Sensuality and sexuality are two different things. Women and men alike have sensual sides. For some reason sensuality is associated with sexual availability, yet the two are different forms of self-expression. Billie Eilish just blew up social media with photos from her recent British Vogue layout. She donned corsets and chiffon with thigh highs. This 180 from her typical image sent many reeling.
The general public reacted with both glee and rage. Her hair went from a lime green to blonde bombshell. The body that we had yet to see is curvy and luscious. She is gorgeous. We simply weren’t allowed to see it before. Accustomed to her attire consisting of super-baggy sweats and sneakers, this new look is mind-boggling. But Billie’s choice of self expression for this interview came with a clear message, “no matter what we wear, we deserve respect.”
Eilish didn’t convey this sentiment for herself alone. She did it for women and men everywhere. Billie has been vocal about her Asperger’s, depression, poor body image, and sexual abuse. Her teen years were made even more intense by being scrutinized in the public eye, particularly on social media. Somehow, Eilish maintained her sanity through the treacherous path of finding herself. She also realized earlier than most, that a person’s character says more about who they are than their wardrobe.
However, Billie took baggy clothing to a new level of style. Even the Grammy’s couldn’t pull her out of her comfort zone. And the younger generation loved her for it. It would seem many Millennials and Gen Z’ers are moving away from labels and greed – the status quo for my generation – X. They liked Eilish for her music, but they loved her ability to maintain her authenticity and rebuke society’s expectations while becoming one of the most successful female artists of all time.
Unlike so many before her, Billie didn’t turn herself into a teen sex idol to become famous. She created music because she is an artist and loves it. Likewise, Eilish insisted the music stand for itself. Don’t judge her gifts according to her physique or sexuality. Instead, listen to her work and dissect it for what it is – her art.
Some people responded to Billie’s photo shoot as her “selling out”. However, they failed to see her evolving as a woman and as a creative. Eilish isn’t trying to become a carbon copy of anyone else. She is merely embracing all of who she is. I talked about Billie’s experiences in the “Self Love” chapter of Sexual Intellectual Female.
This work depicts a new woman emerging in the 21st Century. I lifted up Eilish as an example of a young woman who is claiming her body as her own and responding to haters with confidence. Billie is stating publically, “this is me and I’m good with it” after years of battling self doubt. This is a huge deal for her. She knows there will be backlash. Yet, she is standing with conviction proclaiming her self-worth.
We still have a bulk of society that believes women’s bodies are meant to be sexual alone. Women are finally stepping up and defying that sexist mentality. Our bodies are our own. We get to decide what to wear, what feels good or right to us, if and when we have sex, and with whom. Billie isn’t stepping into some patriarchal role of sex goddess. She is embracing her own sense of self. Who she is as a young woman, what makes her feel good and yes … empowered.
Now we see a young woman who commands respect not just for herself, but for individuals everywhere. Her song “Your Power” off of her new album addresses predators head on. She’s speaking out for all of us.
Billie’s body isn’t for anyone’s objectification. But that doesn’t mean she has to keep it covered up for the rest of her life in ultra baggy clothes. She’s a woman now and she decided to embrace that. Because she is in the public eye, it only made sense that she do so in a forum that gave her full control and the final say. Nobody gets to tell a woman who she is or what to do with her own damn body. As an artist she will continue to evolve. As a woman she is commanding our respect.