OPINION: Why Lizzo did what Meghan Trainor couldn’t

Changing after gym class was torture. I would quickly pull my jeans over my damp, sweat-stained thighs or change in the gross public bathroom with tampons spewn on the floor. 

When my friends would talk about their bodies, my palms would sweat and my abdomen would ache as I sucked my stomach in. My mother would cuddle me and pinch my hips and tell me to stop eating rice and sweets. I was terrified of standing on a weight scale and avoided looking at mirrors when I changed.

The choice to love myself was not a want but a need — to survive, I needed to love myself. Self-care is rooted in self-preservation, as Lizzo wrote in an op-ed for NBC. The singer has exploded onto the music scene with bop after bop

Her breakout album “Cuz I Love You” is filled with love letters to herself, and in her open expression of self-love and body positivity, she’s inspired millions of people to appreciate and recognize their self-worth.

Yet, Lizzo is not the first artist to make songs about body positivity and self-love. Meghan Trainor raced to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “All About That Bass” in 2014. But the craze surrounding Lizzo and her music is unprecedented, especially for a fat black woman. Her song “Truth Hurts” was tied for the longest reigning rap song by a female artist on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as of last week.

Unlike Trainor and many other body positive stars, Lizzo’s approach to body positivity dismantles the ideas and limitations we put on fat bodies, especially black and brown ones. 

The body positivity movement has turned into a white-washed co-opted movement. Rather than focusing on fat people — those who need it the most, given we live in a fatphobic society — the movement centers around white women who are slightly bigger than Forever 21 and Urban Outfitter models. Women of color are not given the representation they need within the body positivity movement.

Black and Latina women are more likely to be overweight and obese than white women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, they aren’t widely represented in the body positivity movement. 

Instead, we see women who look like Trainor. We rarely see fat women of color loving themselves and expressing their sexuality. 

Lizzo is not just revolutionary for loving herself and her body, but also for expressing love for her blackness and culture. Her call for self-love is one of self-preservation, because in a world that polices and persecutes black bodies, black people need to love and take care of themselves to survive and flourish.

Lizzo wears hot outfits we expect slimmer artists to wear with confidence and refuses to be seen as attractive for a fat woman, but just as attractive. 

“When people look at my body and be like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so brave,’ it’s like, ‘No, I’m not,’” Lizzo told Glamour. “‘I’m just fine. I’m just me. I’m just sexy. If you saw Anne Hathaway in a bikini on a billboard, you wouldn’t call her brave. I just think there’s a double standard when it comes to women.’”

In Lizzo’s songs, she expresses a sexual freedom that fat people are often discouraged from. Since fat people are not what society deems to be “traditionally beautiful,” we aren’t encouraged to be sexually confident. Lizzo rejects this notion and, through both her songs and performances, owns her sexuality.

Lizzo also doesn’t give in to the male gaze, but many artists like Trainor do. In “All About That Bass,” Trainor sings “boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” indicating that it’s okay to be a bigger woman because there are some men who will prefer you that way. Lizzo proclaims that she isn’t attractive because men think she is, but because she sees herself as beautiful and sexy. 

Through her song “Boys,” Lizzo tries to inspire men to practice self-love as well. She expresses how amazing different boys are and gives a shout to the “gay boys” to promote self-acceptance. Lizzo’s message of self-acceptance is focused on body positivity, but it transcends that into different aspects of people’s identity and that’s why her music and message are so successful.

Body positivity needs to include more than just cis white, able-bodied people. It needs to be something that resonates with people across many different groups. Lizzo is an example of us moving in that direction, and it’s long overdue. 

Anais Rivero PZ ’22 is from Miami, Florida, and is interested in politics and Latin American studies. She’s been obsessed with Lizzo for months and will always go wild to “Truth Hurts.”

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