How Lizzo Empowers Women to Feel “Good As Hell”

Lizzo rose to fame earlier this year with the release of her third album, Cuz I Love You. Her music is an amalgam of different genres, including pop, indie, hip-hop, soul, and R&B. She is an incredibly versatile artist; she can rap, dance, sing, and play classical flute (not to mention that she can play the flute and twerk at the same time, as demonstrated by her performance at this year’s BET Awards). Lizzo has gained widespread acclaim not only for her unique style of music and her wide range of talents, but also for the feminist messaging in her songs. I will be sharing just a few of the ways that Lizzo advances the feminist cause and empowers women.

  1. 1. She’s an Icon of Intersectional Feminism

    Lizzo is the perfect icon of intersectional feminism. She incorporates issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and size into songs about feminism and female empowerment. As a black, plus-size woman who has chosen not to label her sexuality, stating that “she does not ascribe to just one thing,'' Lizzo speaks to the experiences of a variety of disenfranchised groups. In her music, she touches on how the various forms of oppression stemming from these identities intersect or overlap, thus counteracting white feminism and its disregard for the experiences of queer women, women of color, and so on.

  2. 2. She Doesn’t Shame or Denigrate Other Women in Order to Promote Herself

    Lizzo doesn’t shame or disparage other women but instead lifts them up in promoting herself. For example, in her song “Juice,” she declares that “If I’m shining, everybody gonna shine.” She challenges a culture that pits women against one another in an imaginary battle for male attention. Her approach to female empowerment contrasts starkly with that of artists like Meghan Trainor, whose 2014 song “All About that Bass” was rightfully criticized for shaming skinny women in favor of curvy and/or plus-size women. In contrast, Lizzo celebrates women of all sizes. Her music videos showcase communities of diverse women supporting each other and encouraging one another to leave relationships where they aren’t appreciated, to prioritize their own well-being before anyone else’s, and to wholeheartedly love themselves.

  3. 3. She Empowers Women, Especially Plus-Size Women, to Express their Sexuality

    Lizzo is unapologetic about expressing her sexuality, often dressing and dancing provocatively in her music videos and live performances. In her song “Soulmate,” she affirms women’s right to sexual pleasure, playfully declaring that she is her own soulmate and that within this solo relationship “the sex is fire”. Her confident expressions of sexuality undermine historical prescriptions of chastity and sexual passivity for women. However, Lizzo, like many other female artists, has been criticized for displaying her sexuality on the basis that it objectifies her, and by extension, women as a whole. I would disagree with this because Lizzo’s explicit aim in being sexual is not to attract men but to feel good about herself. For example, in “Fitness,” she discusses how working out makes her feel sexy, but contends: “I don’t do this for you”. Moreover, Lizzo reverses the stereotype that plus-size women in particular can’t be sexual or attractive, which I think here eclipses the concern around objectification.

  4. 4. She Proves that Body Positivity ≠ Glamorizing Poor Health and Fitness Habits

    One of the common arguments touted against the body positivity movement is that it glamorizes or promotes poor health and fitness habits. This may be true in some cases, but I would argue that it’s an outright falsehood in regards to Lizzo, who often posts Instagram stories of the workouts she does while she’s on tour and has even written a motivational workout anthem titled “Fitness”. The music video for this song features strong and beautiful women of many shapes and sizes, thus countering the idea that plus-size people necessarily lead unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles. Most importantly though, body positivity is about acknowledging the inherent worth of all human beings no matter their size and subverting society’s unrealistic beauty standards, both of which are also part of Lizzo’s mission. When she confidently struts on stage in skin-tight bodysuits, it is a triumph not just for plus-size women but for all women, as virtually all of us have struggled with our body image and self-worth.

  5. 5. She’s a Huge Advocate of Self-Love and Self-Care

    Two overarching themes of Lizzo’s music are self-love and self-care, as already mentioned above. In “Water Me,” she shows kindness to herself through simple acts like staying “hydrated” and “moisturizing daily”. In “ ’Scuse Me,” she demonstrates her confidence by declaring: “I don't need a crown to know that I'm a queen”. In “Worship,” she asserts herself and even takes on a dominant role by ordering an unnamed lover to: “Patiently, quietly, faithfully, worship me.” Through her uplifting bops, Lizzo pushes us to emulate her confidence and self-love.

  6. 6. She Reassures Women that We Don’t Need a Partner to Feel Happy or Fulfilled

    Lizzo advocates for total female independence, both financial and emotional. Not only does she encourage women to work and pay their own rent, she also reassures us that we can be emotionally fulfilled without a partner, contrary to the popular belief that we need someone to "complete" us. She reframes being single as an opportunity to get to know and love ourselves before becoming romantically involved with someone else. For example, in the music video for "Truth Hurts," Lizzo quite literally marries herself, thus embodying this idea of self-love. 

    Lizzo’s expressions of self-love have proven ever more relevant. Earlier this year, Emma Watson declared that she identifies as self-partnered rather than single. She explained that she has been feeling anxious as she nears the age of 30 because she has not yet gotten married, had a child, or established a stable career-- the traditional milestones for adult women's achievement and fulfillment. She has grown to feel happy and comfortable with singledom, hence the term "self-partnered". Watson faced a deluge of mockery and criticism after announcing her self-partnered status in an interview, which just goes to show how deeply needed Lizzo's affirmation of the joys of female singledom really are.

The crazy thing is that Lizzo has been working as a professional singer and musician since 2011 but has only recently gained mainstream fame. I would venture to say that it’s because the world just wasn’t ready for her progressive message of female empowerment until now.