It has been a long summer of body-shaming, seen in particular at the Olympics, but while some may disparage online campaigns, at gal-dem we’ve been loving the body-positive thigh selfies (“thelfies” anyone?) spurred on by the viral #ThighsForJeaux campaign.

#ThighsForJeaux encourages people to take pics of their bared thighs, no matter if they have a few stretchmarks or cellulite, are large, or brown, or skinny, or don’t fit into other Eurocentric beauty conventions.

We had a chat with Mixo Mathebula, the 22-year-old Pretoria-based student behind the campaign, about how it kicked off, and why she’s embracing “black queer people, cis het black women and black gender non-conforming people”.

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What first inspired you to start #ThighsForJeaux?

What inspired #ThighsForJeaux was a very hot day. Literally. I was on Twitter speaking about how impossible it is to not wear as little as possible for the sake of comfort. I remembered that a lot of people don’t get to enjoy being comfortable on a summer day because of insecurities and the risk of harassment, which is what I face on a daily basis. So I just decided that the # could be a form of protest and affirmation. It was all just a joke to begin with. I didn’t expect it to blow up.

Why did you decide to run the campaign for the third time?

I decided to host it on September 1 because it’s spring day this side [South Africa] and we usually call spring day “vezi thanga day” which means “show your thighs day” (loosely translated).

What has the reaction been like this time round? 

The reaction this time around has been so much better. More people have participated and honestly, the good far outweighed the negative. That’s all that matters to me anyway. I literally never have time to pay attention to the negative comments because my mentions are full of positivity. I say this without sounding like a complete positivity priest. I also mentioned that there’s a task team ready to drag the bastards and they really held it down.

Do you think it’s important for women of colour to publically to embrace their bodies?

Not just women of colour but black queer people, cis het black women and black gender non-conforming people. These are the people I am primarily aiming to reach. It is important for them to embrace their bodies, however they wish to do so and in their own timing. The crux of this campaign is to not pressure anyone and to acknowledge that we all have different journeys.

What do you think about comparable campaigns, like mermaid thighs?

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Where do think the west is heading in terms of body positivity? We’re seeing more curvy women around, but is the pressure to be thin etc. still there in your opinion?

I don’t live in the west, therefore I cannot account for that. We are unfortunately fed images of the Eurocentric image as the standard and that affects many people. There is, without a doubt, pressure to be skinny but I appreciate the rise in campaigns that include thick women. Although even in those campaigns, there is still a standard. There needs to be complete representation and diversity.

What type of negative reactions do you get to the campaign? And how do you deal with them?

Obviously body shaming and the occasional slut shaming from the menz and women who just love to uphold the patriarchy. There are also those who feel they have the monopoly on attention on Twitter who were very upset. How did I deal with them? We simply dragged.

What pictures or stories have stayed with you most? 

I don’t have favorite stories or pictures. Every single person who posted had a story to tell. No-one’s story meant less to me than the other. It touches me deeply when I receive feedback from the people who participated telling me that it made a difference in their lives and the way they see themselves. Even if it’s a just a tiny change, it keeps me going. It gives me strength.

Follow Mixo @Mijeaux and contribute to the campaign by uploading a pic and using the hashtag #ThighsForJeaux

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