Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” Music Video Scale Scene Perpetuates Fatphobia While Attempting to Depict EDs

In that moment, Taylor Swift and her team were the ones that stepped into our minds and reminded us just how much no one wants to be us. Her fans have come in droves to invalidate our lived experiences as fat people in favor of the experience of someone who “feels” fat. They’re all the version of Taylor wearing sparkly hot pants when it comes to our lives. However personal a thin person’s journey is with their body image, their fatphobia always comes at a measurable cost to fat people.

Once again, we are being pushed aside to make room for thin cis white women, some who’ve struggled with eating disorders but have not struggled with being denied a diagnosis or treatment the way that fat people do because disordered eating is actually prescribed or encouraged for us. They are the face of an illness that presents itself in fat and non-white people because of the overwhelming social pressure to look like them. Western media, which predominantly depicts thin white women in a disproportionate amount to any other size or race of women, is often credited with promoting body dissatisfaction in other races and in other countries. A study done in the Island of Fiji showed that after Western programming was introduced in 1995, 74% of Fijian girls reported believing they were too fat, and by 2007, 45% reported using disordered eating to control their weight. Prior to this, it was fuller-figured and robust body types that were cherished. The media we consume can have long-lasting impacts, whether we intend it to or not; take into account Taylor’s incredibly large platform, and the long-lasting effects this kind of portrayal can have on viewers, including young, fat, and non-white fans.

Taylor is no stranger to music video controversy. As a thin white woman, the “All Too Well” singer seems to forget her privilege all too often. Who can forget the collective uproar when she released the visuals for “Wildest Dreams,” which depicted white people using colonial Africa as a romantic backdrop? As a child of Zimbabwean immigrants who lived through war with British colonizers, that hit me especially hard. The ignorance that allowed Taylor and her team to put a whitewashed filter over a tumultuous time in African history is the same ignorance that thin people employ to vocally express their fear of fatness without thinking about the consequences to actual fat people. As a fat Swiftie who has also struggled with disordered eating, this also hit me very hard.

Unlearning fatphobia is an essential part of eating disorder recovery, not just individually but collectively. The connection between centering thin people’s experiences around anorexia and the harm it causes fat people is a straight line. As Jordan Underwood (@jordallenhall) expresses in their TikTok video, fatphobic medical professionals “see us the way Taylor Swift sees herself in that music video. They see us as a number on a scale.” No matter our size, we are all affected by diet culture in some way, shape, or form. The problem is that in order for thin people to truly reject these ideals and start a meaningful conversation, they must engage in fat politics and actively unlearn fatphobia, otherwise, you cannot truly dismantle these systems. Maybe in the future hire someone like Angelina Moles (@fiercefatfemme), with a master’s degree in Critical Fat Studies, who has volunteered themself to be “your designated fatty” for an equally “fat check,” to help avoid making mistakes like this again. All of this starts and ends with fat POC and it’s only by uplifting those voices that we can truly uproot the system rather than just arbitrarily moving the needle or spreading around more pain.

Catherine Mhloyi

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