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  • Writer's picturemichellepugle

Removing 'FAT' From Taylor Swift's 'Anti-Hero' Video Won't Erase Fatphobia

Updated: Feb 23

Taylor Swift is told she is the problem in "Anti-Hero" song about her being the problem. Oh, and it's body acceptance week.

Public backlash has led to the removal of the word "FAT" from Taylor Swift's Anti-Hero music video.

In the original music video release, regular Taylor Swift and anti-hero Taylor Swift see the word "FAT" on the scale instead of a number.

The message is that the number doesn't matter.

Whatever it is, Taylor Swift will still read it as saying, "FAT."

In the edited re-release, we do not see the word "FAT" or the close-up of the scale reading.

We do, however, still see a bone-showing-thin Taylor Swift standing on the scale in a white tank and white lace shorts.

We do, however, still see anti-hero Taylor Swift giving regular Taylor Swift disapproval.

We do, however, still get the point...

Don't we?

Why people took issue with the word "FAT"

According to critics, the issue here is that Taylor Swift has never been even remotely close to "being fat"...and so it's offensive for her to use the term this way.

What these critics are missing is that body dysmorphia doesn't care if Taylor Swift has never been "fat."


Suggesting she can't use a word because she has never presented as "fat" (a subjective term, by every measure) is an erasure of her lived experience as someone with body dysmorphia and self-defined "disordered eating."

In Miss Americana (2020), Taylor Swift talked about her disordered relationship to food, exercise, and body image including not eating, over exercising, and experiencing life in terms of split thinking (ie., things are always either good or bad, never both).

These are telltale signs of anorexia and they are also risk factors for suicide and early death. It's time we stop acting like experiencing anorexia is just experiencing thin privilege. It's a psychiatric illness with one of the highest mortality rates. And it lies to you. Ana says you are fat, and that is bad, because society has taught her this...

A critical take on what actually happened...

Rolling Stones writer TOMÁS MIER explains his take that the backlash is about the word "fat" being used in an offensive way.

But being offensive wasn't her artistic intention, says Mier.

"Simply put: It’s not that she thinks being fat is a bad thing, but that she was made to believe that it was," says Mier.

I agree with Mier and so do (some) Twitter users. Others?

They are coming for Taylor Swift (and arguably completely missing the message behind the OG scene).

Example from the divisive world of Twitter...

Wait, so what is fatphobia?

I learned in recovery from anorexia, which included recovering from body dysmorphia, that fatphobia is the intense fear of gaining weight.

It exists because of persisting weight stigma and thin privilege.

In other words, fatphobia is fueled by the belief that your worth is wrapped up in how much you weigh or your body size and shape.

Fatphobia is perpetuated by the thin ideal or the false belief that "being thin means being fit means being healthy means being good" (which just simply is not true by any measure or standard).

Fatphobia can also be:

  • fearing you'll gain weight if you "let yourself eat normally" so you severely restrict what you "allow" in the house, car, or budget for food

  • believing you are only loveable at a certain weight and experiencing anxious attachment based on your current weight (ie., you fear if you gain weight, your partner will leave you or cheat and you may even think: and who could blame them)

  • ascribing your self-worth to the number on the scale and feeling anxiety or panic when the number moves even slightly

  • judging other people based on their body weight and not wanting to develop relationships with people with certain eating habits or in certain weight groups

Fatphobia is a reason why many people don't get help for anorexia. There is a fear that recovery = fatness, or, that when you tell someone your experience, they'll invalidate it anyway by saying, "You don't have to worry about your weight," "You could never be fat," or, "You're being silly."

None of that is saying being fat is not still stigmatized despite the body positivity movement...


FYI: Fat isn't a feeling or state of being

If you grew up in the 90s and early 00s like Taylor Swift and I did (ie., the age of fat-free everything), you were likely also made to believe that "being fat is a bad thing."

Back then, there was no body positivity hashtag or body acceptance week.

There were thin (and mostly white) women, including Taylor Swift, to try to look like, at any cost.

Now, in her 30s, she is reflecting on and critiquing a reality she has both been created by and a reality she has perpetuated simply by existing in it (and profiting from it).

In this framework, fat = bad.

We were all made to believe this whether we recognize it or not. For some of us, this message sank in a lot deeper due to epigenetic factors (how our environment and biology work together to contribute to disease risk). For example, if you grew up in the media eye like Taylor Swift, experienced traumatic events which she has spoken about in Miss Americana (2020) and have been groomed since youth to be the epitome of single white female...well, erasing fatphobia is going to take a lot more work that a quick clip edit...

If you've ever been through eating disorder recovery, though, then you've very likely been encouraged to work on this narrative about what it means to "be fat" versus what it means to have more fat on your body than someone else.

In recovery from disordered eating I learned:

  • fat is not a feeling

  • fat is not a personality

  • fat is not a measure of character

  • fat is not a bad word

  • fat does not equal unhealthy

  • we are taught to fear fatness to keep us in an unhealthy diet cycle


When will we take Taylor Swift seriously?

Taylor Swift's inclusion of the word "FAT" was not a statement against fatness; it was an artistic expression of the jarring reality of living with body dysmorphia that stems from complex causes including living in a culture that idealizes and idolizes female thinness.

Artists find inspiration in their lived experiences ALL. THE. TIME.

This is true of thin, white, privileged artists who utilize their lived experiences to tell tales that others can relate to and connect with to know they are not alone.

It doesn't mean the narrative needs to resonate with everyone.

But for what it's worth (and it's worth something to me), the OG clip resonates with me as someone who once upon a time stood upon a bathroom scale too many times a day to count and who still saw the words "still fat" and "not thin enough" staring back.

It resonates as someone who wrote a memoir Ana, Mia & Me: An Eating Disorder Recovery Memoir about different versions of myself telling me I was at once too fat (the version I named Ana) and too thin (the version I named Mia).

As a person who started out trying to lose ten pounds because of peer pressure and a passive aggressive bully-for-a-boyfriend.

142 pounds...












At what weight (if any) would it have been okay to reveal I was struggling with fatphobia, felt shallow and vain and disgusted with myself and torn because of the attention, affection, and praise I was receiving while on my "weight loss journey"?

When does a weight loss journey truly "end"?

What part of the journey is acceptable to share?

What if I told you that between 130 something and somewhere near 115-110, the more weight I lost, the more fat I saw/found/perceived to be a problem and the more food fears started developing and the less I started sleeping ... and the more I hated how vain I felt but also it was completely out of my control by that point.

Deep down, somewhere around 110 pounds when people stopped praising and started criticizing, I knew it wasn't about vanity. My resistance to recover wasn't about how I looked with more weight on me, it was about my internalized fear of "being" heavy, "being" fat, and taking up space in a culture that works to shrink women as often and as much as possible.

So what if instead of pressuring Taylor Swift to immediately make a story-compromising edit we took a moment and considered some (not all) artists with lived experiences of body dysmorphia and disordered eating are using whatever voice and platform they have in attempt at expressing the literally life-threatening oxymoron of body dysmorphia and critiquing a culture still plagued by fatphobia...and the erasure of women's health narratives.

Why this is different than an artist taking accountability and switching a problematic song lyric

Taylor didn't misuse a word.

Taylor didn't appropriate a culture.

Taylor didn't use a word to hurt someone else or another group of people.

Taylor put a supposedly not bad word on a scale to reflect her reality.

Just because society can't accept that a bone-showing-thin white woman sees herself as fat when she sees the number on the scale doesn't mean it isn't true.

It means the body positivity movement hasn't worked to solve all the body image and disordered eating issues we see and that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to breaking down stereotypes about what body dysmorphia is, whose narratives are given authority or not, and how fatphobia plays a significant role in eating disorders.

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