As a lot of us have been in lockdown through the summer, talks about being “summer ready” with a beach body have somewhat quieted.
However, we can still quickly point to what an “ideal” or “Instagram influencer body” is. So the question remains even in quarantine, Do you suffer from negative Instagram influencer body image?
Genuinely so sick of hating my body all the time, social media is just so bad for a woman’s self esteem, I’m constantly comparing myself to everyone on Instagram daily and it’s just so wrong
— megan coleman (@megcoleman_98) August 3, 2020
What is the ideal IG body?
You’ve seen it on the TL and your IG feed, sizable but perky breasts, wide hips that begin immediately under the belly button, and a flat lightly toned stomach.
Don’t forget the lifted butt with absolutely NO stretch marks in sight. Oh and absolutely NO body hair either.
Most of these are rare anatomical body parts separately, together they are sculpted by expert (or not so expert) surgeons.
Take the wide hips that begin under the belly button, this is not a naturally occurring anatomy. But you wouldn’t really know that considering the amount of ‘perfectly’ curved women on your feed.
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The other issue with this phenomenon is that these influencers are often seen promoting specific workouts, or supplements and tea – OH MY GOD THE SKINNY TUMMY TEAAAS.
This further props up the illusion that this perfect body could be yours at the very low price of some tea powder and a billion sit-ups and *special* squat workouts.
All of this to achieve that ‘slim thick BAWDY’. Note that slim thick is a recent development. I say recent, meaning the last decade or so. Slim thick or thicc – with two c’s as it often stylized is at an odd juxtaposition when you first hear it. It was first popularized by Fetty Wap’s song “Jimmy Choo” where the lyrics include:
“slim thick with yo cute ass”
But the general message is the same, being thin or slim in all the right places, and at the same time curvacious or thicc in all the right places with not much room for variation.
Race and the Influencer Criteria
These (mostly) women are also overwhelmingly white, white-passing, or ethnically ambiguous with several Eurocentric features. This is not lost on the average follower or passing viewer.
You need to have thick brows that still have definition. High cheekbones with no skin imperfections or spots unless they’re light freckles. A small straight nose, full lips, full wavy or curly hair that’s not “unruly” and long lashes.
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Your overall skin should be lightly tanned to very tanned for white women, or lighter-skinned and totally even for women of color.
This has also sparked the conversation about white womanhood, and who gets to be labeled “white.” Because new beauty standards pull from non-white ethnic backgrounds while keeping some base eurocentric features alive, some women of color have been labeled white by other POC.
@vixenesha on TikTok had much to say about the topic. She herself being a Pakistani woman, sees the erasure that follows the appropriation of ethnic features by white women. She also discusses in multiple tweets, the pressures of eurocentric beauty standards, leading to her getting a nose-job.
« And now it sucks that paler POC are labeled as white girls, not because we look like them but because they look like us »
White girls have been getting tans too dark, lip fillers etc…. that you guys forgot what they actually look like. pic.twitter.com/T162XCpxOg
— ⵣ (@EXQUlS) August 4, 2020
The legacy of media beauty standards
Women have always been subject to strict beauty standards with the help of media. With social media, it’s only that much more apparent and yet subliminal.
Our eyes glaze over these images as young adults more often than not. We’ve consumed enough IG model shoots to last us a lifetime and it might almost look all the same to us at this point.
But for younger viewers, specifically younger femme presenting viewers, these bodies shape their perception of what it means to be beautiful, desirable, and valuable.
However, there are positives images out there. With more access to media and media-making tools, (phones with great cameras, editing software, and recording software) “regular” people are able to produce content and distribute it on their platforms as well. Regular meaning people who do not seek to achieve or present the “ideal Instagram body.”
This constitutes the origins of the #BodyPositive movement.
Artists like rap duo SU’LAN show the realities of women’s bodies. The models blew up on twitter after posting their post-partum stretch marks on the TL to much support and love from fellow users.
Artists like the hyper-sexualized Doja Cat also speak on and display unphotoshopped images of themselves. One notable instance of Doja Cat’s less than perky breasts for an album cover shoot.
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Models who are plus-size are also seeing a rise in representation with more companies including these beautifully larger women in their clothing lines. Some of the notable plus-size models are Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence.
Consumer Capitalism had to ruin it
However, consumer capitalism has hijacked the Body positive movement. Meaning big brands who historically and still promote the same unattainable beauty standard try to cash in on the movement’s popularity.
Sure we love diversity in shape, color, ethnic background, and hair texture, but which images and types of diversity media chooses to showcase is still a problem.
The previous examples still adhere to many restricting beauty standards, SU’LAN’s Saunsu and Emahlani are still conventionally attractive and thin, Doja is still light-skinned, and Graham and Lawrence are still white.
What to do?
Overall the mission of acceptance and prevalence of diversity in beauty continues.
Consider in the meantime however, what performative beauty standards you’ve stopped adhering to while locked at home.
Which ones do you feel relieved to not have to continue upkeeping?