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Not My Responsibility: Billie Eilish’s Poetic Narrative on Body Image

Trigger warning: this article will discuss body image. 

Everyone knows Billie Eilish. She’s taken the music industry by storm with her incredible storytelling, angelic voice, and beautifully honest lyrics that have helped millions. With her music accumulating over 76 billion streams, this 7 time GRAMMY winner has made a name for herself in the industry, with her brother Finneas by her side.

In the summer of 2021, she released her sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, which I have had on repeat; it’s such an incredible album! 

One song that stuck out to me was track 9, Not My Responsibility. This song debuted on her WHERE DO WE GO? tour (unfortunately, the tour only got 3 shows in before COVID-19 shut down the world).  NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY- a short film was shown as an intermission on the tour, in which Billie narrates the spoken word, while shedding layers of clothing and submerging into a pool of liquid. This short film is absolutely incredible and has a super impactful message.

For this article, I decided to examine some of my favorite lines from this piece. The full lyrics will be listed at the bottom of the article; I highly recommend giving them a full read, as well as watching the short film!

She opens the piece with, “Do you know me? Really know me?I interpret this line as a narrative on how society views celebrities. We are so quick to judge and think we know a celebrity inside and out just from the aspects of their life that are public, but that is far from the truth. Think about it, do your Instagram followers know everything about your life based on what you post? Of course not, so why would we assume we know everything about celebrities based on what they post? While we sometimes have an illusion that we know celebrities,the truth is, we don’t know Billie, so what gives us the right to judge her? Obviously, you shouldn’t judge anyone, but especially not a celebrity who shares only a fraction of their lives with us. 

Something that really stuck with me throughout this song is Billie explaining her experience with having this piece out in the world. In her YouTube video, Billie Eilish-Happier Than Ever (Track By Track), she explains,“These are some of my favorite words I’ve ever written, um,  and I feel like nobody listened,  […] It just makes me laugh cause I put it out and everyone was like ‘Yes queen! Body positivity!’, and then like 3 months later, there’s a picture of me in a tank top and the whole internet was like, ‘FAT!’” . She laughs this experience off, but I think it is a very telling way of just how society treats young women: they take any opportunity they can to tear them down.

Another topic this piece addresses is the objectification and hypersexualization  of women in society which can easily be seen through school dress codes, ads, films,etc.. Billie references this concept as she goes on to say “Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest?, asking if she is liable for others’ inappropriate thoughts. 

I remember scrolling through TikTok in December of 2019, and I came across a video- a countdown until Billie turned 18. This was not a fan making a countdown till their idol’s birthday, it was a creep counting down the days until he could publicly sexualize this barely legal teenager. It made me sick. I’m a little over a year younger than Billie, and I cannot even begin to imagine how that must have felt if she saw it. If I could tell Billie one thing, it would be how incredibly strong she is for putting up with misogyny from the media. 

Billie concludes this piece with the line “Is my value based only on your perception? / Or is your opinion of me / Not my responsibility?”. This line gives me chills every time. This is one of my favorite lines of all time. I have a really bad habit of defining myself by others’ perception of me, and this lyric really helped me change that. Rather than basing my value on others’ opinion, this piece has helped me find value within myself. I know who I am better than anyone else, and I will not let someone else’s negative opinion of me shake that.

Remember, you are so much more than others’ opinion of you. Their opinion is not your responsibility!

Full lyrics:

Do you know me?

Really know me?

You have opinions

About my opinions

About my music

About my clothes

About my body

Some people hate what I wear

Some people praise it

Some people use it to shame others

Some people use it to shame me

But I feel you watching

Always

And nothing I do goes unseen

So while i feel your stares

Your disapproval

Or your sigh of relief

If I lived by them

I’d never be able to move

Would you like me to be smaller, weaker, softer, taller?

Would you like me to be quiet?

Do my shoulders provoke you?

Does my chest?

Am I my stomach?

My hips?

The body I was born with

Is it not what you wanted?

If I wear what is comfortable

I am not a woman

If I shed the layers

I’m a slut

Though you’ve never seen my body

You still judge it

And judge me for it

Why?

We make assumptions about people

Based on their size 

We decide who they are

We decide what they are worth 

If I wear more

If I wear less

Who decides what that makes me?

What that means?

Is my value based only on your perception?

Or is your opinion of me

Not my responsibility?

Hi! I'm Emma (she/her), and this is my first year in Seattle Pacific's Her Campus chapter! I'm thrilled to be apart of this project and can't wait for a great year. Go falcons! ☺︎
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