I never thought I’d mind someone letting out their gut feeling, but here I am. As usual, I can blame everything on “Body Positivity”. It’s a badge I used to wear with unflinching pride, but not so much now. What was once a movement for the acceptance of fat people has evolved into a marketing tool, a headline buzzword, and a hashtag that’s often inundated with photos and videos of conventionally beautiful people with conventionally beautiful bodies telling us, “It’s okay ! Love yourself!”
You’ve heard all this before. I’ve already said everything. But when I saw the reaction to a video from Selena Gomez As I lay on a boat with an outrageous tummy tuck and declared, “I don’t suck shit in” because “real stomachs f*ck come back,” I felt like I had to repeat it. So here I go.
To be clear, this isn’t a criticism of Selena Gomez. As a celebrity with millions of followers, many of whom are young and impressionable, she leads by example (I think) by publicly allowing herself to just exist in her body without sucking. This is fantastic.
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It’s the resulting articles (especially the headlines; that’s what people read most) that rubbed me in the wrong direction. “Makeup-free Selena Gomez shares body-positive TikTok in skin-tight swimsuit,” read one headline. “Selena Gomez declares ‘real stomachs are coming back,'” says another. My least favorite: “Selena Gomez loves her stomach — and so should you.”
The latter begs the question: I don’t know, right?
Gomez’s body is perfectly valid the way it is, but let’s be honest and say it’s not a marginalized (read: fat) body. I’m sure she didn’t mean any harm for using that TikTok audio to explain that “real stomachs are back,” but the pairing of her slim-than-average physique coupled with that phrasing may suggest that “Real” stomachs are the ones that are still permissible by our society’s fat-phobic standards – none that take up space or have more than one roll or hang over your waistband.
We’re told to love our bodies because Selena Gomez loves hers, but most people don’t have Selena Gomez’s body. Many people live in bodies that encounter weight discrimination at every turn: the internet. At work. At the airport. In the doctor’s office. To confidently suggest that it’s as simple as looking down at Gomez’s simple tummy tuck and suddenly feeling overwhelmed by body pride is deaf at best.
These headlines and articles may herald Gomez as a warrior of body positivity, but what she’s doing really isn’t that groundbreaking — she’s just hanging out in a bathing suit, enjoying herself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this terrific hero talk in the media happens whenever a skinny celebrity makes any statement that could be construed as body positive. There aren’t many fat celebrities out there to begin with, but if any of them other than Lizzo said something similar, would they grant them the same body worship? I think we all know the answer to that.
Lo and behold, I understand. I’m a digital media editor; I know first hand that most of the time you just need to do what you know people will click on. As a professional writer, you rarely get to choose what you cover, and it’s even rarer to dictate your own headlines. It’s easy to lose your true point of view when faced with an audience that wants very specific content. Looking back, I’ve certainly written some of those articles mindlessly praising skinny celebrities for their “courage” when it comes to self-love. In this industry, no one is immune to bad habits.
But it’s time to rethink the way we observe and interact with these types of stories – and for us journalists to reevaluate the way we write these reactionary stories. It’s great when celebrities, regardless of body type, are open and transparent about their self-image. This is something we never even dared to dream of in the 1990s and 2000s.
Still, we all need to be more honest. Can we admit that there are thin privileges? And can we stop labeling those who have it “brave” to bare it all? There’s just not that much at stake for them.
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