We recently had a member of the Flat community, M., reach out with her thoughts on how music - both in terms of songs themselves and industry trends - can influence one’s relationship to their body. We were blown away - and not only by the quality of M.’s thoughts and arguments but also by how well she explains her perspective at such a young age (she’s just a teenager!).
We thought it was worth passing her thoughts along (without identifying her, because, again, she’s just a teenager ;). We’re so glad she reached out; enjoy!
What’s your history with music?
I’ve loved music from an early age, it’s played a pivotal role in my life – especially artists in the Queercore movement, like Tribe 8 and Against Me! They were artists that inspired me to accept and even love my queer identity. Now I’m also studying voice and music theory, I enjoy writing lyrics and melodies, and my dream is to release an acoustic EP someday.
Do artists have to accept having a particular kind of social responsibility? Why?
I believe that the purpose of music – or any other type of creative art – is to create an experience. When we hear a song, we’re seeing a bit of the artist’s worldview, and that influences our own worldview. Music artists have a responsibility to create experiences that are liberating for all their listeners, including those who are part of marginalized communities. Today’s commercial music industry, though, is very image-based, which can lead to issues of body positivity, feminism, and social justice being ignored at best and actively hated on at worst.
What is positive body image, and why is it so important?
The body liberation movement focuses on dismantling societal standards around body size and stereotypical “beauty,” as well as celebrating plus-size bodies. Of course, all kinds of bodies can and are marginalized (disabled bodies, queer and trans* bodies, the bodies of people of color), and lots of oppression uses certain standards as a means to control the people living in those bodies. Positive body image is all about reclaiming our bodies for us – recognizing that bodies can be used in oppressive ways, but that they can also be tools for liberation. By trying for unconditional body love (and accepting that sometimes body neutrality is more achievable), we can dismantle the societal standards around beauty and liberate not only ourselves but all of humanity.”
Are there specific composers who address these issues?
These days, the music industry is seeing a rise in conversations about body image and liberation. Lizzo and Elle Baez, both plus-size femmes of color, have created songs about loving their plus-size bodies while also addressing the oppression they experience. Both have found commercial success – Lizzo is ranked 59th on Spotify in terms of “most listens” and has been nominated in eight Grammy categories, Baez is featured in body-positive publications like The Curvy Fashionista. Artists who struggle with body image, like rising indie star Sara Kays, have also written songs about their challenges. “Smaller Than This,” Kays’ ballad about body insecurity is currently her 3rd most-streamed song on Spotify.
Anything else you’d like to share with the Flat community?
Body liberation, both in the music industry and other creative arts, goes beyond issues of beauty and body image. Today, with the “Don’t Say Gay” laws that oppress queer people in Florida, we’re seeing a form of body oppression. Queer identity exists in part within a sexualized or a/sexualized body; how we experience our bodies and others’ bodies can be a part of queerness. Thus laws such as the “Don’t Say Gay” laws don’t only oppress minds – they also oppress bodies. Celebrating bodies helps us dismantle all kinds of societal structures, and is one crucial step toward community liberation.
If you want to listen to some songs addressing this important subject, check out the playlist M. created especially for this occasion.
Thank you, M., for writing to us and the courage with which you express yourself 🙌 We feel your passion, and wish you all the best as you continue down your musical path!