Earlier today, Lady Gaga posted photos of herself in her underwear on her website with the caption: "Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15" and launched a new project encouraging fans to "make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous."
Last week, Gaga made headlines with photos that showed her looking larger than usual. While the images were apparently distorted and not reflective of how she actually looks, Gaga told radio host Elvis Duran that she's gained 25 pounds recently. Because she's a human in addition to being a pop star, and humans tend to gain and lose weight over the course of, you know, life.
In response to the fat-shaming she received at the hands of the media, Lady Gaga's starting a new project on her site called Body Revolution, asking her Little Monsters to, "Be brave and celebrate with us your 'perceived flaws,' as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous." She posted additional photos of herself, adding that, "Today, I join the BODY REVOLUTION. To Inspire Bravery. and BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION."
Anything that pushes back against body snarking and encourages body diversity and acceptance is a good thing, obviously, but is Body Revolution resisting beauty standards or reinforcing them?
In the five hours since the page launched, fans have uploaded photos of themselves that display skin conditions, scars, and disease. Accompanying them, however, are comments from Gaga like: "Emily Rose recovering from anorexia. We support your bravery and have compassion for your pain.(and huh gUUrl, you don't need to diet ur FINE AS HELL)," and "My assistant and best friend sonja. Stage 2 breast cancer. just had double partial mastectomy from DD TO C. Yesterday was first day of radiation. Looking good b*tch. She is so brave. Her boobs look even better!!"
It's wonderful that Lady Gaga has what I'm sure is real compassion and love for her friends and fans, but couldn't she leave her supportive comments at "She is so brave" and skip the "Her boobs look even better!!" part? Why does it matter if her boobs look great? What if they didn't? If her fan Emily was not "FINE AS HELL" would she need to diet until she was?
Fans are following suit. In a photo of a young girl with a skin condition, site member King Darius says, "This person has gorgeous features, let her live comfortably and free!!" Yes, she should live comfortably and free, but shouldn't she get that chance even without her "gorgeous features"? On a photo of Gaga with a disabled fan, commenter Sarah responds: "incredible. you both look amazing." Sarah probably means that they both appear happy in the photo (which is smiley and sweet), but again, for a project that is meant to destigmatize physical "flaws" like body size, shape, and ability, isn't focusing on appearance kind of missing the point? Instead of telling everyone how pretty they look or telling a woman with Lupus that she's "Still hot as fuck," why not work to shift the conversation away from looks entirely?
Lady Gaga is a very famous woman with a huge fan base and a lot of influence, and again, it's wonderful that this conversation is even happening at all. As Dodai Stewart points out,
It's awful this started with ugliness, that Gaga became the target of weight hate. But if an influential pop star with millions of followers can make compassion cool and make fat-shamers feel shame, it just might be worth it.
I know Gaga's sharing of her story and her photos has already inspired many people and will continue to do so, and that's excellent. The project just launched today, and there's lots of room here to do a lot of good. And besides, everyone likes to feel pretty! There's nothing wrong with that, and there's nothing wrong with telling your friends, fans, and anyone else that they look great despite what others might say. But can reminding people that they're beautiful be called a "body revolution"?
When we have these conversations about resisting narrow standards of beauty and not judging people based on weight, appearance, health, size, shape, or any other physical attribute, we might do well to stop telling them how pretty they are and shift the conversation away from looks entirely. Now that would be a revolution.