and encourage women to fight for their identity and set up their own labels to achieve self-acceptance despite the society’s pressure on body image.
Great analysis of facts! Beautifully written by exemplifying the concept of Instagram. As being a curvy girl myself, i’ve had many insecurities and never appreciated my body as i should. But like you said, with help of social platforms, people show the positive side of things which is indeed very helpful. After reading your work, i felt genuinely contented. Thank you for this amazing piece of work Ruby❤
Thank you so much for your feedbacks, I really appreciate it.
I’m glad you could relate this analysis to your life experiences. Instagram is a powerful tool to gain and impact the diverse and global audience. As you said, with the body positive contents you were exposed to, has helped you to overcome your insecurities and appreciate your body. Love your body and spread the body positive messages !
This is indeed a very good article to highlight how social media is being used these days to promote body positivity. Instagram for e.g has helped a lot of people to voice out their minds and you can see it has brought changes around the world. The only issue i have is, do not body shame but also do not support being unhealthy.
Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.
You are absolutely right about Instagram being used as a tool for change that impacts the society and the public sphere. But as you mentioned if we delve deeper in this topic, we will find the drawbacks which also affects the community such as body shaming, harassments as well as the paid influencers who promote junk food and lifestyle. Unfortunately, Instagram also tries to be partial and please everyone, deep down we must accept the fact that social media platforms are established companies which need to generate money and not full time activist of a particular community.
Hello Ruby 👋!
Well I’ve really found your article enriching and have made me reflect back on the time where there were only the mainstream media who would influence human mentality about women ideal body shape. Even in movies people would actually enjoy that and hence making women with other body shape feeling bad about themselves. Definitely with digitization and social media people now are able to voice out and defy that stereotypical ideal view about women’s body-shape. You know it is these social media platforms which is educating the world and of course it depends on how we use it and with what intention.
Thank you so much for reading my paper.
I agree with you, there is a persistent display of the slim ideal in movies and brands sponsoring slim models only. The public sphere is oppressed for sure, but the wind of change can be felt on Instagram. The movement is present and very close to their online audience, I believe at some point the same women present online will eventually promote, engage and affirm themselves in the society while going to work or dressing like they want. There is the aspect of educating people but how far can social media do and the real intentions are questionable. It requires in-depth research to study community behaviors and social media evolution to set up a clear image of its impact.