Fat-Shaming Attacks on Taylor Swift Are Hypocritical and Lack Nuance


A scene in Swift’s music video for “Anti-Hero” sparked concerns of fat-shaming. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Women should be allowed to talk about their unique struggles with body image in order to critique the unrealistic expectations that society places on their appearances. So why are they still shamed for voicing these struggles?

Taylor Swift’s music video for her single “Anti-Hero” featured a scene of her standing on a scale that reads “fat,” causing her inner critic to shake her head disapprovingly. One writer said that Swift has no right to claim she is fat because of her benefits from being “a thin white woman.” After many Twitter users claimed she was reinforcing a harmful idea that being fat is not something women should strive for, the scene was edited to remove the scale.

What upsets me the most about this controversy is not Swift’s alleged “fatphobia,” but how people immediately reacted to the video without taking the time to understand her past struggles with body image. Swift’s career has been defined by her physical appearance, so much so that the singer developed an eating disorder, which she discussed in her 2020 documentary “Miss Americana:” “’Cause if you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that a** that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have an a**, then your stomach isn’t flat enough,” she said.

Regardless of how these Twitter users might view Swift’s physical appearance, her body image was constantly at the top of her mind. Other people’s approval mattered the most to her. Her music video reflects this internal struggle: no matter how much weight she lost, if the paparazzi took photos of her stomach and said she looked pregnant, she would still see herself as fat even if she was thin. The media simultaneously praised and vilified Swift’s appearance for being too skinny and too fat.

Swift should be allowed to talk about her experiences without feeling obliged to censor or alter the way in which she discusses them. By deleting that scene in the video, she shut down an important and nuanced conversation that women should be having about body image.

I am not saying that people do not have the right to be upset about her video. I will also not deny that the word “fat” is often still discussed with negative connotations. I have been in a similar position as Swift, as I’m sure many other women have. I have stood on a scale and seen a number that I could only perceive as “fat.” I have looked at myself in the mirror and hated the way my stomach bloated or how my arms didn’t look toned enough. No matter what number we see on the scale or how our arms look, society makes us believe that we will never meet the standards of an imaginary, beautiful woman. 

We should dismantle the notion that losing weight to become “thinner” will somehow make us more “beautiful.” We should not dictate how and when women should be speaking out about their struggles and victories regarding weight. If Swift wants to discuss her negative experiences with body image, then she should be allowed to do so without constant fear of voicing her struggles in an unintentionally offensive way. 

People may find her portrayal of these unrealistic expectations uncomfortable or relatable, but that is exactly the point. She has never claimed to be an activist for this subject, and has even expressed her desire for others to not look up to her as a role model for body positivity and acceptance: “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.” All she wanted to do was explore her experience of how other people perceive her, and an integral part of that experience is the stigma surrounding the word “fat.”

But this issue goes beyond Swift. Apparently, women cannot say anything, even something positive, about their weight without upsetting someone. When British singer Adele discussed her weight loss in an interview with Vogue from November 2021, she mentioned her surprise that much of the criticism toward her weight loss came from women who claimed that she was no longer relatable to them because of the change in her physical appearance. She said that “the most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body. I was very f****** disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.”

When Adele was “overweight,” she was simultaneously seen as both unhealthy and a role model. Now that she is thinner, she is seen as healthier and unrelatable. She is finally happy with her mental and physical health, and yet somehow that’s a problem. Given her inability to conform to the standards of comments from both the ever-observant media and women who claim to be body positive, I would not blame Swift, Adele or other female celebrities if they were hesitant to advocate for other women’s struggles again.

Despite Adele’s experience being different from Swift’s, their relationships with their weight get at the same idea: women cannot reflect on their past and present perceptions of their bodies without angering others, and it’s becoming frustrating. Some celebrities want to share their own unique experiences without the pressure of being labeled an activist for all, and that is okay. When we become overly critical of women who want to showcase their struggles and victories regarding bodily acceptance and health, whether that is through a music video or an Instagram post, then we are no better than the society who placed these expectations on them in the first place. 

What we can do is appreciate the women who discuss their individual experiences, like Swift and Adele, and those who actively speak out against hypocritical and unnecessary beauty standards, such as Lizzo. It is only by uplifting those who want to be empathetic activists that we can truly combat society’s ever-present obsession with thinness.

As long as they are not directly shaming others for their physical appearances, women have the right to talk about their struggles without feeling worried that they are putting others down. Swift did just that but unfortunately many people didn’t listen.

Nora Leach, FCRH ’24, is an English and American studies major from Groton, Mass.