Turkish women using Instagram for body positivity: a qualitative analysis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: The importance of appearance has been reinforced by Instagram culture, which emphasizes aesthetic and stylised visuals (Barbato & Tigemann, 2018). A decade ago, the Body Positivity Movement surfaced on Instagram "aiming to resist the unrealistic expectations and non-representative portrayals of women" (Sastre, 2014). Turkey is a complex country due to its rich cultural tapestry, secular/Western and religious/Eastern lifestyles and varied societal roles and perceptions of women. Due to these different mindsets, this study plays a vital role for understanding the current state of the Body Positivity Movement in Turkey. Exploring this very Western social movement towards more realistic representations, self-representations and expectations of women in the cultural context of Turkey will highlight intriguing cultural differences and similarities towards issues of body image and societal roles for women.
Methodology: This investigation is based on the views of Turkish women who post about body positivity on Instagram. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 15 such participants who have more than 2,000 followers. The participants were anonymised due to reputational damage and possible safety concerns.
Findings: Thematic analysis of the interviews showed that all participants discussed how Turkish culture is important for their body image. Almost every participant used this phrase "El âlem ne der" meaning "what does people say". The phrase reflects social pressure in Turkish culture. It is only four words, but it means much more. It is a big concern in Turkish culture which affects women’s life, especially their mindset about their bodies. The extended explanation of
this phase is "what do people (family, relatives, friends and, people other than friends and/or relatives) think about us, our behaviour, our condition, success, or failures". The most dominant topic was weight stigma. All participants cited at least one bad experience with this issue. The following quote shows an important example: "I posted a photo in 2018 at the beach. I was sitting on the sand and the photo was taken behind me. After I posted this photo, I got a direct message from a woman, and the content was 'Aren't you ashamed to put this photo on your ass that big?'". (Participant 2, 7000+ followers) According to the participants, the reason for this issue is that the Body Positivity Movement is not strong enough in Turkey. Individual efforts in social media are insufficient to contribute to a socio-cultural transformation. Participant 10 (3000+ followers) said: "No matter how a woman loves herself, accept herself, there is the fact that
this society is violent towards her and that is why she constantly protect herself".
Some participants thought that the socio-cultural transformation will begin from the individual level. Participant 7 (40000+ followers) said: "There is still a long way to go, but the increasing the number of these posts on social media will also transform the society. The rise of the number of posts on this subject in the last few years is promising".
The future will show how this personal-vs-societal dynamic plays out towards body image and women in this complex cultural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2022
EventECREA 2022 9th European Communication Conference: Rethink Impact - Denmark, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 19 Oct 202222 Oct 2022


ConferenceECREA 2022 9th European Communication Conference


  • Turkish women
  • Instagram
  • body positivity


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