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From Empowerment to Allegations: Lizzo's Cancel Culture Saga Demonstrates the Artistic Double Standard

by Veryan Zimber

On August 1st, 2023, the world awoke to a headline that caught everyone off guard. Lizzo, the renowned pop sensation celebrated for promoting body positivity and representing curvy black women, has been sued by three of her former backup dancers with allegations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. 

The contrast is stark: the advocate for empowerment and self-love, now at the center of controversy. 

While the severity of these allegations cannot be overlooked, it's vital to recognize the broader context that highlights the unequal treatment faced by Lizzo, particularly when compared to the leniency granted to white men who have been definitively proven to engage in wrongdoing.

Lizzo promptly addressed the accusations, stating, "These last few days have been gut-wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals, and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized…I don’t want to be looked at as a victim, but also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days.”

The claims include weight-shaming her former backup dancers - an accusations that feels the most shocking considering Lizzo's personal history of enduring body shaming. 

She has stood as an emblem for the 'Big Grrrl' community, championing visibility and acceptance for voluptuous individuals, a message resonating across an industry that traditionally favors a different mold.

Lizzo's emergence onto the music scene heralded a refreshing departure from convention. She refused to be relegated to a preconceived notion of what an artist should look like, asserting her rightful place and challenging the entrenched stereotype that associates larger individuals with diminished capability.

Lizzo has been insistent on squashing the age old stereotype that larger people aren’t capable of the level of stamina that she regularly displays when performing. We have been conditioned to believe that fuller figures are associated with laziness and being unhealthy, which is why changing this narrative is so important. 

In the face of these allegations, notable figures have rallied to Lizzo's defense, including British actress Jameela Jamil. 

Jamil's public support, underscored by her acknowledgment of the familiar pattern of powerful women, especially black women, being scrutinized and dragged down, highlights the underlying biases at play. 

After commenting a series of love heart emojis on the Grammy winners statement, the actress began to received hate for seemingly supporting Lizzo and leading her to making a statement of her own:

“Stop flooding my DMs about Lizzo. Nobody knows what has actually happened. Due to the all too familiar pipeline of a woman, especially a Black woman, flying too high in the media, becoming more powerful than the media and being too comfortable in her own skin, then being DRAGGED down and punished over *claims* before they are proven to be true, I don’t think its wise to start jumping in with speculation.”

She goes on to mention other black and mixed race females who also went through similar situations, when they were seen to be doing well and being successful in their careers. “I have no idea what is going on but I think the amount of media speculation this has already gotten without evidence yet, it DEEPLY suss, as well as how excited everyone on social media seems to be about it. I hope everyone involved is ok, and I hope this all ends with peace and clarity.”

As we examine this situation through the lens of successful women of colour, the distinct double standard becomes glaringly evident.

The unfortunate reality is that public reactions, particularly towards women, often skew towards an insidious sense of vindication when allegations surface. 

The notion that Lizzo's perceived departure from her role as a body-positive icon somehow vindicates those who prefer to see her fail is an alarming testament to the deeply ingrained biases that persist. 

History reveals a different narrative, one in which ample figures were once revered as goddesses, only to be eclipsed by societal shifts and corseted waists that imposed narrow standards of beauty we seem to be stuck with. 

In a world where centuries-old ideals of appearance continue to shape perceptions, the struggle to change such deeply entrenched perspectives remains a formidable challenge. Lizzo's importance in this battle for change cannot be overstated. 

Her influence extends beyond music, permeating advertisements and articles alike, fostering greater size inclusion. It would be unrealistic not to acknowledge her pivotal role in challenging long-standing prejudices and advocating for equality is undeniable, regardless of the outcome of these allegations.

The consequences of these claims are profound, potentially jeopardizing Lizzo's career. Yet, the unequal nature of public judgment becomes starkly evident when contrasting the repercussions faced by Lizzo with the leniency extended to white male artists embroiled in undeniable misconduct. 

The continued success of individuals like Woody Allen, Ansel Elgort, and Marilyn Manson (to name 3 of a million examples) serves as a reminder of the stark contrast in how society treats alleged wrongdoings. 

While these white men have been proven for decades to have been horrible and cruel people, they are still able to create their art - juxtaposing Lizzo’s immediate shut down after the first incident of accusation. 

Lizzo has undeniably carved out a space that promotes positivity and empowers countless individuals, irrespective of their shape or size. 

Her light is vital in forging a path towards equality, emphasizing that success should be independent of physical appearance. 

As we await the outcome of these allegations, it's clear that the world needs trailblazers like Lizzo now more than ever. The true test of our commitment to equality lies in how we handle allegations against those who have become beacons of change.

Should these claims prove true, the impact on Lizzo's legacy would be deeply disheartening. 

However, when presented with the choice between extending forgiveness to Johnny Depp or Lizzo, the moral compass points firmly towards supporting the latter. It is time for society to recognize the systemic biases that perpetuate unequal treatment and work collectively to dismantle them.

Edited by Emily Duff

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