Content warnings include Taylor Swift, fatphobia, discussions of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, mentions of sexual assault, racism, and the use of derogatory terms.
Edit: After this article came out, Taylor change the video and cut out the scene showing the scales. While I applaud her for listening and doing better, I still stand by my words in the following article and leaving it otherwise untouched.
This week, Taylor Swift came out with a new album and music video for the song “Anti-Hero”, which sparked some backlash. The video features Taylor standing on a scale that reads “fat”, which appears to be her greatest fear. Why did it upset so many people, me included? Let me answer this question for you.
I grew up as a fat person. I am a fat person. Being fat is all I’ve ever known. I had to go my entire life listening to skinny girls call themselves fat in front of me even though I was twice their size and I never learned how to react to that because, genuinely, how is that supposed to make me feel? How am I supposed to feel that, to this beautiful, skinny tall girl, being fat is her nightmare?
Being fat is my reality. My reality is her nightmare.
It is possible to talk about eating disorders and body dysmorphia without including fatphobic statements. That's what Taylor failed to do here. She used “fat” as a term meant to insult. Despite whether she is insulting herself or someone else, the meaning is clear: being fat is bad. While everybody’s struggles with weight and eating disorders are valid and should be discussed, fans are using Taylor’s personal experiences as an excuse. This is a problem for two reasons. The first: no matter how personal their experience is, artists, especially ones with such huge platforms, have a responsibility to their audience when their content is made public. They should represent things sensitively and should consider the implications of their own words and actions. Secondly, it feels as though society is only willing to talk about EDs and BD when it's regarding thin people. Fat people also suffer from these disorders and seeing more fatphobia from skinny people is definitely not empowering. Regardless of Taylor’s intent, her personal experiences, and so on, she has spread a dangerous message here.
I've also noticed quite a lot of people supporting Taylor and other skinny people with BD by saying that talking about feeling “fat” is completely valid. However, there is an enormous difference between feeling fat and being fat in a world that hates you. Fat people are constantly judged and attacked for supposedly “promoting obesity” while just existing — and god forbid we're actually happy with our bodies. Feeling fat is an internal struggle, but being fat is existing in a world not made for you; one where we’re unable to find flattering clothes, where everybody has an opinion on your body and eating habits. It's being hyper-aware of taking up space and having armrests dig into your stomach on public transport or in movie theatres.
Taylor has the privilege and power to change the narrative as a skinny, conventionally pretty and (let's be honest) white celebrity with adoring fans and a strong online presence. Instead, she chose to perpetuate fatphobia.
Let's also take a minute to draw parallels between Lizzo and Taylor. Recently, Lizzo’s lyrics included a derogatory and ableist term that is used against individuals with cerebral palsy, primarily in the UK. People reached out to Lizzo, explaining the situation, and she not only apologised but changed the song. Still, people continued to pile on her, using it as an opportunity to fat-shame her and be racist. Even now, Lizzo must tell people to take her name out of their mouths because she is said to romanticise an “unhealthy” body type just by existing comfortably in her own skin. People are always quick to try to find a way to “cancel" her.
Now, let's look at Taylor. Taylor not only released this video but also recently starred in a movie directed by a man who admitted to sexually assaulting his niece and is known to be abusive toward people on set. Because of her regular travelling via private jet, she is also responsible for the highest CO2 emissions among celebrities. Taylor is yet to be held accountable by her fans, nor has she rectified the issues or made any public apologies (unless “Anti-Hero” lyrics “I’m the problem, it’s me” count). In fact, she released her latest album without giving fans a preview or single — because she is aware of her widespread impact in the industry. It feels that no matter what she does, she never takes responsibility and her actions have zero consequences. In fact, she only continues to benefit from her popularity.
Why might this be? Because Taylor sits firmly, perhaps even proudly, in her privilege as a white and slim woman, whereas Lizzo is a plus-size Black woman who must work twice as hard to be taken seriously, and isn’t forgiven when she makes a mistake. White women are given endless free passes while Black women are already treated terribly just for taking up space in the industry.
We always end our podcast by saying “We support women's rights, but most importantly, their wrongs” but let's stop taking it so literally and hold women accountable for their actions.
Let's do better. And let’s be clear: being fat is not an insult. It doesn’t make us unloveable or unattractive or unhealthy. Everybody deserves to feel happy in their own body, no matter how that looks.