Standing on the scale in the bathroom, the young woman hopes and prays for a lower number, but once it stops it’s not to her liking. She sighs in disappointment as the voice in her head says she needs to be more disciplined and restricted.
I’m the problem, it’s me
I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror
It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero
Anti-Hero, the leading single from Taylor Swift’s 10th album Midnight, talks about the voices in your head caused by anxiety and depression getting the best of you. In the video, she illustrates how she’s an anti-hero by having different versions of herself representing the voices of self-doubt and self-loathing as they stay throughout the video. In one scene she talks about her insecurity about being taller than everyone in the room, a theme represented in Red when talking about her ex’s disapproval of her wearing heels:
Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
And I’m a monster on the hill
Too big to hang out
Slowly lurching toward your favorite city
Pierced through the heart but never killed
I think we all look at Taylor and see her as a socially acceptable beauty, in the least, so it’s interesting to hear the unkind thoughts she had about herself.
The video continues, following Taylor into the bathroom as she weighs herself. Stepping on the scale in hopes of a lower number, the needle stops at “Fat” with a head shake of disapproval coming from her “dark” side.
Like others, my heart broke for her seeing that. I’ve dealt with disordered eating and patterns since I was eight years old and now, at 37, it’s hard to shake those thoughts out of my head no matter how much therapy I’m in.
Other Swifties connected with her too:
“As someone in active recovery, I cried. I know exactly how that feels and it’s hard to let go of those thoughts.”
In the Netflix documentary, Miss. Americana, Taylor talks about how she starved herself to the point she thought she would pass out at live performances.
“I would have defended it to anybody who said, ‘I’m concerned about you.’” She continues, “I don’t think you know you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually. There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting. Because if you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants, but if you have enough weight on you to have an ass, then your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just fucking impossible.”
Later she told Variety,
“My relationship with food was the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life. If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad.”
Luckily for herself and Swifties, Taylor worked to rewire her brain and fix her relationship with food.
“I worked hard to retrain my brain that a little extra weight means curves, shinier hair, and more energy. I think many of us push the boundaries of dieting but taking it too far can be dangerous. There is no quick fix. I work on accepting my body every day.” Taylor wrote in a 2019 Essay for Elle Magazine.
But not everyone saw her struggles or the message she was trying to convey in Anti-Hero.
Criticism of the five-second shot was met with criticisms of fatphobia.
A Twitter user said,
“Taylor Swift’s music video, where she looks down at the scale where it says “fat,” is a shitty way to describe her body image struggles. Fat people don’t need to have it reiterated yet again that it’s everyone’s worst nightmare to look like us,” to follow up with, “Having an eating disorder doesn’t excuse fat phobia.”
While I understand fatphobia needs to be addressed, called out, and destroyed, I find that we’re taking a complicated situation like fatphobia and disordered eating and making it a black-and-white issue. In doing this, we are gatekeeping someone’s experience and recovery which does not help solve the problem.
Fatphobia, which the Boston Medical Journal describes as, “(Noun) Also known as anti-fat, is the implicit and explicit bias of overweight individuals that is rooted in a sense of blame and presumed moral failing,” is a systemic issue that started way before Taylor Swift’s Anti-Hero. Some may argue that she, with her disordered eating, may be fatphobic for wanting to be smaller. Because eating disorders are complicated mental health disorders, I don’t particularly appreciate subscribing to this idea. Saying someone with an eating disorder is fatphobic places the blame for the eating disorder on the person, and that is not fair or healthy.
We all live in a society where fatphobia is present around us. Some are in the entertainment industry; others are visiting doctors just for them to tell us to lose weight and make everything better.
To combat fatphobia, we need to attack the system. That means:
- Raising the flag on Biden’s new plan to reduce obesity and end hunger by 2030, which includes making calorie labels bigger and moving them to the front of foods (this behavior only makes people more anxious about eating).
- The need for consequences for health professionals who turn away patients because their BMI is in a certain category.
- We need to challenge and hold directors and writers accountable for how they portray people in bigger bodies.
There are issues that need addressing and it doesn’t start by dictating how someone tells their story of struggle and recovery. As a bigger person, I get it; no one wants to know that their existence is gross and undesired. But in Anti-Hero, she is not saying that in the least. To quote Rolling Stone, “It’s not that she thinks being fat is a bad thing, but that she was made to believe that it was.”
Taylor didn’t create the system in which fatphobia exists. She, like the rest of us, is part of the system that tells us we must be a certain way to be successful and treated like human beings. If we fall outside of those guidelines, we are not desirable.
And she deserves to talk about her struggles with her body just like the rest of us. Yes, she is in a smaller body and was regardless, but it doesn’t make her journey less credible.
Taylor cut the five-second scene from her videos on YouTube and Apple after the backlash. The five-second clip that talked about one of her struggles is no more because people didn’t care to google her story or journey to get to where she is now.
This is a disservice to her, her art, and most importantly her fans who relate to her.
Gatekeeping recovery will not combat fatphobia. We can’t fix the system that perpetuates these thoughts if we’re minimizing other people’s stories. We should all be asking what makes a person feel and think this way in the first place. Eating disorders are complicated and there’s no perfect answer. We can shift our focus and stop playing the blame game where it’s not necessary. Instead, let’s call out the systems that create the rules, not the victims who fall prey to them.
If you’re new here, I’m not the biggest fan of the body positivity movement as it stands today, no matter how well-intended it is.