Billie Eilish was targeted for ‘putting on weight’

She was out walking, this week, when a paparazzo snapped some photos of her wearing a fitted vest top. She looked good – great, even; there isn’t much to discuss on that front.

But the photos very quickly did the rounds, and a man on Twitter decided to use the opportunity to body shame her. “In 10 months Billie Eilish has developed a mid-30s wine mom body,” he wrote.

Singer Billie Eilish is famously careful with her body, making a conscious decision very early on in her career to wear oversized, baggy clothing in order to prevent it being used as a tool to either sexualise or shame her – because, let’s face it, that’s what the female body is generally reduced to in our society, and she knows it. “I never want the world to know everything about me,” she explained in 2019 in a Calvin Klein campaign. “I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes: Nobody can have an opinion, because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.”

It’s sad that this is something the 18-year-old has to even consider, but here we are. So, she adopts this approach, and covers up. It works, in theory, right? Except that the moment she wears anything even slightly fitted, it becomes a hot topic the world over. Keeping her body under wraps has backfired; it has cultivated a hunger from our image-obsessed culture to see – to demand to see – what’s underneath.

As you can imagine, the general response was outrage, and he was bombarded with replies expressing exactly that. But his tweet points to a wider problem in society: our obsessive and relentless body shaming of, almost exclusively, women.

The sheer amount of people who liked the tweet – nine thousand – and retweeted it – 936, at the time of writing – goes some way to demonstrate how much society enjoys partaking in the casual shaming of a woman’s body.

And here’s the thing – we, women, cannot win! While Billie is targeted for ‘putting on weight’, in the same week, actress Rebel Wilson has been accused of falling to pressures to lose weight after becoming significantly smaller. A barrage of abuse has been directed her way for daring to do what she wants with her body.

It doesn’t stop there – Cardi B made the news this week for clapping back to a man who commented on the size of her areolas (yes, seriously) after she accidentally posted a nude photo to her Instagram stories. “Why yo areolas so big?”, he asked, prompting the WAP rapper to come back with an excellent response. “Cause I breastfed a baby for three months. Titties got bigger, so nipples got bigger. It’s ok, let me know if your daddy wanna get breasted,” she wrote, while the world cheered her on.

Why do we feel that women’s bodies are fair game for us to comment on? Why do we take pleasure in it? How did we get to this point where it’s ubiquitous without ever really being questioned? I don’t have the exact answers, unfortunately, but I know it needs to stop, and we need to start holding people who body shame accountable. And I’m not just talking about internet trolls who wrote overtly offensive tweets or Instagram comments, but casual, everyday body shaming you hear in your inner circles, too – whether it’s telling your friend on WhatsApp that she shouldn’t be commenting on a certain celebrity’s body, or questioning your colleague for a throwaway remark about a fellow colleague’s weight. It also means pulling yourself up when you find yourself passing judgement on how another woman looks.

Because body shaming, no matter what form it comes in, no matter how casual or small it is, and no matter the individual’s intentions, all contributes towards society’s obsession with women’s bodies and perpetuates the notion that a woman’s value lies solely in how she – and her body – looks.

It also prevents us, as a whole, from ever truly becoming happy in our bodies. I shout about body confidence and self-acceptance from the rooftops every single day – until I’m blue in the face, most days – but deep down, I know that true self-acceptance is an extremely difficult goal when the world we inhabit is so inherently hostile towards women’s bodies. We can work on changing our mindsets as much as we want, but when we go out into the world, we don’t see the same level of positivity reflected back at us.

It’s not a supportive space for women to exist exactly as they are, it never has been – but with a collective effort, we have the power to change that. Let’s at least try.

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