Body positivity as public pedagogy? The case of the #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram
Master of Education
Fatphobia and fat oppression
Social media (body positivity, fat stigma)
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This thesis is a qualitative single-case study of the #effyourbeautystandards Instagram account and hashtag as a site of public pedagogy. Using feminist critical discourse analysis, this study sought to understand the ways it did and did not challenge hegemonic beauty standards for fat women. The study was guided by two questions: 1) How does the #effyourbeautystandards Instagram account challenge and/or reproduce hegemonic beauty norms? 2) In what ways does the body positivity promoted by #effyourbeautystandards serve (or not serve) fat women? Data consisted of the top nine Instagram posts using the #effyourbeautystandards hashtag account collected daily for one week in December 2019. Analysis of visual and textual data contained in the posts revealed that much can be learned from whose bodies were seen and not seen. Non-fat and smaller fat women who were young, conventionally attractive, and performed traditional femininity dominated. While there was racial/ethnic diversity, none of the fat women featured showed any physical or other (dis)abilities nor were any of the women clearly members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The women only occasionally made benign statements about body positivity, with most narratives and hashtags instead focused on advertising clothing brands, pointing to the role of influencer culture and capitalism on Instagram. The findings illuminated, then, that only certain bodies matter in the #effyourbeautystandards community on Instagram, namely those that most conform to hegemonic beauty standards, and that fat activism has been watered down by a body positivity movement coopted by capitalism. This study thus points to the limits of Instagram as a site for fat public pedagogy and the continued need for fat activism that ensures inclusion and positive representation of truly diverse fat bodies.