• Daniela Fernández aka Strawberry Shortcake

More than just music: Fatphobia

Whether or not you are in the music industry, whether you're a woman, man, or a gender-nonconforming person, living in a body that does not fit the societal norm of beauty presents challenges. People of all genders, races, and abilities face negative effects from fatphobia.

In the fascinating podcast, No One is Immune: Lilli Lewis on Fatphobia in the Music Industry, Queer Community and Beyond’, they wrote, “I felt like they [fat people] were being told that their bodies, as they were, were not marketable enough, so the image they projected must be of smaller bodies.” In the entertainment business, it is often taken for granted that fat people, especially fat women, are unsalable to the public. Appearance is such a large part of being a celebrity, whether it's in TV appearances, concerts, or photoshoots. As much as I want to believe not everyone judges based on appearance, there is an internal bias; for example, most people in magazines and many people's favorite artists are thin. The podcast also mentioned how being queer (other than cisgender) allowed them to see things with a different lens: Lewis says, “I think it has been my queerness that has saved me. I believe that fat women’s bodies have precluded fat women artists as being marketable because of the assumptions that fat women are not as appealing under the male gaze. Ignoring the fact that that’s a deeply limited view, my queerness made me decidedly unapologetic about not performing for a sexualized male gaze.” Being queer gives certain people the perspective that is out of the male gaze at times. Being queer does not mean that you have avoided the male gaze but that there are times when the male gaze is irrelevant.

The music industry isn’t just about music — it’s video art and other forms of expression through appearance. Artists have an incredible influence on fashion and daily life tasks due to their large social-media presence. Celebrities have all tended to look alike — due to the large influence of “beauty” media and pressures from industry to present a conventionally attractive (and usually thin) appearance. Media representation of fat people has only slowly begun to increase. Lizzo’s social media presence, for instance, is not enough representation.

Women who are fat are seen as fat first. The idea that our appearances don’t play into people's bias about us is wrong. Not only is being fat a problem to the societal expectation of beauty but each person is reminded they are not enough from their rejection from jobs due to their appearance. Women are often seen as trophies in the industry. By trophies, I mean they are seen as appearance first and talent second. Their talent can also be one of their “trophied aspects” on top of their beauty. The beliefs, background, and views of women and fat people are forgotten in the popularized media because the focus is on their appearance as women. The size of someone's body affects how people view their ability to do a job. In many states, it is not illegal to discriminate based on body image, people can be paid less not only due to their gender but their size. The Time article linked here says, “A 2008 study conducted by researchers at Yale University found that 10% of women and 5% of men had experienced discrimination based on their weight, including being rejected for a job.” People are denied occupations, similar to gender and clothing discrimination, and fat people are at a disadvantage. Fat people have lower success rates in the music industry due to their appearance, not their ability to sing or dance.

‘Fat’ has been given negative connotations that make fat people seem inactive and unintelligent. Due to the environment of music, film, beauty, etc., people are shamed for the bodies they were born with and have grown into. Because ‘fat’ is used in derogatory contexts we need to normalize it in non-derogatory contexts. Normalizing acceptance of the word ‘fat’ is essential to normalizing the success of fat people.

The music industry needs more representation of fat people. Humans are taught that to be valuable you must be entirely acceptable in society. People must acknowledge that people who do not have the privilege of thinness are not as likely to be successful due to the way they are viewed.


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