Opinion | Lizzo is judged by her behavior, not her race or sex

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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Grammy Award nominee Lizzo sparked controversy when she appeared at the Staples Center for the Los Angeles Lakers’ matchup against the Minnesota. From the front, her outfit was nondescript, bordering on conservative. The back of her outfit, however, revealed a strategically removed portion of her dress that revealed an unobstructed black thong and fishnets.

Lizzo further set the internet ablaze when she began twerking along to her song “Juice,” which played over the Staples Center speakers.  Critics lambast her behavior as inappropriate within family settings. Proponents celebrate Lizzo’s willing to penetrate social boundaries, championing her as a figure that represents empowerment for demographics that have been unfairly ostracized based on weight and skin color.

Regardless of how you perceive Lizzo and her choice of attire, one thing is for certain: she is being either demonized or celebrated based on her behavior, not her biological characteristics. I’ve personally heard arguments claiming that race is the underlying factor contributing to the vitriol that has been spewed in Lizzo’s direction. I’ve read well-orchestrated arguments dismissing the double standards that handicap women in social environments. I’ve listened to self-identified “leftists” claim the only difference between the reception to Lizzo’s attire and that of the Lakers Dance Team is that Lizzo is categorically overweight while the members of the Lakers’ Dance Team conform to traditional beauty standards.

While it is naive to believe that sexism or racism do not exist or have carry influence on a macro level, I flatly reject the contention that racism is driving the Lizzo firestorm.

Playing the race card has become the equivalent of picking the lowest-hanging fruit. As a biracial man, I was accused of being a self-hating racist when I expressed discontentment with Lizzo’s antics. When that argument fell through, the conversation turned to whether or not I was subsoncsiously sexist. You see, these are arguments you simply cannot win because forming a unique opinion on an individual based on their individualized behavior has become synonymous with disliking each and every demographic they belong to.

But Lizzo is not being judged based on her racial background. She is not being condemned because she is a woman. Her behavior has been rejected because such sentiments have devolved from expressions of empowerment and confidence into artificial attempts to snag the spotlight. It’s attention-seeking in its purest form, the embodiment of the any-press-is-good-press slogan. And it’s finally backfired.

To claim that Lizzo is oppressed by systematic sexism is to also make the bold assumption that fans are clamoring to see a white male celebrity–for the sake of this article, let’s use Justin Bieber as an example—appear at a Chicago Bulls game in buttless chaps. To contend that Lizzo is a victim of intolerance towards heavier set women is to outright ignore the slander that was thrown in Lil’ Kim’s direction when she appeared in her now-infamous purple outfit at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.

What we should be identifying is that viewers are growing fatigued with Lizzo’s antics. She roared into the public eye with her bold, in-your-face twerking. She was clearly unafraid of public perception and made a point to dismiss any and all disdain toward her figure. And it was beautiful.

Since then, her brand has collapsed into a one-dimensional portrayal of nudity. Search the internet for any Lizzo interview and more likely than not, you’ll hear some long-winded defense of twerking. Her once-novel brand has become lazy and unrefined, no longer promoting a succinct message but rather promoting her ambitious–bordering on manic, to be frank–obsession with sexualization.

Perhaps some readers may misconstrue such a statement as an outdated conservative viewpoint on the limitations placed upon the female body. I’m all for freeing the nipple. I never understood American culture’s obsession with treating women as an engine to validate the male ego, demanding modesty until the abandonment of such principles suits a man’s desires. But there’s a difference between classlessness endorsing acceptance and classlessness.

Parents taking their son or daughter to their first Lakers’ game do deserve to be ambushed by a twerking woman in the thong. Would I personally care? To be honest, no. But I also acknowledge don’t get to dictate how others raise their children.

Furthermore, people have historically become fatigued by repetition, poorly executed antics and unfiltered modulation masquerading as a brand. Speaking with conviction is synonymous with being in the right, as evidenced by the collective apathy that surfaced when Tekashi 6ix9ine’s entire image become a caricature of his willingness to provoke needless conflict. Kanye West’s poorly-timed interjections reversed public perception on him. “Pharma Bro” Martin Skhreli earned public distaste when he essentially held both a life-altering HIV medication and Wu-Tang’s “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” album hostage. Once a public figure’s audience deems his or her conduct to be repetitive and corrupted in intent, they turn on them in the coldest and swiftest manner. We are not puppets to satisfy an insatiable lust for attention. No man or woman is entitled to our respect or admiration.

So please, save the fake indignation over the reception to Lizzo’s attire for more pressing issues. Restore the public’s ability to form their own opinion on an individual based on merit, behavior and attitude. Most importantly, refrain from irresponsible race-baiting out of sheer convenience.