The second I saw Adele trending on Twitter Tuesday night, I reflexively braced myself for the oncoming comments.
“Oh, here we go again,” I thought.
After the singer posted photos celebrating her birthday and thanking frontline workers, people started posting things like “gorgeous” and “you look great” as if to congratulate Adele on her svelte figure — by all accounts, it seems they were more concerned with celebrating her newfound thinness than anything else.
It’s the same thing we saw in December when she last posted photos of her body’s changes and I, for one, have had enough: Our society is obsessed with appearance and it’s a dangerous game we’re playing where no one wins.
That overriding obsession with weight also played out in real time when I tweeted this:
I see that Adele is trending because people are saying how gorgeous she is since she lost weight. Y’all, we’ve been over this… Your weight doesn’t determine your beauty. Your appearance doesn’t determine your beauty. The number on the scale doesn’t make you worthy or unworthy.
While there were some people who agreed with me, the message I got loud and clear from more than 1K comments only confirmed that society does indeed equate beauty with being thin and those that fall outside those clearly defined lines are unworthy at best and downright ugly at worst. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not what society considers beautiful and it’s become increasingly frustrating to live in a world where people judge me based on my appearance instead of, oh, you know, my talents or my social media wit. Take the reactions to my tweet, for example. The comments to me ranged from people calling me jealous to fat to an “absolute whale.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the reactions I’ve seen over the last two days, especially when it comes to the unspoken meaning behind people’s words. When people praise Adele for her “beauty transformation,” there’s this fatphobic subtext implying that fat is bad. We live in a culture where there are only two ways of being: Fat or thin. Fat is bad and thin is good. Fat is wrong and thin is right. Fat is out and thin is in.
That’s it. People have taken something as complex as the human body and reduced it down to such simplistic extremes, leaving zero room for anything else. We need to get away from this simplistic thinking because there’s a whole host of shades in between; people are not monoliths who are one or the other. Our bodies are as individual as we are and there are so many different points on the continuum. As cheesy as it sounds, we really do come in all shapes and sizes.
So that’s why saying something like “Wow, you look great, did you lose weight?” sounds like a compliment, but is actually an incredibly loaded statement and implies that people can never look great unless they’re thin. The statement also doesn’t take into account the reason for the weight loss. We don’t always know why someone has lost weight or even if they were trying to. They could be experiencing health problems or even have an eating disorder, so it’s problematic to assume that losing weight is always positive.
And perhaps even worse, it sends the message that Adele wasn’t beautiful before — that it doesn’t matter how talented she is or how many Grammy Awards she wins because the only true measure of her worthiness will be determined by her looks.
It’s also worth noting that Adele’s Instagram post had nothing to do with her body or her weight loss. Instead, she posted to thank people for the birthday wishes and to thank essential workers who are keeping us safe during coronavirus: “Thank you for the birthday love. I hope you’re all staying safe and sane during this crazy time,” she wrote in the caption. “I’d like to thank all of our first responders and essential workers who are keeping us safe while risking their lives! You are truly our angels.”
And yet, you’d have no idea that’s what her post was about by simply reading the comments, the majority of which make no mention of her shout-out to frontline workers, but focus almost exclusively on her weight. As of Thursday afternoon, the post has received more than 204K comments and people were quick to dish out the praise, such as “You look stunning,” “Omg you look so beautiful” and, perhaps one of the most disturbing ones, “Sis WON THE GAME,” as if somehow being thin is some sort of prize to be won. The ultimate ideal to achieve. The true measure of success.
Because the truth is, we’re so much more than our bodies and our looks. To reduce us to how we look is not only insulting, but oftentimes inaccurate. Of all the dangerous and disgusting messages society sends about body image, the worst one is that the number on a scale determines how attractive you are. I’m scared to live in a society where we praise people more for how they look than what they do.
Adele has always been gorgeous. Period. And guess what? Her weight has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Intelligence is hot. Confidence is sexy. And talent is beautiful. Adele is all three — before, now and 10 years from now! A world in which we are praising her for looking “gorgeous after weight loss” is not a world I want to live in. So, please, if you do one thing today, check the fatphobia and diet culture-influenced bias because that is most definitely not a good look.
Want some positive POVs on food, bodies and weight? Here’s some of our favorite quotes about inspiring positive attitudes about food and our bodies:
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