If you need more proof that social media still lacks adequate body diversity representation, consider what happened with the #MyQuarantineBody movement’s tagged page on Instagram.
The hashtag was started by photographer and advocate Anastasia Garcia on April 8. Tired of the jokes, memes and general attitude toward the potential for weight gain during shelter-in-place that have been necessary due to COVID-19, Garcia snapped a mirror selfie in her underwear and shared it along with a candid statement about how she was feeling.
“I am so thankful that I am healthy … when so many are losing their lives,” she wrote. “I’ve been really disappointed seeing blatant body shaming and weight gain stigma. It feels tone deaf, short sighted and incredibly privileged.”
Garcia, who has spent her career working to expose and dispel our culturally ingrained fat-phobia, wondered if she was the only one being triggered by such discourse.
“It was just making me question all the years of self work I’ve done to love myself and accept my body at every stage,” she told HuffPost. And when articles started to come out about this very topic, she realized she was very much not alone.
So, she encouraged other Instagram users to follow her lead. Many soon obliged, sharing their own #MyQuarantineBody selfies, celebrating how lucky they felt to be home and healthy. The messages were empowering, honest and provided a salve from some of the negative content many have been consuming during the pandemic.
But then most of the 264 photos tagged with Garcia’s hashtag went missing on Instagram.
“Maybe a week and a half into [the campaign] … you could only see the top posts but not recent [posts], because ‘some photos violated user guidelines,’” Garcia said. “I can literally see nudes of thin women on Instagram. What exactly about this movement violates user guidelines?”
At the time of publication, many of the tagged photos have been restored to the #MyQuarantineBody page. Instagram declined to comment on the record for this piece.
Beyond the disappointing disruption, the impact of Garcia’s movement remains intact. And for participants, like body positive blogger and founder of New York City Plus Sarah Chiwaya, it opened up the space for conversation ― and kindness.
“Whether in the form of bad memes, targeted weight loss ads or straight up body-shaming, it’s so common that it almost feels unremarkable,” Chiwaya told HuffPost over email. “I’m so glad Anastasia started this movement to push back on this. When I posted the tag, so many readers reached out to say how much they needed to hear something positive like that, to help them be a little kinder to themselves.”
“To see the range of women of different shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities ― I have felt pretty alone during quarantine in my Brooklyn apartment ― but seeing all these women come together for the sake of the greater good, who have also had these thoughts, was the most beautiful, humbling and inspiring thing,” she said.
For Garcia, who was named one of Glamour’s “Game Changers” earlier this month, the response to #MyQuarantineBody has reaffirmed the importance of her work.
It felt even more relevant when Nancy Pelosi was criticized for bringing up Donald Trump’s weight. Many, including Garcia, pointed out that Pelosi’s comments did less to impact Trump and instead furthered fat-phobic attitudes in general.
“I will never defend [Trump] in any capacity,” Garcia said. “But taking him out of the equation, a woman like Nancy Pelosi who I look up to and view as being one of the most competent leaders … for her to also perpetuate this notion that somehow your weight is equated to some kind of moral failing or tying your weight to their competence … The conversation should be about his incompetence and in no way about his body.”
Ultimately, the conversation Garcia wants to continue having is about people regaining control of their own narratives and how fortunate individuals are if a bit of weight gain is their only concern right now.
“My body is not reflective of anything about me ― certainly not my health, certainly not my work.” Garcia said. “Having a thin body isn’t a personality trait. Being beautiful is not an accomplishment. The goal is to empower women. Nobody can tell you how to feel about your body ― only you can decide that. Watching these women post images and make decisions about how they feel in their bodies at this moment ― that was the power, and it’s my goal to continue to do that.”