Recently, Girls star Lena Dunham quit social media. The TV actor had been trolled for a picture she had posted on Instagram. Dunham later told a radio station, “I was wearing men’s boxers, and it turned into the most rabid, disgusting debate about women’s bodies. My Instagram page was somehow the hub for misogynists for the afternoon.” Two weeks ago, Charli Howard, a 23-year-old British model, who’s a UK size 2, fought back when her agency dumped her with this reasoning. She wrote a powerful open letter on Facebook, decrying their body-shaming. It went viral.
There’s a beauty war brewing on social media, and its repercussions are being felt offline as well. With new beauty trends emerging almost every other week, celebs and women connected to the web are having a tough time keeping up with the many hashtags — both positive and negative — coming their way. So, even as the #thighbrow, defined as “a set of folds that frames the tops of thighs and separates leg from butt (sic)”, goes viral, body positivity (feeling good about an imperfect frame) is the latest buzzword on social media platforms.
And if you thought that women in India were immune to these global trends, then city-based beauty experts say otherwise. “There has been a marked interest in the young generation over beauty interventions undertaken by celebrities. Tweets and videos go viral, and there is the pressure to follow. Hashtags like #bikinibridge (when a girl’s hips create a space between her bikini bottom and her pelvis), #thighgap, etc. could have a negative impact on youngsters [in terms of body image],” says Dr Mohan Thomas, senior cosmetic surgeon, Breach Candy Hospital.
So, while social media, especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, are great ways to stay abreast with worldwide beauty and skin-care trends, it also means an increased demand for treatments that may or may not work for the average Jane. Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist and laser surgeon at the Cutis Skin Studio, Bandra (W), says, “Someone wanted temporary lip enhancement with the help of vacuum therapy a la Kylie Jenner. Then, her sister, Kim Kardashian West, spoke about a vampire facelift and its benefits on social media. I have patients asking for these treatments, and they are disappointed when they don’t get the desired results.”
Kiran Sawhney, personal fitness expert and owner at Fitnesolution, adds, “I have got clients who really want to know more about size zero, thigh gap, and a lot of other trends that are talked about on social media. My only tip is to follow restraint. Do not join the rat race. Be individualistic. Try to initiate the trend rather than following it blindly.”
On the other hand, Dr Geeta Oberoi, founder of the Skin N You Clinic, Nariman Point, asks netizens to “learn about the contents of your products, read the label and read reviews and check whether the contents are in strengths enough to help.”
Last month, supermodel Gigi Hadid slammed body-shaming trolls who said she is too voluptuous. “No, I don’t have the same body type as the other models in the shows. I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high-fashion before,” Hadid wrote on her Instagram account. From Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian West to the average netizen, several women are increasingly raising their voices against body-shaming — a concept in which an individual is ridiculed for having a body shape that does not fit the ideal standard.
In recent months, there has been much buzz on the Internet about women taking to social media to document their fight back from anorexia. While in some cases they admitted to having developed anorexia after becoming obsessed with finding ‘thinspiration’ photos (pictures of very thin or overweight women used to remind oneself of why one needs to diet), others have been turning to apps, like Instagram and Twitter, to find the support they feel like they aren’t getting from professionals, and document their road to recovery.