BY LISA MARIE BASILE
When you say that "Lady Gaga has a tummy," you're saying so much more than that. And I think you know it. First, let's just get the obvious out of the way: she's not overweight and she doesn't have a tummy. (Also, it would be 100% OK if she did). Bear in mind we did this with Beyoncé as well, whose body seems very much to be something people continuously feel they have a right to comment on. If we're holding legitimately straight-sized women to such an impossible standard — what does it mean for women who are a size 6, 8, 12, 16, 22 or so forth? According to Refinery 29, the average woman or 67% of the population, is size 14 or larger. And what's more is that we're doing it to ourselves. #MindBlown.
So, when you say these things, you're actually saying:
1. I am disregarding the millions of people who are considered plus-size or "fat," and who are shamed day in and out because of it. You are disregarding the struggle that millions of people face by using language that encourages hate. Especially when you target someone who very literally benefits from the privilege of being considered thin and beautiful 99% of the time (except, apparently, during the Superbowl or when she happens to gain a few pounds, as humans do). Not to mention, you're disregarding the many people (including Gaga) who have developed disordered eating as a result of this social shaming.
2. I am assuming that having fat or being a plus size person is bad. When you ridicule someone for having a tummy, you're assuming that tummies automatically bad. Guess what? Skin is skin. A tummy is a tummy. You can be big or small, fit or unhealthy, tall or short — and still have a belly.
3. I am alienating the millions of women who are mothers or who have a post-baby body. News alert. Having a baby stretches your skin! What do you think women are dealing with post-partum body changes think and feel when this detritis gets published all over the Internet? Most of the people attacking Gaga's body are women, including mothers. What do you think your message sounds like to them? Regardless of whether or not Gaga has a belly (she doesn't, it's called skin and tight shorts), you're basically saying, "anyone who has THAT isn't good enough."
4. I am commenting on her appearance rather than commenting on her work as an artist, which means that I am furthering the idea that women are just objects. Whether or not you thought Gaga's performance at the Superbowl was political enough or not doesn't matter. She's an award-winning artist who trains and works hard to put on her stage shows, she actually can sing, and she's taken a lot of risks in her career. Whatever you think about her, at least acknowledge the foundational facts before jumping right ahead with your vapid opinions. You may struggle with ridding yourself of the ideological garbage Patriarchal society has pumped straight into your veins, so it might be hard not to judge a woman by her looks. After all, you've been conditioned to do so. But if you think it and then correct yourself — and then take the time to figure out why you're thinking these things, that's very different from posting a status that says, "Just watched Lady Gaga's performance. She has a belly!" Keep that shit to yourself.
5. I am disregarding the power of fitness. Your size doesn't always indicate your ability to dance, move, stretch or perform crazy stage shows that require insane amounts of strength or cardio ability. So when you judge someone on their non-existent tummy while they're dancing and running and jumping, you're choosing to disregard the amazing feat that is happening so you can comment on something so completely inconsequential.
6. I am contributing to social illness. Look, you're part of the problem. I know it hurts to hear it, but women — especially minority women, like Beyoncé, who dealt with this before Gaga — are constantly at a disadvantage. They are consistently questioned about their bodies, confronted about weight gain and reduced to slabs of meat. Don't contribute to that. Women have it hard enough. Be an ally.
7. I am judging myself. When we spread hate about other people, we are usually doing so from a center of internalized pain. That isn't the sort of pain that wins you sympathy. That's a sickness, and it needs to be eliminated. Whatever your fears, failings or self-esteem issues are, you don't need to project them onto others. You can deal with that on your own time. It's not always easy, and no one is perfect — but you have to start somewhere.
Lisa Marie Basile is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press) and a few chapbooks, including Andalucia (Poetry Society of New York) and war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press). She’s the editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine. Her work has been published in Best Small Fictions, Tarpaulin Sky, Spork Press, The Atlas Review, PANK, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, the Tin House blog and Ampersand Review. Some of her work can be seen in Greatist, Marie Claire, Hello Giggles, Bustle and more.