The word on the scale

A fat white woman kneels on a sidewalk to smash a bathroom scale using a big orange hammer.

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Since I first wrote this, Taylor Swift has updated her video to remove the couple of seconds showing the word on the scale (without public comment). Ten or twenty fat activists have offered mild criticism of the original clip, and thanked Swift for removing it.

And thousands of viciously fatphobic and pro-ana “Swifties” have organized hate campaigns from their circles on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and elsewhere, sending these fat activists death threats, stalking them, attempting to dox them and harassing them off social media.

In the last day or two, the mainstream media has also picked up the story, with thin people being paid to publish articles repeating the Swifties’ fatphobic talking points.

I’ve been lucky to stay under the radar of abuse so far. We’ll see if that changes.

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Taylor Swift’s new album just came out, and the music video for one of the songs features scenes that illustrate some of her personal demons.

In the video, Swift (who has struggled with an eating disorder) steps on a scale on which the numbers have been replaced with the word FAT.

(I’m not going to share a screenshot because I try not to perpetuate fatphobia while fighting it, but it should be googleable.)

The thing is: Fatphobia is intrinsic to eating disorders, which (with some exceptions) are based in a fear of fatness.

As many others have said before me, eating disorder recovery is in large part about eliminating internalized fatphobia. (Which is why fatphobic ED treatment tends not to work well.) This is because most eating disorders are based in caloric restriction. (That’s also why there’s no recognized eating disorder based on fear of thinness.)

Several fat activists posted some fantastic commentary about how imagery like this perpetuates weight stigma, but I can’t link to many of those threads because their authors were so bombarded with abuse that they were forced to lock down their social media accounts.

Every time a celebrity is fatphobic in public people say “well hopefully this will Start A Conversation,” but the only “conversations” that result are fat activists getting dogpiled for daring to comment.

It’s interesting how the thin folks commenting in support of fat activists on this are getting a lot of mixed replies, as opposed to the 99% vitriol and abuse the fat activists themselves are getting.  

Hmm, what could the difference be?

A good bit of the pushback from Swift megafans consisted of how the comments about how Swift’s fatphobic video clip is a PERSONAL thing about her PERSONAL experience and how DARE you tie it to anything broader??

But these videos have huge budgets. They get storyboarded and workshopped. This is not an unknown performer with a camera in her basement.

When one of the planet’s most famous people says or does something, it affects the culture of the entire planet. With that power comes responsibility.  

That doesn’t mean you can’t tell your personal story, but it does mean there are ramifications to how you tell it.

Further reading:

Β» “While talking about this, please resist the urge to make it about Fat People vs People With Eating Disorders. Other than that combative framing being unnecessary, it erases the fact that fat people can and do have eating disorders.”

Β» “Seeing the discussion around Taylor Swift making an artistic decision that was objectively bad reminds me that one of the more pernicious aspects of parasocial relationships is that people form a connection with someone who is not real.”

Β» “Saying having a body like mine is one of your biggest fears further dehumanizes me and my body. Further suggests it’s undesirable.”

Β» “That just says to me that she matters and I don’t. I had an eating disorder too. I can’t look in any mirror. But I am fat.”

Β» “I want her message about how crushing EDs are to be heard. I want her story to resonate. I want people to feel less alone. 

I also want people watching this to not have their bias confirmed – that fat IS a fearful thing”

Β» “Fat people have eating disorders too, and not just the ones you consider morally ‘bad’, but the restrictive ones too.”

Β» “When Lizzo had a word considered ableist in one of her songs, she apologized and fixed it. Thousands of disabled folks spoke about it. Same with BeyoncΓ©.

But Taylor has fatphobic imagery and it’s ‘you don’t understand’ directed at fat people?”

Β» “I know it’s hard but if you genuinely feel like people criticizing an artist on twitter is something that can force you to stop liking them, then you either need to take time contemplating if you’re at moral odds with yourself and it’s making you defensive, OR touch grass”

Β» “wild how the conversation is ‘shut up fatties, she’s a beautiful queen talking about how she hates and fears her thin body what’s the problem you jealous losers.'”

Β» “No matter what she intended, this posits fatness as a nightmare scenario

Β» “It’s not that Taylor can’t have an ED, or portray that in a music video, it’s specifically that she used fat a pejorative.”

Β» “I can’t help but think about how her fat fans must have felt seeing this image in the video. And I think about the message it gives to her younger fans.”

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Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.