Meta-Critique: Critiquing Visions on the Female Body on Instagram
MetadataShow full item record
My summary is threefold. Firstly, I found that Instagram’s affordances facilitated multiple outcomes but that because the platform itself is embedded in a culture informed by neoliberalism and postfeminism, one of the outcomes was that women can feel like they are at competition with each other. On the other hand however, I found that women can also feel like they have been provided the tools to critique the platform they find themselves on. Although the described affordances of visibility, persistence, editability and association appear more likely to uphold dominant standards on the platform, critical accounts use those same affordances in an attempt to break down those same dominant standards. Secondly, I explored which dominant discourses about female body norms are explored on critical Instagram accounts. What I found, is that on Instagram, levels of self-surveillance are heightened because of the high standards that women feel like they have to abide by. This in turn, may foster feelings of competition among women, as they feel like they must be better than other women on the platform or must at least try to be perfect. As competition is thus easily fostered on the platform, solidarity is broken down. In an attempt to go against the grain on the platform however, not only do the critical accounts critically go against dominant discourses on Instagram, but they also attempt to form online collectives of solidarity. Thirdly, I explored how norm-defying accounts provide critique through their visibility on Instagram. What has become clear through that exploration is that visibility can be incredibly empowering to those who usually do not see themselves represented in everyday media. Critiquing the standard however, has been shown to be difficult for the one providing critique, by several academics because people have a natural sense of wanting to belong. Going against the grain online, a space where both patriarchal restrictions as well as women’s resilience are persistent, can be challenging even when it appears that online, women have been provided the means to do so. Nonetheless, users that I analysed exemplify that providing critique on the culture on the platform that they find themselves on is possible. They share similar sentiments with regards to body normativity on Instagram and manage to create a form of online solidarity through their use of hashtags, commenting on each other’s content and using language which indicates they are speaking to a larger crowd. Although the examples discussed throughout my thesis do so in different ways, they manage to go against the deconstruction of solidarity that is often found on Instagram with its focus on competition and its neoliberal and postfeminist informed discourses. All in all, I have located a form of critique on Instagram that I named meta-critique. This type of critique has been described to arise through the workings of three factors on Instagram namely the levels of different affordances on Instagram as described in chapter four, notions of online solidarity and the difficulty to escape Instagram’s neoliberal informed postfeminism. The content that I have analysed shows that women can use Instagram’s affordances in order to show that which is usually hidden, such as “imperfect” skin or “imperfect” bodies. This is not done by dismissing popular Instagram practices such as posting selfies of photos of oneself wearing a bikini, but rather by taking these popular Instagram practices and trying to change the narrative around them. It has also become clear that although critical Instagram users have found themselves in an online environment which is strongly informed by neoliberal and postfeminist narratives, they manage to go against these narratives. These practices showed by the critical accounts that I analysed have shown what I consider to be meta-critique.