Following the release of Taylor Swift’s latest album, ‘Midnights’, the singer is facing criticism for “fatphobia” in her music video for the song, ‘Anti-Hero’. For years, Swift was silent about her eating disorder. We owe it to her and to countless others to not silence her again.
At one point in the ‘Anti-Hero’ video, we see Swift standing on a bathroom scale, another “version” of Swift peering over her shoulder. The scale reads one word: Fat. The original Swift’s shoulders drop in dismay as the other Swift shakes her head, disappointed.
Twitter users were quick to bring attention to the scene, calling out the singer for her use of the word “fat” and for implying that she is afraid of being viewed in this way. Less than a week after the video’s release, the scene was edited so the word “fat” is no longer visible.
It is not fair to say Swift cannot or should not speak about body image and insecurity simply because she is a thin person. No matter how others might perceive her, her experiences with insecurities and disordered eating are valid.
When Swift revealed she had struggled with an eating disorder in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana, even people who had not considered themselves fans responded with empathy. And yet, the ‘Anti-Hero’ video was met with backlash.
So, is Swift only allowed to discuss her eating disorder in a way that we are all comfortable with? She was considered strong for bringing attention to this issue until she didn’t bring attention to it “right.”
Swift should not have to discuss her eating disorder and insecurities in a way that everyone can relate to or understand for it to be deemed acceptable for her to talk about them. We cannot expect people with platforms to draw attention to difficult topics and then police how they do it.
Many critics of the music video argued that Swift’s use of the word “fat” in a negative way was offensive to them because they choose to identify with the word in an indifferent or even positive way. This perspective is valid, but it simply does not align with Swift’s experiences.
In an interview with Variety, Swift explained that she does not view herself as an expert on the topic of eating disorders or body image insecurities in general and she understands that she cannot speak for everyone.
“I’m not as articulate as I should be about this topic because there are so many people who could talk about it in a better way. But all I know is my own experience,” said Swift.
In the Miss Americana documentary, Swift describes the way she reacts to the public’s criticism of her body. “It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day,” said Swift. “[The pictures and criticism] just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”
Like Swift said, she can only speak on her own experience, and that’s what she has done. Some people relate to these experiences, some people don’t. And that’s okay.
By censoring Swift, her message is lost. This is harmful not only to Swift, whose experiences are being diminished and even dismissed but also to the people who relate to these experiences.
When Swift discusses her history of disordered eating, my heart breaks for her, but I also feel incredibly seen. Having grown up with Swift’s music and influence, hearing her speak on serious issues that have impacted me is very important.
I know not everyone can relate to what Swift has gone through. And Swift knows this, too. But in many ways, I do feel that I can understand and relate to Swift’s experiences, and I know I am not alone in this.
Even if Swift’s message is not one everyone likes or can relate to, she deserves to have this message heard. So, let’s not silence her. Her experiences are valid, and she deserves to share them how she wants to.