Last week, 18 yr old Billie Eilish was snapped walking down a street.
There was nothing particularly shocking about this image - just a fully clothed young woman, going about her business in broad daylight.
Eilish is known for her oversized clothes, and as a young woman in the industry, you can understand why she has adopted this visual aesthetic. Eilish explains, “[n]obody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know?” But in this photo, she happened to be wearing a tight vest that shows off more of her figure.
The reaction? Disappointing to say the least - Twitter being the main stage for the reactions.
It seemed that simply because Eilish doesn’t have a Tailor Swift style model physique, she was “brave” for not swamping herself in baggy jumpers and tracksuits (NOT that there’s anything wrong with those clothes choices anyway).
Then there were those who saw this as an opportunity to cast judgement (what a surprise) describing Eilish as a “mid-30's wine mom”.
I have NO idea how they came to this conclusion or that a mid 30s wine Mum was a thing (can I please join the club? sounds fun…) but to be talking about an 18 yr old in this way is even more unbelievable.
But no surprises really if you’re a female musician, right?
We’ve had to consider these types of judgements (from ourselves and others) for most of our life.
Some of us are able to not let these voices crowd too much of our conscious attention, but for others, they’re blaring right in our ear - myself included.
I posted a series of pictures of me in my underwear in my garden demonstrating what brave photos might ACTUALLY look like - a real mid 30s lady, showing off all her lumps and bumps to the neighbours on a Saturday morning.
THAT is brave (and crazy). Billie Eilish walking down the street fully clothed really shouldn’t be.
But the truth is my own poor body self-image has plagued my peace of mind as a female musician for as long as I can remember.
In fact, in any situation where I want to be taken seriously, the FIRST thing that enters my brain is will I look too fat, frumpy, old or unattractive.
My technical skills, musical knowledge, instrumental technique, grasp of theory, performance ability and the many, many other things we need to master as musicians have always been a secondary concern.
And it has crossed my mind for quite some time that all this energy I have put into worrying about my body and feeling ashamed of its presence in the world, has taken away focus on these crucial musical components that make up a successful and fulfilling adventure as a musician.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s not always been a full blown monologue of “does my bum look big in this” inside my head - I have put considerable time, energy and love into my creativity and self-expression without censoring myself too.
But I also recognise this constant backdrop of feeling not thin, small, tanned [or any other quality] enough to really deserve being taken seriously and just fully enjoy the process of taking part in music.
I often happen upon other woman as I scroll through Instagram who identify as ‘thicc’ or ‘curvy’, posing in their underwear and sharing how they have learned to accept their body.
And while I am so, SO encouraged to see this, I cannot do the same - I’m not yet there and I don’t know when I ever will be.
I’m definitely not the only womxn in music who has had this running commentary inside their heads as they tread cautiously into the industry. Body shaming (especially in our own minds) is still a BIG issue for many female musicians.
But if you’re reading this and nodding your head, please, PLEASE allow it to be there and make your music anyway.
Let those voices say their piece and then step aside as you write your music, record your music and share your voice with the world…
Because we need YOU.
We need your normal, everyday, unique self to show up in the world, imperfectly, and share your music. Trust me, THAT is how we will all start to move beyond this body-obsessed rhetoric that has held womxn back for so long.
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