TTo come of age as a woman, too often, is to learn that your body speaks for you.
Maybe it starts with a vacation – you show up for Thanksgiving and a parent tenderly asks you if you are “OK” because you have gained weight without realizing it. Maybe it’s a headline touting how a sexy celebrity “flaunts” a curve or “highlights” their tight ass by simply existing in bodily form. Or maybe you just read another story springing from the joy and health of a celebrity – now that she has lost 30 pounds.
Whichever way we discover it, the lesson remains the same: the body of women does not belong to us, but to those who will use it to make assumptions about our well-being, our character, our dispositions. It is a dilemma that strikes us all. More addicting than crossword puzzles or sudoku, women’s flesh and bones become physical numbers to be analyzed and marketed by anyone who sees fit. And as illustrated by Megan Thee Stallion’s New York Times Op-ed and video, the question becomes twofold for women of color.
Billie Eilish knows this better than anyone. Since the start of her career, the singer has wrapped her body in loose clothing – a dress choice often presented as a form of challenge. In a short film earlier this year titled “Not My Responsibility,” she recounted images of herself shedding layers of clothing with spoken words.
“You have opinions – on my opinions, on my music, on my clothes, on my body,” Eilish says in the video, which she made her touring debut earlier this year. “Some people hate what I wear, some people praise it, some people use it to shame others, some people use it to shame me, but I feel like you are watching – always – and nothing what I do does not go unnoticed. So even though I could feel your stares, your disapproval, or your sigh of relief, if I lived with them, I could never move.
But the public’s fixation on Eilish’s body remains relentless – as evidenced by the fact that her choice earlier this week to step out in a tank top and shorts has sort of become news. (Again.) People seemingly unable to cultivate legitimate hobbies ridiculed her. (As one villainous Twitter user wrote, “Within 10 months, Billie Eilish developed a body of a wine mum in the mid-1930s.”) Meanwhile, tabloids like the Daily mail—Who frequently commodifies women’s bodies in exchange for trafficking – used her “unusually casual outfit” as an excuse to give the audience what they really wanted from the start: pictures of Eilish in tight clothes. Page Six took it a step further, launching an image gallery titled “Every Time Billie Eilish Ditched Loose Outfits For Tight Clothes.”
These reactions prove Eilish’s point: No matter what she does, the obsession never ends. (“My boobs were all the rage on Twitter!” She said She last year, after another photo of her “casually dressed” went viral when she was still 17. “To number one! What is that?! All the outlets have written on my breasts! “)
Eilish has already reacted to the latest public panic about his existence as a physical being. On Tuesday, she posted an image from her short video to Instagram, captioning it: “Do you really want to turn back time?”
It’s encouraging to see that Eilish seems quite indifferent to all of this. But it’s just as maddening to realize that a singer who turned just 18 last winter was forced to deal with these issues so often – and that even though she picks up the discussion around her body and her her fashion choices, the public continues to have the same silly, predictable discussions. .
While Eilish’s baggy brand has been dubbed a rebellion, it started out as something more mundane: insecurity.
Talk with Stunned this spring, Eilish explained the origins of her style with characteristic brutality: “The only reason I did it was because I hated my body.
Eilish told the magazine that at times she avoided looking at her own body for long periods of time – a sort of dissociation familiar to many, including her young fans. “There was a time last year when I was naked and didn’t recognize my body because I hadn’t seen it for a while,” she says. “I would see him sometimes and say to myself, ‘Who owns this body? “”
These days, Eilish said, her body image has improved somewhat. (“It’s not that I like (my body) now, I just think I’m okay with that a little bit more,” she said.) But now, she noted, the reactions hard people every time she pulls off her usual outfit leave her in something of a Catch-22. “Like, man. I can not win, ”she said. “I can-do not to win.”
“Eilish told the magazine that at times she avoided looking at her own body for long periods of time – a sort of dissociation familiar to many, including her young fans.“
It doesn’t help that Eilish’s style was often discussed with an undercurrent of slutty shame towards other artists. Speaking last year with Pharrell Williams for V Magazine, Eilish noted that she had been praised by some for avoiding traditionally feminine clothing – and, by extension, for rejecting the sexual provocation adopted by some of her pop contemporaries. She doesn’t like it at all either.
“I wear what I want to wear,” Eilish said. “But of course everyone sees it: ‘She says no to sexualization’ and ‘She says no to being the stereotypical woman.'”
“It’s a weird thing because I know a lot of what I hear is positive or that people are trying to be positive about the way I dress; how I’m never really there, wearing nothing, or wearing dresses, ”Eilish continued. “I’ve heard that. [Even] of my parents, [the] positive [comments] about the way I dress have that slutty element of shame. Like, “I’m so glad you dress like a boy, so other girls can dress like boys, so they’re not sluts.” This is basically what it sounds to me. And i can’t [overstate how] I don’t like it at all.
“Like, “I’m so glad you dress like a boy, so other girls can dress like boys, so they’re not sluts.” This is basically what it sounds to me. And i can’t [overstate how] I don’t like it at all.“
“I have always supported and fucked with and just loved when a woman or a man or anyone in the world is comfortable in their skin, their body, to show whatever they want”, a concluded Eilish. “I don’t like that there is this strange new world of supporting me by shaming people who [may not] want to [dress like me]. “
As Eilish made clear, her fashion choices shouldn’t be used to define or judge others. But that would require the public to treat her body as their own, rather than as a symbolic commodity in the public domain. And as our apparent inability to see a photo of her in a tank top and move on without comment underscored, that’s not the case.
So far in her career, Eilish has managed to do her thing without caring too much about what critics and idiots online might say. Hopefully she retains that sense of self-control. But it’s a strength she should never have needed to develop in the first place. At one point, it would be nice if we could all just learn, absorb, and accept a simple truth: Unless it’s your body, you really don’t need to comment. You don’t need to make up your own mind. It is not your concern. It’s not your business.
In the meantime, let’s all be thankful for this green-haired singer’s dedication to dressing the way she wants, even when the twerps on the internet don’t know what to do with it.
“Sometimes I dress like a boy,” Eilish told British GQ this summer. “Sometimes I dress like a swaggy girl. And sometimes I feel trapped by this character that I created, because sometimes I think people don’t think of me as a woman.
This is what her touring video was meant to combat, she said. “It’s me saying: look, there’s a body under these clothes and you can’t see it.” Isn’t that a shame? But my body is mine and yours is yours. Our own bodies are sort of the only real things that are really ours. I can see it and show it whenever I want. “
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