(Trigger Warning: The following article contains mentions and descriptions of fatphobia, eating disorder & body dysmorphia)
As a guy who's only recently discovering the marvels of Taylor Swift's music, I was eagerly awaiting her newest album, Midnights. After its release on 21 October, I was particularly moved by her track, Anti-Hero. On the same day as the album release (21 October), she announced the release of the music video of her first single by taking to Twitter, calling it her "nightmare scenarios and intrusive thoughts playing out in real life."
Written and directed by the All Too Well singer herself, the music video poetically depicted her rough experiences with an eating disorder (ED) and body image issues - both things that made me feel glaringly seen as a fat non-binary person with a recent ED diagnosis.
But there was one particular scene - a blink-and-you-miss one, if you will - that appalled me. Taylor Swift, a thin woman who fits into most conventional standards of beauty around the world, stepping on a weighing scale and the reading saying "FAT" while her evil alter-ego shakes her head in disappointment.
Now, given the context of her motivation behind the music video, it can be easily chalked up that the scene was a depiction of her flawed perception of her body, fueled by her eating disorder and rampant media scrutiny. In fact, most people - especially thin folks - battling an ED see themselves as much larger than they actually are. But Taylor Swift does not possess the lived experience of a fat person, trying to navigate through a highly fatphobic world.
By portraying being fat as her worst nightmare, she's actively adding a negative connotation to the word 'fat' - something that's a direct opposition to everything that the body positivity movement stands for.
Fat activists around the world took to social media immediately after the music video dropped, expressing their shock and disappointment. Most people, myself included, had one simple question: how are we supposed to react to direct messaging by a thin, millionaire musician implying that looking like us is her worst nightmare?
Here are some of their reactions:
But soon, Taylor Swift fans - popularly called Swifties - arrived in flocks to defend their favourite artiste and followed that with hurling even viler fatphobic insults towards plus-sized people voicing their concerns. Most Swifties argued that the Exile singer wasn't being fatphobic; she was simply depicting her struggles with her body and her ongoing ED.
But what most of them, especially thin people defending Swift, failed to comprehend is that firstly, the foremost step of recovering from an ED is addressing years of internalized or externalized fatphobia. There's no doubt that Swift's imagery was fatphobic. She didn't falter at depicting her literal fear of being fat: the textbook definition of fatphobia.
Secondly, if fat people - the very group of people facing years of body shaming, medical mistreatment and other manifestations of oppression - urge someone to reflect on their fatphobia, the validity of the argument is not up for thin people to debate.
Aggressive levels of fatphobic trolling led multiple people calling out Taylor Swift to either deactivate their accounts or switch to private accounts. This blatant attack and dismissal of fat people's opinions on their own depictions and media representations is abysmal. But lost in this noise is Taylor Swift - someone who might have innocuously channelized her tough experiences but did overstep her privilege as a wildly influential person holding massive power and responsibility.
People like me, who are calling her out, are not doing so to dismiss her ED or to make her the Anti-Hero; all we asked for is an iota of accountability. Because mainstream media, our families, our doctors, every single system in place and now, a Taylor Swift music video is out there equating our bodies with a nightmare you'd never want to experience.