I never thought I’d be bothered by someone letting their gut hang out, but here I am. As usual, I can blame it all on “body positivity.” It’s a badge I used to wear with unflinching pride, but now, not so much. What was once a movement for the acceptance of fat people has morphed into a marketing tool, a headline buzzword, and a hashtag often flooded with photos and videos of conventionally beautiful people with conventionally beautiful bodies telling us, “It’s OK! Love yourself!”
You’ve heard this all before. I’ve said it all before. But when I saw the reaction to a video of Selena Gomez lying on a boat with an unashamed tummy fold and declaring “I’m not sucking shit in” because “real stomachs are coming the fuck back,” I felt like I had to reiterate. So here I go.
To be clear: This is not a criticism of Selena Gomez. As a celebrity with millions of followers, many of whom are young and impressionable, she’s setting a good example (I believe) by publicly allowing herself to just exist in her body, sans-sucking. That is awesome.
It’s the resulting articles (even more specifically, the headlines; that’s what people are reading the most) that have rubbed me the wrong way. “Makeup-free Selena Gomez shares body-positive TikTok in skintight swimsuit,” reads one headline. “Selena Gomez Declares ‘Real Stomachs Are Coming Back,'” says another. My least favorite: “Selena Gomez loves her stomach – and so should you’.
That last one begs the question: I don’t know, should I?
Gomez’s body is completely valid the way it is, but let’s be honest in saying that it’s not a marginalized (read: fat) body. I’m sure she meant no harm whatsoever in using this TikTok audio to declare that “real stomachs are back,” but the pairing of her slimmer-than-average body paired with that phrasing can suggest that “real” stomachs are ones that are still admissible by our society’s fatphobic standards — not ones that take up space or have more than one roll or hang over their waistbands.
We’re told we should love our bodies because Selena Gomez loves hers, but most people don’t have Selena Gomez’s body. Many people live in bodies that are met with weight discrimination at every turn: on the internet. At work. At the airport. At the doctor’s office. To confidently suggest it’s as simple as looking at Gomez’s single belly fold and suddenly feeling overcome with pride for your own body is tone deaf at best.
These headlines and articles can herald Gomez as a warrior of body positivity, but what she’s doing really isn’t all that groundbreaking — she’s just hanging out in a swimsuit, enjoying herself. Nothing wrong with that, but this grandeur hero talk in the media tends to happen any time a thin celebrity makes any kind of statement that could be construed as body positive. There aren’t a lot of fat celebrities out there to begin with, but if any of them aside from Lizzo said something similar, would be granting them the same body worship? I think we all know the answer to that.