Why Do Female Artists Receive Backlash For Losing Weight?

Victoria Mileson

Artists such as Lizzo and Adele have recently come under fire for their attempts to lose weight. Being body positive has never meant you can’t also shed a few pounds, so why do we hold female musicians to different standards than we hold both ourselves and men to? As Victoria explores, it seems that female artists can’t be perceived as body positive if they express that they’re losing weight, no matter how healthily they do it.

Late last year, Lizzo posted on her Instagram story that she had done a ten-day, smoothie-based detox. She’s previously been worshipped as a body positive icon, and her music promotes self-love, whatever that may look like for each person. But her fans were outraged at her making a choice about her own body.

Lizzo didn’t announce that she was trying to lose weight, but did she need to? She’s leading a body positivity movement but that doesn’t mean she’s not also entitled to some privacy.

some fans felt betrayed and that she had turned her back on the body positivity movement

However, what really struck a chord with her fans was that she was shedding the pounds using detoxes and cleanses. They are not backed up by science, are a slippery slope into disordered eating and they’ve been described as a form of restriction. She was also using “beauty water” and vegan protein bars as part of a diet overseen by weight-loss expert, J.J. Smith. She had posted about her vegan lifestyle and workout routines before but didn’t explicitly say she was losing weight. Did she need to be that transparent with her following, though? Behind the fame, she’s just a person too.

She didn’t hide her body and what she was doing but some fans felt betrayed and that she had turned her back on the body positivity movement. The “anti-fat” community also came together to commend her efforts to lose weight and be “healthy”.

While losing weight can bring praise, it can also risk alienating communities built on body positivity and their role models. Lizzo broke her silence on her weight loss via her Instagram account, writing that “I’m beautiful and I’m still fat. These things are not mutually exclusive.”

There’s a shame surrounding being “plus-size” that still exists despite body positivity movements and songs that promote self-love. Other female celebrities have lost weight too, including Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy. They have also faced praise in tabloid magazines combined with edited or unflattering before and after pictures.

are we that shallow where we still see women as mere aesthetic objects?

Male celebrities have lost weight, but they face a different reality – one where their transformations are praised and celebrated. The likes of Chris Pratt and Drew Carey never seem to face the same outrage for the changes in their appearances as women. Are we that shallow where we still see women as mere aesthetic objects?

Adele’s weight loss also sparked major debate. It was coupled with claims that her music would never be quite as good. People insisted that the Adele we knew and loved no longer existed because she was smaller in size.

Adele got to where she is today all while being plus-sized. She has sold more than 90 million albums, won 15 Grammys (five in one night) and has a new album set for release this month, yet people fixate on her appearance.

we shouldn’t be berating women for their weight loss or weight gain

Adele told Vogue, “I understand why some women especially were hurt. Visually I represented a lot of women. But I’m still the same person. And the worst part of the whole thing was that the most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body,” she added. “I was very f*cking disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.”

We shouldn’t be berating women for their weight loss or weight gain. It’s a personal matter and there is still a huge pressure to be slim. Weight loss for some may not even be a decision—it is nobody’s business what size someone else may be and the reasons behind it.

Those in the public eye are under even larger pressure to present themselves in a certain way that “isn’t too hard on the eyes”. Whether they lose weight or gain some, they face criticism and don’t get a say on what body positive means for them. If we’re body positive, why are we shaming female musicians for losing weight in the first place? We’re either encouraging people to lose weight or shaming them for doing so.

While understating the challenges of weight loss can send the unrealistic message that, “If I can do it, you can too!”, is it a surprise that female musicians may not want to document every stage of their weight loss online for the world to see and open themselves up to even more criticism than they’re already bound to receive?

Victoria Mileson

Featured image courtesy of Treefort Music Fest via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @lizzobeeating and @adele via @instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.

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