The body positivity movement on Instagram partially began through contributions from fat black women. In the present day, the most visible figures within the movement are white, and increasingly smaller bodies are becoming more prevalent. The movement, which emerged out of fat activism, was originally intended for fat women. Body positivity promotes a philosophical approach that prioritizes viewing one’s body in a positive light regardless of dominant beauty and body standards. This study discusses how women of color within the movement today build community to show how members of a movement, originally created in part by them, adapt to the evolving forms of body positivity online in order to create meaningful connections. In this qualitative study, I interviewed women of color who identified as either content creators or users of Instagram that are a part of the body positivity movement. I present an analysis of literature that contextualizes how fat women of color are affected by societal standards of beauty and body aesthetics in the United States, as well as the development of fat activism in the form of print and social media. The theoretical frameworks of this study focus on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory on intersecting identities impacting the lived experience of people of color, and Patricia Hill Collins’ work on both new forms of racism and how they manifest in media, and the way marginalized people can build community. I then employ this framework to analyze the qualitative data from the interviews and represent how community building is carried out by women of color, while also discussing the importance of the body positivity movement in subverting societal pressures of bodily aesthetics in order to create a society more accepting of all.


Thomas, Zareen


Sociology and Anthropology; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


body positivity, fat activism, women of color, digital ethnography, feminist ethnography, fat, Instagram, social media, community building

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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