By Rose Kelleher
Growing up as a female in the 21st century, I have struggled to maintain a positive body-image, especially with social media idealizing one specific body type. It seems like everywhere I turn there is always a girl with “perfect” hair, “perfect” skin and a “perfect” body. It frustrates me that society has pegged one body shape as “perfect” because in reality, every body should be celebrated and accepted. However, apps like Instagram and Tik Tok have been subject to idealize one specific body type… until now.
In the fall of 2019 when Charli D’amelio, Addison Rae and other young girls took their claim to fame as TikTok influencers, many viewers were intrigued by their dancing videos. At the same time, many users were confused as to why these girls were getting so much attention. The answer: they are considered by society as being the epitome of the American beauty standard.
So, what really is the American beauty standard? Some words that come up with a Google search include: tan, white teeth, extremely thin bodies, heavy makeup and revealing clothing. It’s upsetting to see this on the internet, but it is even more upsetting to think that this is what most Americans would actually say if posed with this question.
This is not at all to say that those aspects of a woman are not beautiful, they are. What frustrates me in this situation is the fact that those characteristics are sometimes considered the only qualities needed to categorize women as beautiful, when in reality, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not google.
A whole calendar year later, the body expectations of girls on TikTok has flipped, and all body types are being celebrated. This movement was a long time coming, but really took off with Sienna Mae Gomez. She is a 16-year-old girl from California who posted a video of herself one average evening dancing with her stomach fully exposed to “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. The next day, she woke up to see that her video had blown up. Now, the video has 3.3 million likes and 18.9 million views, increasing everyday.
The comments on the video were the most supportive and empowering comments I had seen about a girl celebrating her body without necessarily having a “flat stomach”. Gomez unintentionally started a trend of other girls posting videos of themselves dancing without sucking in their stomachs, and the positive comments flourished.
She, along with other TikTok influencers have taken it upon themselves to emphasize this movement, especially to younger girls so that they grow up learning to love themselves for who they are. Famous singer and artist, Lizzo, has been promoting body positivity through her music since she took off as an artist. Her TikTok presence has grown tremendously in the past year as she uses her platform to encourage women of all ages to embrace their bodies no matter what their shape is.
Confidence in the world of social media is really difficult to maintain when it seems like every girl is criticized regarding their body, no matter their size. This is the result of societal implications and ideals that have been around for way too long, but a shift is on the horizon.
This is the first time in a long time I have not been nervous about how I will feel about myself after exiting TikTok. This is because I know that so many girls out there are supporting each other, no matter what size jeans they wear, or how they look in a bathing suit. Unification of women on social media is vital in changing the beauty standard, hopefully eliminating it once and for all.
Rose Kelleher (she/her) is a staff writer for Bell. She is a sophomore at UW–Madison and is majoring in Communication Arts.