Lizzo Posts Videos of Her Working Out as a 'F*ck You' to Body Shamers
Lizzo took to TikTok this week with a fat-positive message designed to tell haters to kiss her fitness-infused ass.
“Hey, I’ve been working out consistently for the last five years,” she said. “And it may come as a surprise to y’all that I’m not working out to have your ideal body type. I’m working out to have my ideal body type. And you know what type that is? None of your fucking business.”
Like lots of fat women in the public eye, it seems everyone, from straight-up trolls to former “Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels, have something to say about Lizzo’s weight. Some comments are just cruel. Others are presented as (insincere) concern for her health, because obviously you know everything about how someone’s health, diet and exercise habits from looking at them, right?
Lizzo directed her message to all of the weight-shamers who want to keep making inappropriate comments about her body, and I am here for it!
@lizzoif you’re not a fat shamer… keep scrolling… ok now that all the fat shamers are here ????????♀️✨♬ Buttercup – Jack Stauber
However, these things don’t occur in a vacuum. In fact, the hierarchy of bodies (thin = good and healthy, fat = bad and unhealthy) has been a tool of patriarchal white supremacy and oppression for hundreds of years, even going back to renaissance times. And in that context, the fact that Lizzo even felt she needed to make a video like this makes for an interesting discussion on body politics and the policing of Black and brown bodies.
If this is the first time you are hearing about body politics, let me explain the concept. Body politics is the notion that body size, shape, color, sex organs and reproduction have shifted to become political issues in recent times as a tool of marginalization. For instance, concepts like birth control, acceptance of gender identity, hair and clothing styles have all moved into a discussion of public policy, legislation and business ethics. This is by design, as European ideals of what makes up a “normal body” continue to designate status and power at a societal level.
Second clarification, I can’t speak for Lizzo or Black women, nor do I want to. I’m a fat Latinx woman, living in my brown body, and I can only speak to my experience and my admiration for Lizzo’s cool response in the face of national conversation around her weight that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. As a non-Black person of color, body politics affects me too, and that’s why I wanted to speak on issues of racism, western ideas and the policing of bodies by patriarchal systemic forces.
When we talk about construct of whiteness and euro-centric beauty standards, that “whiteness” part might make you uncomfortable. But it’s true — fat shaming and “health” standards have always been connected to white supremacy. In her book, “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia,” Sabrina Strings lays out the anchor created between fatness and Black bodies “within the multilayered racial, gender and moral structures that shape fatphobia and thin fetishism.”
The heavily researched book’s main point is to show how pro-thin movements throughout history have sealed in euro-centric ideas about race and beauty. Ultimately, these standards serve patriarchal values that oppress minorities, and particularly Black and brown women.
These racist beauty standards go beyond policing fatness. In an article by Quartz, Katherine Ellen Foley describes how euro-centric beauty standards can actually lead BIPOC women to use more toxic beauty products. She writes, “Racial discrimination based on European beauty norms can lead to internalized racism, body shame and skin tone dissatisfaction, factors that can influence product use to achieve straighter hair or lighter skin.” The same can be said for using damaging products to try to fit into a slimmer size.
There’s another intersection here that ties into ableism. In her video, Lizzo says:
So next time you want to come to somebody and judge them, whether they drink kale smoothies or eat McDonalds, or workout or not workout, how about you look at your own fucking self and worry about your own god damn body? Because health is not just determined by what you look like on the outside. Health is also what happened on the inside.
“Health” doesn’t have a body type. There are thin people who live with chronic illnesses, and others who gain weight because of the medication that actually keeps them “healthy.” In fact, the fat shaming and systemic marginalization of Black and brown people can cause damaging mental and physical disability among our communities. When Yes Magazine calls fat shaming the “last acceptable bias” what they are really saying is that people who fat shame espouse ideas steeped in racism and ableism, and sometimes they seem happy to do it.
Let me be clear, in no way am I comparing the plight of white or white-passing fat folks to the toll racism takes on Black and brown folks. It’s insidious no matter who they choose to levy those comments at, be it Lizzo or Adele. What I am saying is fatphobia is a tool of racism, wielded to keep Black and brown women even more oppressed or used to fetishize us. It’s a cog in the racist machine, and somehow many people have decided it’s OK.
The same ideas, steeped in misogyny, are used in legislation about healthcare, the workplace and other important parts of society. This includes clauses that encourage doctors to send fat people home with information about free healthcare counseling without solving the issue they actually came in for. Doctors are more likely to assume obesity is the cause of all your problems if you’re fat, and as a result they might miss an important cancer diagnosis.
While issues of malpractice and medical mistreatment impact fat people of all races, Black and brown people are more likely to suffer from the consequences of unequal access to quality healthcare.
So, maybe you’re one of those people who thinks, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” While Lizzo seems to hold this viewpoint and doesn’t let the haters get her down, the fact that she needed to make a video like this shows how messed up our views of health and wellness really are. Resposting the video on Instagram, Lizzo added in her caption that she didn’t make this video for herself, but for people who get body shamed and don’t have the platform she does.
Words shape ideas, ideas influence how we communicate at all levels. Things like job loss, misdiagnosis and even death are consequences of western beauty ideals becoming establishment policy. These circumstances impact all fat people, but guess who they impact the most? Black and brown women, like Lizzo, like myself.
Body positivity isn’t going away. Working against anti-fatness isn’t a trend. It’s part of the anti-racist work we need to do. It’s past time to let go of fat bias. Black women like Lizzo shouldn’t need to defend their body or their health to anyone. As Lizzo says, it’s not your fucking business.