It’s no secret that social media can be a terrible place for women. Yet despite all the dangers surrounding the online world, there are large pockets of hope. There are places where the sun shines, and where young women are fighting back against the negative images and impossible beauty standards being foisted upon them.
The Body Positivity movement, often referred to as the Fat Acceptance movement, is one such place. All over the internet, people (primarily women) are trying to redefine beauty. The media, the modelling industry, Hollywood – and pretty much every other mainstream institution – would have us believe that beauty is limited to a size six.
However, many on social media think this is utter rubbish. A position that isn’t new as the earnest and slightly flawed Dove campaign for Real Beauty, which went viral in 2013, was originally launched in 2004 (see Dove’s poster campaign image above).
Indeed, it seems that while some women are swallowing the toxic beauty standards being shoved down their throats daily, others are defiantly spitting them back out. In fact, many are consuming messages of positivity, love and acceptance.
Take, for example, the controversial Protein World advertising campaign. Its tube poster depicted a slim, conventionally attractive woman next to the words “Are You Beach Body Ready?”. Women all over London, spurred on by the Body Positivity movement presence on social media, began vandalising the posters and shared the results on social media.
Messages such as “Stop encouraging women to starve themselves” and “If my body is on a beach, then it is ready” were scrawled across the adverts. Also many larger-than-is-apparently-acceptable women took photos of themselves in bikinis in front of the advert, confidently defying the myopic message the advert was trying to promote.
Less discussed is how the Protein World poster tacitly implies that women of colour fall outside of white, Western beauty standards. Yet this narrow standard of beauty is being forced on women of colour all over the world. But the Tumblr community is fighting back.
At the end of February 2015, Tumblr user expect-the-greatest came up with the idea of a day on Tumblr on which users would exclusively post and reblog selfies of people who identify as black.
The movement was coined The BlackOut Day and was a roaring success. On 6 March, Tumblr was completely flooded with images of gorgeous black people, of all shapes, sizes and ages. In fact, the movement has made such an impact that the day was repeated on 21 June, with two more BlackOut Days planned for 21 September and 21 December this year.
So despite the potentially insidious nature of social media, all hope is not lost. Social media can be a place where outsiders and the oppressed can come together and celebrate themselves fully.
They can spit in the face of traditional beauty standards and recognise themselves for what they truly are: magnificent, beautiful, wonderful human beings.
About the author
Olivia Woodward is a blogger, social media enthusiast and history student at the University of York. She has been actively involved in student journalism from the age of 16, writing on a wide range of topics from politics to theatre to fashion. In 2014 she launched Petticoats and Patriarchy, a blog that tackles social justice issues and popular culture from a feminist perspective. Since then, she has become increasingly interested in the way that women are using the internet to speak out against injustices, and the effect that the digital world is having on young women and girls globally. On Digital Women UK, Olivia will blog on social media trends that impact on women and young girls, intersectionality and intends to highlight examples of digital platforms being used to innovate the way women communicate and share online.