If there is one main lesson I have learned from taking a class in social media theory it is the underrated importance of the influencers in sparking a social movement. I really do not know what activists did to motivate and gain support before the Internet, but I have to imagine it is very similar to what the influencers on social media are doing today. While there are many examples of influencers using their voice and platform to further the mission of a cause, I will focus primarily on the Body Pos Movement and the key influencers that got the movement off the ground.
Body positivity has been a social issue for as long as there has been a social pressure to fit into a certain body ideal as outlined by mainsteam media and Hollywood. You cannot go a single day in the Western world without seeing evidence of the problem of body discrimination everywhere. Whether you are fat, skinny, black, white, brown, tall, short, etc, no one fits perfectly into the unrealistic body ideals of Western society.
The early days of the Body Pos movement were centralized, even with the Internet, in major metropolitan cities like New York and Los Angeles. Quick to come onto the scene were bloggers who eventually became the movers and shakers (influencers) of the movement. Without these influencers taking the reigns of the movement, it is likely that it never would have made it to the forefront as it eventually did when it began challenging huge brands like Victoria Secret.
The Militant Baker, as she was originally known, has been a driving force in social media and the Body Pos Movement. She bravely took on the unacceptable fat shaming comments of the Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, and in doing so won the hearts of all women of size. Jes quickly became the voice of the community, and has since gone on to found the Body Love Conference and write a powerful book entitled “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.” What Jes does best as an influencer is that she serves as a voice for the community of largely silenced women. She often posts about all of the messages she gets on a daily basis that solidify the reason she has made a career out of being an activist.
Tess Holliday was the first truly plus size model to be signed by a modeling agency. She has now been featured by a wide variety of publications and fashion lines. Even before she was signed by the agency, giving hope to plus-size model hopefuls across the globe, she was an activist and influencer on social media. She started a campaign “Eff Your Beauty Standards” before she was signed to the modeling agency, and the campaign has grown to really encompass the feelings of women around the world. It became so popular that other Body Pos bloggers have jumped on board to help maintain the community developed around the campaign. Unlike Jes, the community Tess is also a mother and therefore she often uses her platform to speak for mothers and pregnant woman of size.
Gabi is considered more of a fashion blogger than a social movement activist, but it is through her plus-size fashion influence that she is a social movement influencer. Gabi has the poise of a woman that is not going to take disrespect from anyone and simply by the way she presents herself, she is an inspiration to women of size and color.
To sum all of this up, when I first thought of influencers I see on social media, I immediately went to the fashion bloggers that drive me to shop, but in reality social media influencers go much deeper than finding out what is in vogue this season. These three women, and many others have truly influenced how I feel not only about myself, but about all of the other women around me on a daily basis. They are a constant reminder that women must stick together to fight the good fight.
Influencers such as the ones listed above are key to the modern social movement, and I will certainly be more aware of their importance in future sparks of social movements.