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Gendered behaviour on social media: probing the role of Instagram in perpetuating the curvaceous body ideal.

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The ambiguous messages conveyed by society through the media, particularly social media, have masked the extent to which such prescriptions and ideals harm and deter women from being their true selves. Internalisation of the media body ideal is an adoption of a socially defined body ideal as a personal standard (Knauss & Paxton, 2008). This qualitative study attempts to probe the role of Instagram in perpetuating the curvaceous body ideal. The study is built upon a social constructionism framework and black feminism theory. Deep and thick narratives were collected from young black women at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, ranging between the ages of 18 to 30 years and who are Instagram users. Findings reveal that participants are aware of the curvaceous body trend and to some extent are affected by the trend. Results also showed that some of the participants had a sense of pride in who they are and their uniqueness and did not feel the pressure to conform to the bodies seen on Instagram. The study revealed that the majority of the participants felt that peers of the same gender put the most pressure on women to look a certain way or to have body image concerns, either through social media or in person.


Degree of Master of Social Science. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2018.