comScore Please Leave Lizzo and Her Body Alone | The Mary Sue

Every Time I See Lizzo Trending I Know It’s Over a Bad Take About Her Body, Even if It’s in the Name of “Body Positivity”

I forgot there were terms and conditions to this "positive" movement

Lizzo performs during "One World: Together At Home" presented by Global Citizen on April, 18, 2020.

When I was 30 years old I got harassed online for being a fat Black woman who dared to cosplay a beloved Nintendo princess. I responded to the harassment because, when I checked, I hadn’t a single fuck left in my inventory slot. My response got shared throughout the community, I got quite the uptick in followers, and I started speaking more about body positivity and the importance of loving yourself.

But eventually, I reached a point where I wanted my work to be noticed more than my reaction to how folks felt about my body. The same can be said about how I reacted to racism, sexism, and homophobia since I am unapologetically bisexual.

This, I would come to realize, and what I’m still coming to realize, is really damn hard.

And that’s not just because of the stuff we openly talk about: the Internet trolls with the 2 followers, the obnoxious amount of media with the self-loathing fat girl who hasn’t invested in a better friend circle and who, for some reason, keeps trying to shop at clothing stores that clutch their pearls over double-digit sizes instead of hitting up a Torrid or Lane Bryant.

It’s because of the stuff we don’t talk about, the stuff we need to discuss the most: the hypocrisy of the body positivity movement and the way folks feel entitled to your body, especially if you’re a Black woman, because Black women are constantly labeled as being strong so they’re instantly put on pedestals.

And you know what? Truth be told? I believed that hype. I fully took part in doing literal Powerpoint presentations at events on my harassment and how I overcame Tumblr anons because after all the negativity I thrived on those you go girl comments.

I was unaware of the subsect of people within the body positivity movement (usually white women) who took my thank you for the support to mean that they got to dictate my decisions about my body and how I used my social media space, ranging from “don’t call yourself fat I don’t like that word” to “don’t share that cosplayer they aren’t fat and looking at them upsets me.”

Which brings me to Lizzo.

Lizzo hit the music scene like an unstoppable force, danced on stage with her beautiful fat, Black body, and let it be known that she had no time for the haters that she knew she would receive. That in itself is telling to me, that she knew, right from the start, that she was gonna catch heat over her body.

Any fat Black girl who watched her knew it, though, we all know it, and we all have this kneejerk reaction to respond to it (if we have the spoons for it) and prove that we are unbothered beings who will succeed regardless of fatphobia. But we all reach that eventually I mentioned earlier, that moment when you’re tired of being hailed for clapbacks instead of what you’re actually trying to be recognized for. It’s also demoralizing to sift through the fatphobic comments in order to put on this I am rubber you are glue performance.

So Lizzo left social media for a while, and amidst the take care of yourself comments and the eye-roll-inducing good riddance, there were other comments I noticed, ones that really brought to the surface how entitled body-positive folks can be.

They were angry that Lizzo left, angry she put her self-care first because we need you.

Now I’m sure there’s plenty of other examples of this movement being the absolute worst when it comes to how it treats Black women, but this is when the pieces started coming together for me. This commentary of Lizzo being a failure just reminded me of my own experiences, hit on all the times I would exhaust myself to be the strong one when I really just wanted to express the part of myself who absolutely curled up in bed and cried because the bad takes about me were entirely too much. Actually, at one point, I did fully admit to being tired, and while some folks got it others … well … they told me they couldn’t believe it because I was so strong and they looked to me for inspiration.

That, ironically, hurt more to hear than any fat animal comparison I’d ever received.

Because dealing with folks within a movement labeled as positive who only want this fraction of you that stands tall is inhumane. Also, it’s beyond ironic that a movement built on “being comfortable in your own skin” has this fine print that gets missed, this part where you don’t get to define what is and isn’t comfortable for you. Much like the fatphobic Internet trolls we’re told to ignore, there’s this entire other spectrum, this part of the body positivity movement that unrealistically idolizes your body in the name of good intentions to the point that they take it as a personal offense if you do something they don’t like.

Such was the case yesterday when Lizzo was trending.

And it’s at the point now where I can’t even be happy that she’s trending because it’s always a bad take about her body, but we’ve transgressed from seeing her belittled for being fat and have hit the stage where she’s belittled for FAILING other fat women. AGAIN. Because Lizzo did a 10-day juice detox (with a disclaimer on making sure you consult a specialist first) and people accused her of promoting unhealthy diet habits, some even going so far as to say she was fatphobic now.

It didn’t matter that she had a disclaimer, didn’t matter that she said she messed up her body with too much drinking and spicy foods back in November so she was trying to GET BACK TO WHERE SHE STARTED. People saw one of two things: 1) the trolls who saw a fat Black woman trying to lose weight and breathing sighs of relief about it (ugh), or 2) body positivity folks who saw their inspiration fodder fail them because oh no she’s trying to lose weight (UGH!)

This. Is why. Folks within this movement. Are more exhausting. Then the stereotypical fat hate we get.

Because folks within this movement don’t realize that this is another form of hate, the flipside of what we’re supposedly trying to fight against. When we think of concern trolling we think of those glorifying an unhealthy lifestyle comments and not this other side where a bunch of women called a fat Black woman fatphobic because they saw the word “detox” and ran with it.

Whereas typical concern trolling is due to folks who just don’t like fat bodies, this kind of concern trolling is a self-satisfying mess in the name of positivity. These women want to keep Lizzo in the box they’ve made for her, use her as their daily reminder to love themselves to the point of anger if she does something in the name of, well, loving herself.

This movement preaches messages of doing what makes YOU feel good … while admonishing you for taking its own advice.

Basically, this level of entitlement in the movement does the one thing you should never do in regards to someone’s body: remove choice. Because now, it’s not about what Lizzo chooses to do, it’s about what others deem as acceptable for her to do.

Hate is already difficult enough to face, we know that, but this entitled feeling of betrayal when you decide to do what you feel is best for your own body? No one should feel bad for working to love themselves, so the fact that a part of this movement will absolutely guilt you for working to love yourself because they’ve clung to a certain image of you is surreal.

So what do we do about it? Honestly, I’m still navigating all of this myself and probably will be for a long while, but I have a couple of thoughts.

First and foremost be aware of it. While most of us know about fatphobia, this body-positive entitlement takes longer to pinpoint because it surfaces after the compliments and is typically said in this mournful kind of way to try and emote sympathy (aka: white woman tears). Sure, there might be the occasional aggressive response, but for the most part, it’s someone bemoaning the loss of an icon (which, um, Lizzo’s still here y’all) instead of accepting the fact that you don’t get the final say on how someone chooses to love their body.

The assumption with body positivity, and any space created to benefit folks used to being belittled, is that it’s flawless. It’s not. There are positives, yes, but since people are flawed as hell there are aspects of it that, well, call Lizzo fatphobic for choosing herself. Just like every other space in your life, you will run into folks with their own opinions on what they think is best for you, especially if they cling to this opinion for their own sake.

These people who are upset at Lizzo aren’t actually concerned for her own wellbeing, they’re upset because what she’s doing negates THEIR ideal image of her, the one they use to boost themselves up. They don’t realize that there’s a difference between inspiration and reliance. They aren’t inspired by Lizzo, they rely on her to be their fat Black queen, this cardboard cutout of a woman instead of an actual person with feelings of her own.

Unfortunately, you can’t really stop folks from turning you into a caricature. You can certainly tell them not to, and should (again, spoons), but there will always be someone who sees you as something that feels positive until they twist it into something that makes you uncomfortable.

When this happens, you should very much remember that their ideal of you doesn’t define you. You are very much allowed to feel damn good about yourself when someone compliments you, but as soon as folks start to come to you ONLY for what they feel like they can gain from you, especially in regards to how you love yourself, then take a step back and remember one thing:

You are a whole ass person who gets to define what self-love means to you.

(Image: Getty Images/Staff)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)