When I was 12 I made my first Instagram account, and at the time I was this horse crazy kid learning to navigate the turbulent waters of this new world of technology.
As a social media newbie, of course the first thing I did was to search up the names of famous people I had watched on tv as a small kid to see what they were doing now.
I began with Miley Cyrus. She had been my childhood idol in Hannah Montana, and I was absolutely obsessed with the concept that someone could lead a double life, however, upon my discovery of her Instagram, I learnt that she was leading a triple life. She was this daredevil, who was redefining herself from being a child star into a badass singer. I was astounded. I’d always thought of Miley as an innocent young woman, and now I was seeing photos of her nearly naked, smoking pot and drinking.
For a 12 year old, this was a huge thing, especially in the new age of technology, a woman being unapologetically herself was a big deal and was actually demonized. The comment section of her Instagram was horrendous, filled with hate speech, death threats and absolutely vile sexual suggestions (I’ve included very mild examples), “Oh baby you look so hot”,
“You bad and stupid”. Following this, I decided to search up Kim Kardashian, a reality tv star. Her instagram was confronting too, she had many photos of her near naked, except, she didn’t have any drugs or alcohol in any of her photos.
I then read her comment section and there was comment after comment of harsh judgement, “she is fat”, “@kimkardashian remember you got robbed that week ???? hopefully it happens again”, “You should be ashamed of yourself put clothes on people does not want to see that” .
I then searched up other stars, and found that account after account of female celebrities had these gross comment sections.
This made me wonder whether or not men get the same kind of judgement from their followers.
I looked up another one of my childhood idols, Zac Efron and found his Instagram to have mostly press photos of him at events, photos of other people and the occasional selfie. His comment section was drastically different, filled with encouragement and loving messages. “I love you”, “You’re perfect! ♥”, “I remember when u were in high school musical and it’s like ur all grown up!!! Ilysm !!!”.
So why is it that women receive so much criticism on their bodies, and why are people so quick to sexualise them? I think it comes down to societal conditioning, people are taught to see women as objects, and women then learn that being objectified is desirable. This makes the pressure on young women even more extreme because they feel as though they must conform to this and hypersexualise themselves. Young boys and girls believe that the perfect female is one who is passive and subservient, they also believe that men must be dominant and superior.
This nature of sexualisation leaves no room for kids to grow up the way that kids always have, innocently and slowly, instead kids must be ready to objectify and be objectified as soon as they begin to engage with social media. Once I had been exposed to all of this content, I began to form a very strong opinion on social media.
I believe that social media is an incredible platform for self expression and I believe it should be a safe space for everyone to post what they want as long as it is not inciting violence, hate or sexual harassment. I believe that women and men alike should be able to post photos of their bodies without them being sexualised and instead, being seen simply as the beautiful vessels that allow us to be alive. I believe that social media should be a loving, embracing place where people can discover themselves and discover other people.
I know that these beliefs are far fetched but I think that social media is beginning to change with movements such as the #bodypositive movement, the #metoo movement, the #sheinspiresme movement and so many more, that are about celebrating diversity, and female empowerment.
And I hope that one day I’ll be able to scroll through my Instagram without seeing my idols, and my friends being treated like tools, but treated like smart, talented, beautiful individuals capable of much more than sexual gratification.
About Matariki Star Holland Bennett
Matariki is a 15 year old Maori & Pakeha student attending Nga Puna o Waiorea School in Auckland city. As well as a writer she is also a poet and has performed her own work at the ‘Auckland Speaks’ National Poetry Day, NZ Poetry Conference and the ‘WORD: The FrontLine’ inter – NZ high school slam poetry competition n 2017.
Like her father the award winning film maker Michael Bennett, she is also an aspiring script writer and penned ‘Huia’ a short film. Matariki is passionate about issues facing young Maori woman, her beliefs and traditions and how these come into conflict with Te Ao Pakeha (the European world). As an active performer who also performs much of what she writes, Matariki will also be linking many of her blogs with her up and coming performances.