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Nice to Meet You, I’m a Slut! #ifuckinglovekale

From Kate Moss, queen of Heroin Chic, to Kim Kardashian, empress of the unattainable hourglass figure, women’s’ fashion trends have often been brought to us via a single celebrity. The singularity of these representations is a problem in itself; how can we expect all young women to replicate one type? There aren’t factories set up to mass-produce carbon-copy bodies across the country, although sometimes Instagram makes us feel this way with its stream of ads for “detox teas” sold to us by women with perfect white smiles and golden abs. I unfollowed many of the influencers I’d been “influenced” by throughout my teens as soon as I noticed myself getting bummed out by the comparisons I was subconsciously making between my own thighs-that-touch and theirs-that-didn’t. “Reclamation” seems a huge term to use in a discussion about Instagram, but when you consider how much social media has infiltrated our daily lives with a drip drip drip of images, messages, and targeted adverts it does not seem so off-piste. So, I reclaimed some level of control over the “ideals” I was drip-feeding my brain and replaced the glitz and glamour of bikini-clad models with what we might consider “normal” women celebrating their “normal” bodies.  

I am aware that “body positivity” is far more complex than who you do and don’t allow onto your Instagram feed. It’s a term that takes us from the privacy of our bedrooms to coastal holidays where baring all on the white sands of public beaches can be a little daunting. The movement is further complicated by its mixed reception. Whilst many celebrated Cosmopolitan’s choice to put Tess Holliday, a size 26 model, on its cover, the Piers Morgans of the world took to Twitter and cried out that it was “a load of old baloney”. Many have criticised the movement for promoting obesity at a time when this country is in the grip of an obesity crisis. What many of these body positive critics miss is that allowing people to be comfortable in their own skins isn’t a middle finger to the healthcare system, it’s recognising that shaming people for their waist line is unnecessary, unhelpful, and cruel.

Put simply, the body positive movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies regardless of whether or not they meet the current societal demand to be Kardashian-thick which means being thin but with the additional prerequisite of an arse. “Be thin, but also, don’t” seems to be the current paradox we are expected to fulfil through rigorous workout routines, snorting lines of kale for breakfast, and drinking blended green sludge (which, incidentally, will probably make you feel like you’re going to shit yourself – but that’s probably how you know it’s working).   

At thirteen I downloaded Instagram and took great pleasure in overusing the sepia filter on my iPhone 3 to create shit pic-collages of random assortments of objects. Loved it. At fifteen, I moved on from warm filters to adopt the clean monochrome aesthetic that was trending on Instagram at the time. I cultivated a coordinated feed using photos of my fujifilm instax mini polaroid camera, Costa Coffee orders (my hometown isn’t metropolitan enough for a Starbucks), and my American Apparel #OOTD. With this deeply original and thought-provoking content I accumulated a following of 5k. My rise to Instafame had commenced, but OH BOY am I glad I gave up dedicating time to daily posts and rounds of “SFS” to focus on my GCSEs (remember those?). Had I not made that diversion, who knows, I could have been selling those aesthetically pleasing but outrageously overpriced laxatives to you all rather than ranting about them here. Five years on, I generally just laugh at this bizarre era of my life. I do, however, sometimes wonder about the impact almost being a part of *that* community had on my relationship with my body. My instaobsession had skewed the way I viewed my body; I’d learnt to treat it as an aesthetic rather than organic entity whose primary job is to keep me alive, not to get ‘likes’.   

If ever you find yourself in a similar position, feeling inadequate in the face of impossible yoga positions and drowning in an endless sea of diet shakes and kale, but don’t feel as though you can delete Instagram thanks to a deeply rooted ‘fomo’, I recommend a ruthless unfollowing session. Following this detox, you might want to fill the gaps with healthier alternatives. One stand-out example who I cannot recommend enough is @rubyrare, otherwise known as “happy naked lady”, who flaunts her rolls so that we might feel like we can do the same – at least in the privacy of our own bedrooms if not on social media. I remember feeling a wave of relief followed by a surge of excitement as I scrolled through Ruby Rare’s happy, silly, honest, and very pink feed of smiling semi-nude masterpieces. Much of my comfort with my own belly, I owe to her.   

Instagram, whilst the root-cause of many young girls’ problems with self-esteem, of course cannot be commended as the primary or only site of ‘body positivity’. Crises in self-image are not exclusive to the glossy online world, but can be impacted by the people in our lives and the experiences we’re exposed to. ‘Body positivity’ is more than just a post on social media-it’s a complex, fluctuating, tricky ideal to achieve. As much as filling my Instagram feed with body positive queens has helped me, this might not be for everyone . Sometimes the ‘love your body’ mindset can feel as posed as any other social media trend, and we feel as guilty for not fulfilling these promises as we do for failing to have abs likes ‘his’ or thighs like ‘hers’. To alleviate said guilt, I refer myself to Eva Wiseman’s article advocating body neutrality over body positivity in which she encourages us not to always ‘love’ our bodies, but to concentrate our energies on finding peace with it instead.   

Alice Garnett

Alice is our resident sex columnist whose interests include pints, pink, and all things love-related. When she's not evangelising Singledom she's busy hyping up her East Midlands home town, demystifying bisexuality, and writing for other publications such as Lithium Magazine and Adolescent Content.