Why Focusing on Lady Gaga's "Great Shape" Increases Body Critique
By now, most of us have seen the numerous articles about people body shaming Lady Gaga for having a "tummy roll" during her 2017 Super Bowl LI halftime show. These articles all celebrate how most people on the internet are against body shaming and they are coming to Lady Gaga's defense. This is great. However, I also noticed a trend in many of the comments defending Lady Gaga, which is commenting on her body in order to defend it.
Many people commented with some form of "Lady Gaga has a great body, how could anyone say she is fat?" Some articles even note that Lady Gaga went through a rigorous fitness regimen to get ready for the show.
The problem with us using Lady Gaga's "great body" as a defense against body shaming, is that it implies that had she not had a "great body," the shaming may have been okay. For example, when we say to our group of girlfriends "No one should be shaming Lady Gaga, she is in great shape," what are all of our girlfriends without conventionally "great shapes" supposed to think? I bet they are all wondering if it is okay for them to wear a bikini this summer.
Then there are comments like: "Does Lady Gaga have a perfect stomach? No. but her performance was perfect." This begs the question of would body shaming have been okay if her performance was not perfect? Is it only okay to have an imperfect body if we can make up for it and be perfect in other ways?
As this Hello Giggles article points out, when people comment that Lady Gaga's body is "real" and "normal" it comes with the assumption that some bodies are not normal.
I am glad people came to her defense. I am glad we are calling out body shaming when we see it. At the same time, we need to be careful about how we defend against body shaming. If we are making judgements about the person's body in order to defend against body shaming, then we are still promoting the act of critiquing other people's bodies. Such critique just fuels the body shaming epidemic because it keeps us focused on what people look like and placing that above all else. Such critique can also increase internal body shame because when a fat woman hears defense against body shaming of a thin woman phrased as "but she has such a great body" then fat women know their bodies are not acceptable.
Let's put it this way: If a little girl heard us respond to the shaming of Lady Gaga with; "How can people body shame her? She has such a great figure. She isn't even fat!," how would that little girl see herself? If she looks in the mirror that night and her belly is bigger than Lady Gaga's she will know that she does not have a "great figure" and she needs to loose weight or she will be body shamed.
Defending body shaming by still commenting on the person's body is really easy to do. Even I do it sometimes. I have seen a lot of body positive activists do it this week too. Every time we are going to make a comment defending against body shaming, ask yourself if you are still commenting on the person's body at all. If you are, try rewording your comment so that it does not mention a critique of the body. Even something as simple as "No one should be body shamed," could work.
Every time we can make even a small change to talking about bodies in a more inclusive manner we help combat body shame.