While we might like to believe that the body positivity movement has changed our perception of how acceptable it is to pass comment on a teenager’s body in recent years — clearly, we still have some way to go.
Recently, Eilish opened up about her “horrible” relationship with her body, even prior to receiving online abuse. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the singer recalled “starving herself” and taking diet pills at 12 years-old. She also admitted:
“To be quite honest with you, I only started wearing baggy clothes because of my body.”
Eilish has previously explained how her style helps to protect her from harmful comments. In an interview with Vogue, she said:
“It kind of gives nobody the opportunity to judge what your body looks like. I want layers and layers and layers and I want to be mysterious. You don’t know what’s underneath and you don’t know what’s on top.”
And yet, despite Eilish’s concerted efforts to avoid body-shaming, all that changed anyway when a paparazzi photo of Eilish in a tank top and shorts went viral.
The reason it went viral was because a man on the internet decided to post it with the caption:
“In 10 months Billie Eilish has developed a mid-30s wine mom body.”
Fans leapt to Eilish’s defence, while the star herself responded by posting a video clip from YouTuber Chizi Duru encouraging people to “start normalising real bodies” to her Instagram story.
But plenty of other people seized the opportunity to shame the then-18 year-old for having a completely normal body.
She addressed those who claimed she “got fat” in a Vanity Fair interview, saying:
“There’s this picture of me, like, running from my car to my brother’s front door — on, like, a 110-degree day, in a tank top. And everyone’s like, “damn, Billie got fat!” and I’m like, nope, this is just how I look! You’ve just never seen it before”.
Body-shamers also attempted to sexualise Eilish, even before she turned 18.
In a 2019 interview with Elle, Eilish recalled the times her boobs trended on Twitter after a fan uploaded a photo of her climbing off a bus in a tight top. She said:
“My boobs were trending on Twitter! At number one! What is that?! Every outlet wrote about my boobs!”
In the same year, another fan uploaded a photo of her to Twitter, proclaiming her to be “thick” — again, the picture went viral and fans had to remind people not to sexualise Eilish.
The singer even had to defend herself from unwanted physical contact. After a meet-and-greet in Sydney, Australia, she wrote on Instagram:
“Please don’t grab my boobs. I keep playing this s*** cool, but it is very much not.”
Eilish talked about her experiences being slut-shamed with Dazed after posting photos and videos of herself in a bikini while on holiday in Hawaii.
“I saw comments like, “how dare she talk about not wanting to be sexualised and wear this?!” It was trending. There were comments like, 'I don’t like her anymore because as soon as she turns 18 she’s a whore’. Like, dude. I can’t win.”
Whether she wears loose or tight-fitting clothes, it seems Eilish can’t escape body-shaming and slut-shaming. Even though she and her fans have repeatedly asked everyone to stop.
It was gross and weird when she was a minor and it’s still inappropriate now.