‘If I shed the layers, I am a slut’: Billie Eilish addresses body image criticism

Teenage star confronts ‘size-based assumptions’ on the first night of her world tour

Billie Eilish kicks off her world tour in Miami on March 9th. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

Billie Eilish kicks off her world tour in Miami on March 9th. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

 

Billie Eilish has addressed the commentary she has faced for choosing not to show her body, in a video interlude shown on the first night of her world tour.

In the clip, the 18-year-old Grammy winner is seen removing her top and lowering herself into black water as she confronts the opposing responses to her trademark loose attire.

“Some people hate what I wear, some people praise it,” she says. “Some people use it to shame others, some people use it to shame me. But I feel you watching, always. And nothing I do goes unseen.”

Eilish, who admitted to feeling “very hated recently”, goes on to explain how this treatment affects her. “So while I feel your stares, your disapproval or your sighs of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move.

“Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller? Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips? The body I was born with, is it not what you wanted?”

The interlude concludes with Eilish criticising society for making “assumptions about people based on their size”. She asks: “Is my value based only on your perception? Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?”

Eilish has previously expressed her distaste at her baggy style being used to draw conclusions about her preferences or to malign female musicians who wear more revealing outfits.

“I wear what I want to wear,” she told V magazine in 2019. “But of course, everyone sees it as ‘she’s saying no to being sexualised’ and ‘she’s saying no to being the stereotypical female’.

“[Even] from my parents, [the] positive [comments] about how I dress have this slut-shaming element,” she said. “And I can’t [overstate how] strongly I do not appreciate that, at all… I don’t like that there’s this weird new world of supporting me by shaming people that [may not] want to [dress like me].”

Eilish is the latest in a growing wave of pop stars to hit out at the pressures surrounding body image. Taylor Swift revealed her experiences with an eating disorder in her recent Netflix documentary Miss Americana, and admitted that she would often starve herself to the extent that she felt as if she might pass out at the end of a concert.

“I don’t think you know you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually,” said Swift. “There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting. Because if you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants, but if you have enough weight on you to have an ass, then your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just f***ing impossible.”

Last week Lizzo accused the social-media platform TikTok of body shaming after it deleted multiple videos of her wearing a swimsuit. “TikTok keeps taking down my videos with me in my bathing suits,” she wrote in the clip she posted on TikTok. “But allows other videos with girls in bathing suits. I wonder why? TikTok... we need to talk.”

“We love Lizzo’s creativity,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “And the videos were originally removed because of other violations, not a bathing suit.”

Billie Eilish’s speech: the full text

Do you really know me?
You have opinions about my opinions, about my music, about my clothes, about my body.
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 you watching... always. And nothing I do goes unseen.
So while I feel your stares, your disapproval or your sighs of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move.
Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller?
Would you like me to be quiet?
Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips?
The body I was born with, is it not what you wanted?
If what I wear is comfortable, I am not a woman. If I shed the layers, I am a slut.
Though you’ve never seen my body, you still judge it and judge me for it. Why?
You make assumptions about people based on their size. We decide who they are. We decide what they’re worth.
If I wear more, if I wear less, who decides what that makes me? What that means?
Is my value based only on your perception?
Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?
– Guardian

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