Body, positive? : how New Zealand women in young adulthood make sense of body positivity content on Instagram : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Wellington Campus, Aotearoa New Zealand

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Mass media has played an integral role in establishing societal norms around women and their appearances. Feminists have argued that media exposure have has had a negative impact on the way women view their bodies, creating narrow, unattainable bodily ideals and contributing to body image disturbances (Sarkar, 2014). The development of the body positivity movement intended to counter these ideals, rejecting homogenized Western centric standards of beauty, and promoting inclusive, bodily acceptance. Proliferated across social media platforms such as Instagram, the movement has been both celebrated as a reclamation of diverse definitions of beauty and criticized for its fragmented messaging; co-option by commerce and slim, white women and its continuation of the objectification of women. This study considers how 11 New Zealand millennial women make sense of body positive content on Instagram and how these interactions impact their lived experiences. Through a critical realist informed phenomenological thematic analysis, it analyses qualitative semi-structured interview data using an inductive thematic analysis framework. Four themes were generated. One theme considers body positivity as accepting and normalizing difference, whilst another suggests that body positivity doesn’t have enough empowerment power. Another theme analyses how body positivity reproduces normative appearance ideals and the final considers how Instagram facilitates problematic looking. When combined, the study’s findings suggest that body positivity is complex and is full of emotion and nuance. As a movement, it has the potential to challenge stereotypical definitions of beauty but is limited in a variety of ways. The results contribute to growing literature demonstrating the multifaceted nature of sense making of body positive content on Instagram. The study’s limitations and suggestions for future research directions are included.