How Instagram Has Helped (and Hurt) Body Positivity

It's been a long battle for body positive models on social media.
Image via @bae.doe on Instagram

In many ways, Instagram has taken over everyday lives. Simple moments like a meal, a sunrise, or a new pair of shoes have become images worth cropping, filtering, and sharing with the world. The fashion industry has fully embraced the app, but unfortunately, a lot of fashion imagery on Instagram continues to perpetuate traditional industry standards about 'acceptable' body image.  Thankfully, it is also giving a voice to body activists who are gradually gaining attention and achieving change, watched by their millions of adoring followers - but they still have an uphill battle.

Social media is global in its scale and infinite in its sharing potential, opening up another avenue for anyone to share their comments - oftentimes hurtful and uninformed - related to body image. When a woman who is not the rail-thin industry ideal shares a photo, she is regularly the target of comments bashing her size. This fuels a cycle of body shaming when both the original poster and those who identify with their body type consume the message that they are not beautiful.

Moreover, while this year more designers and editors have opened up to feature models beyond the prevalent norms of thin, white, and cisgendered in their runway shows and ad campaigns, most did not. Accordingly, when a brand posts shots from their latest fashion show or campaign, the "raw" and "untouched" laws of Instagram no longer apply and photoshopped, airbrushed images reign supreme. Once again, this creates a saturation of one, frankly uncommon, body type as not only the norm, but the only acceptable ideal of beauty. Chanel has 7 Million followers; the damage of such imagery is reaching more people than ever before, many of whom are young and already being exposed to harmful body shaming through magazines and advertisements.

All of this is not to say that Instagram has not had a positive impact on body image. For every image with #thinspo, there are photos with body positive hashtags such as #DareToWear, #CelebrateMySize, and #DropthePlus.

Also, Instagram has allowed models who might not otherwise be in national ad campaigns to gain recognition and subvert body shaming standards. These women might not initially have had the support of the top names in fashion, but their self-celebratory accounts gain large followings that both drown out the negative comments and attract the attention of the fashion world. Models like Ashley Graham, who has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Forbes, and Justine LeGault, who graced ELLE Quebec’s May 2013 cover, are just some examples of models with unapologetic Instagram accounts and high exposure. Gigi Hadid, one of the most in-demand models at the moment, also shared an open letter on Instagram in which she dismissed those who criticize her athletic figure in favour of being petite. She also commented that the support she has received from so many editors and designers demonstrates that many in the fashion industry is ready to embrace different body sizes.

While both the larger world and the fashion industry still have miles to go in terms of celebrating all body types, body positive Instagram accounts, campaigns, and hashtags are helping to turn the tide. Instagram has given so many open-minded individuals the opportunity to spread body positivity and this grassroots wave of acceptance counteracts what online activity sticks to a skinny-only standard. Now it’s on us to give more body positive Instagram movements the attention they deserve so we can get the message to designers that diverse body image is long overdue.

WHO: Sharan, Fashion Contributer at Couturesque magazine
WHERE: Boston
OBSESSED WITH: Balenciaga and Gucci SS16
Listening to: Hourglass - Disclosure ft. Lion Babe
CAN BE FOUND AT: @_sharangill

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you presented both sides of the movement as a lot of the time its implied that social media has just made things totally easy when in fact it has come with its own set of new pressures for body image.


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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

Tia Elisabeth Glista
Editor in Chief