There’s a lot of talk going on about a certain songstress’s body size manipulation. This happens a lot so I wanted to talk about it in a more general way, rather than discussing the particulars of this specific incident.
First of all, yes, everyone has a right to do what they want with their bodies/lives. But those decisions do not happen in a vacuum. Part of being a celebrity with the privilege and platform that come along with that is being responsible for what you promote through your words and actions. You can’t support intentional weight loss without supporting fatphobia, because the idea that a thin(ner) body would be in some way better is at the root of fat oppression.
When celebrities uncritically accept the positive attention they get for (at least temporarily) manipulating their bodies to be smaller, it can feel like a betrayal to those in Size Acceptance community because when these stars are fat(ter), they use our community, our work, our language as a shield against the fatphobia they experience – talking about how they love their bodies, how they don’t want to look like some photoshopped picture in a magazine, how all bodies are beautiful, how health and weight are two different things etc. And they lean on our support as fans – to appreciate their work, promote them, defend them.
So of course we can feel a major betrayal when they (at least temporarily) become smaller and suddenly can’t seem to prove fast enough that they were just using us until they could move themselves out of the marginalized group and become one of the marginalizers, waxing poetic with the same diet-culture language that had been weaponized against them, basking in the approval from the same people who were fat-shaming them before they became thin, and will fat-shame them again when they regain the weight.
And if, like almost everyone, they do regain their weight, history shows they’ll likely come running back to us – our support, our (limited) resources, our work, our language. For those who choose to continue to attempt intentional weight loss this can end up becoming a cycle – or they may try to remake Size Acceptance in their own image as something that can include their desire for, and celebration of, weight loss (maybe co-opting the originally fat activist term of “Body Positivity” and watering it down even more.)
Often they complicate the situation by claiming they lost weight for their health. Again, they are allowed to conflate weight and health, but the reality is that it can also make things more difficult for those of us who understand that weight and health are two separate things and that intentional weight loss does not meet the criteria for an ethical, evidence-based health practice. While people are allowed to buy into a weight-loss paradigm, their choice to do that publicly from a big platform makes life harder for those who are trying to get ethical, competent healthcare in fat bodies. Or they may claim that they did it to avoid health issues or disability (despite the fact that people of all sizes deal with those issues.) Adding healthism and ableism to fatphobia does not improve the situation.
Paradigm straddling (wanting to be part of Size Acceptance and be supported in intentional weight loss, for example) is a really common thing in oppressed communities. Being oppressed sucks and it’s normal to fantasize about how things could be different. I think something to think about is whether we fantasize about an “ideal world” that accommodates us (and everyone,) and pursue that, or if we fantasize about shrinking ourselves into something less to have our “ideal body” (often built not just on sizeism but also healthism and ableism) and pursue that.
To reiterate, while people – including celebrities – can do whatever they want with their bodies, their choices have meaning and consequences. And choosing to participate in intentional weight loss, or to celebrate weight loss of any kind, supports weight stigma and perpetuates eating disorders by promoting the idea that a thin(ner) body is a better/more attractive/healthier body, which is at the root of fatphobia.
If you want to read more about the Adele situation, I recommend this piece by Da’Shaun Harrison for Wear Your Voice.
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