Are All Bodies Good Bodies?: Redefining Femininity Through Discourses of Health, Beauty, and Gender in Body Positivity
Streeter, Rayanne Connie
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Previous research has explored the ways in which health, beauty, and gender discourses are used to promote and regulate an ideal of thinness. Further, research has explored how the fat acceptance movement and fitspiration has fought to resist such narratives. However, in the age of hashtag feminism a new group on social media, body positivity, has become the buzzword among celebrities, news conglomerates, and fashion companies. This study draws on interviews with body positive influencers and Instagram posts tagged #bodypositive and #fitspiration to examine the extent to which body positive influencers and users modify understandings of normative feminine body ideals and to what extent they resist and accommodate traditional discourses of gender, health, and beauty. In doing so, I explore which bodies are newly included and who is left out.
General Audience Abstract
In that last 5 years body positivity has gone “mainstream”—gaining the attention of women across the United States, circulating across a variety of mass media sources, being viral content on social media, and becoming the buzzword among celebrities, news conglomerates, and fashion companies. But what is body positivity and its impact? This dissertation sought to explore that question as it relates to gender, health, and beauty in the context of social media. Drawing on interviews with 12 body positive influencers and an examination of 210 Instagram posts tagged #bodypositive or #fitspiration I examine the extent to which body positive influencers and users modify stereotypical understandings of femininity, particularly the idea that the healthiest, most attractive, and most feminine body is a thin body. Findings suggest that body positivity is understood by influencers as made up of five aspects: (1) a connection to the fat acceptance movement; (2) an opposition to diet culture; (3) the belief that all bodies are good bodies; (4) celebrating self-love; and (5) proclaiming that all people have a freedom to be beautiful. In addition, my examination of Instagram posts shows that although a greater variety of body sizes appear in posts tagged #bodypositive than those tagged #fitspiration, both center hyper-feminized and sexualized white women who transgress stereotypes of femininity in one dimension, fatness or muscularity. As such, Instagram influencers and users struggle to negotiate an adherence to the traditional understandings of femininity, beauty, and health at the same time as they seek to expand them.
- Doctoral Dissertations