Sunday 13 January 2019

Can Instagram Be Considered 'Feminist'

I’ve always identified as a feminist, even before I knew what the word meant – I could always identify the feeling of, ‘why is that allowed to happen’ and ‘that isn’t fair - why is that different for women’. But I never fully defined it as a concept for myself until I was a teenager and learnt about the word and what it meant for society and myself.

So naturally, as Instagram becomes more and more a part of my life I find myself querying is Instagram feminist and is it good for women?

It’s a hard question because there are so many parts of it that are so beautiful and empowering but there are also many other parts that can be damaging to women.

As I’ve mentioned previously, young girls of this generation are having a bigger struggle with mental health and depression and this is linked to the fact that they are growing up around social media.

Instagram has been proven to be the most damaging to body image and mental health of young people, with particular focus on girls and young women. So this already puts into question any empowerment or positives we can gain from the platform as this is a huge issue that is affecting a whole generation.

In my personal experience, since I have started my blog and Instagram I’ve found that the circle of influencers and bloggers that I'm connected with and that are on the same journey as me are all hugely supportive of each other and are in no way negative.

Where usually ‘trolling’ and negative comments may be expected in other platforms (and they still do in a minority on Insta) Instagram is full of women supporting other women and wanting to see them and others succeed.

It’s great to be able to post a picture and have positive comments from other women who are passionate about the same things as me, and also from the other side I am able to uplift other women by commenting on images I enjoy when they have worked hard to produce that content.

It’s also true that the influencer industry is mostly dominated by women, which can also be a factor in it being quite a feminist and an empowering space.

In the wake of the internet age, it has allowed women who are passionate about something like fashion to succeed. Female influencers can express themselves freely on a platform that they own artistically and creatively as a self-employed woman running her own brand.

Previously, as a woman wanting to make a career in something like fashion, unless you had amazing connections or a lot of privilege in terms of money, you’d most likely have to face a lot of problematic issues before your success.

Fashion is a female led industry yet the majority of CEOs of the big fashion houses are male - so it's clear that sexism within fashion still exists.

On top of that, the rise of the ‘me too’ movement only highlights situations women have been put into by men with power that stand in the way of giving them what they want and deserve. And let’s not forget unpaid internships and the wage gap which is the norm in fashion…

The rise of the internet and platforms such as Instagram allows these creative women to do what they are most passionate about and own it. Women can post images of themselves in their underwear and it’s because they WANT to and because they are confident in their body and not purely for the male gaze (ew).

However, on the back of that comes this issue with young women’s confidence with themselves. This is often because of the bombardment of images full of successful and beautiful women doing well all over their feed, when they perhaps don’t see this in themselves.

Other social media sites such as Twitter are positive in the way they allow young women to grasp political concepts such as feminism from a young age, with articles that explain feminism and ideas in a relatable way that is easier to understand

With women like Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajowski talking about body ownership and feminism, it gives the young women the opportunity to have access to these ideas early on in a way they can understand it. (Even if both Kim K and Emily R do fit into traditional beauty standards - it's a start.)

I didn’t learn about feminism until I was a bit older, and there are some young girls I see online who have a vast and impressive understanding of what it means to support each other and to love yourself in a female positive way which I only wish I had at their age.

With Instagram, I do think it can be harder to get these ideas of feminism across from simply an image of a sun-kissed body lying on a bright white beach. And I think this is where it gets complicated and this contradiction of empowerment vs body image comes in. 

Because Instagram can be a supportive place, but it is all dependent on the network of people you surround yourself with and the way you interpret the images you see.

I try to add humour into my Instagram as well as transparency through my blog to break down that idea of ‘perfect’ that I think can be damaging and negative for people engaging with these images.

Breaking down that social media isn't real life is key to solving the issue with young girl's relationship with social platforms. 

The solution may lie in these successful influencers pushing forward their feminist qualities of passion, empowerment and independence as well as how they looking amazing in a bikini – because you CAN do both!

Instagram has done nothing but improve my confidence and restore my faith in women everywhere by showing me how we can be supportive and really love each other and the progress we make in the messy world of social media. But it's on the other end of the content where it can get ugly.

Instagram has so much power to do so much for women all ages. For women who are engaging in the content AND creating the content. 

I think it may be down to people creating the content like myself and others like me, as well as larger influencers to take control to try and counteract the negative side on the consumption of social media. 

Because any space where women are free to make their own choices is a feminist space when done unproblematically, we just need to make sure that a few simple changes are made to support all women and girls that engage with the social media space so that empowerment can be felt on both sides of the content.

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