Lizzo is a 31-year-old singer-songwriter, rapper, and flutist whose career exploded in 2019. Although Lizzo’s music is nothing particularly unique or groundbreaking, it’s undeniably appealing for its exuberance and unabashed self-absorption. Most of her songs have themes of self-love and confidence.
Lizzo’s popularity has as much to do with her image as her music. Her red carpet outfits are delightfully extravagant; they explode with color, feathers, and tiny purses. Her hair and makeup are almost always immaculate, and if they’re not, well, that makes her all the more relatable.
But despite all the positive attention Lizzo’s carefree, eccentric image has garnered her, it’s also been the butt of a joke being made by basically the entire internet. For all their ridiculousness and immaturity, these hate comments disguise a disturbing undercurrent of sexism and racism.
Why is Lizzo the target of this cruel humor, and not, for example, DJ Khaled, who could also be considered plus size? Of course, there are unrealistic physical expectations for men, too, and DJ Khaled has experienced his fair share of online teasing. But unlike DJ Khaled, Lizzo is a woman. Women who aren’t considered attractive by the euro-centric and difficult standards are unlikely even to be allowed to succeed in the first place. Once they have succeeded, they must continuously defend their right to continue taking up space. Lizzo is a perfect example of this.
It is indisputable that in American culture, there’s a limited amount of space made available for people like Lizzo. That is to say, women, especially women of color and especially women who don’t fit society’s rigid standards of beauty. If a woman like Lizzo is “lucky” enough to find a space for herself, she’s expected to be excessively grateful and even put down other women, in the false belief that it will benefit her own career.
Lizzo has done the opposite of that. Rather than being quiet or apologetic about who she is, she’s fiercely proud of it, despite living in a society that tells people like her that they should be ashamed of who they are.
I suspect that’s a significant factor in why she has received so much hate online. People are barely able to tolerate a plus-size woman of color getting any success as it is, much less one who so clearly loves herself and isn’t afraid to let the world know.
The people who have body-shamed her online — mostly young white boys and men, from my observations — fear her confidence and make rude and immature jokes at her expense to try to protect their fragile conceptions of superiority.
As gross and disappointing as the hate towards Lizzo is, we should see it for what it is: not as an indication of the way society is moving, but as a pathetic attempt to stop the inevitable progress being made.