Over the last few years, Billie Eilish has become a household name for my wife and me, primarily because I became obsessed with her music shortly after her hit track “bad guy” began to top charts. Between her eclectic sound, equally artsy and unsettling videos, and her commitment to controlling her image, it would have been hard to ignore her, even if I had wanted to. Her young age—only seventeen at the time—also drew my attention. In addition to loving everything about her sound, I wished I had grown up listening to someone like Billie. I wish seventeen-year-old Finn could have seen her. He would have been even more obsessed than I was (and would probably have tried to convince Mom to let him dye his roots green).
Billie’s attitude towards clothing made me love her even more. In a 2019 ad for Calvin Klein, she talks about her iconic baggy looks and the thinking behind her choices. “No one can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath,” she says. “No one can say [anything] because they don’t know.” On the one hand, it’s a brilliant, empowering statement about agency and the media’s gaze.
On the other, it’s one a minor shouldn’t have to give. No one should be saying anything about their bodies, but as Billie’s 2021 music video for her single, “Therefore I am,” proves, people do.
In the music video, Billie runs around a closed shopping mall while performing and helping herself to various food court establishments (sounds like a blast, to be honest). While her cardigan and capris are as big as her usual attire, her gray T-shirt was easily the tightest thing she had worn in a performance to date. The second I saw that outfit, as cute as it was, my heart sank and caught fire. It turned out that Billie Eilish and I have strikingly similar body types, featuring chests that are noticeably bigger than the rest of our bodies—chests that cause teenagers, children, to never get a break from attention or self-consciousness because grown-ass adults can’t be grown-ass adults about a feature we can’t control nor can they hold our peers accountable when it comes to comments, attitudes, and opinions about that feature.
The thing that made me the most furious about this turn of events (which shouldn’t have been a “turn of events”—it’s a t-shirt for God’s sake) is that Billie and I are nearly ten years apart. I knew she would have been creeped on and body-shamed even more in her earlier career if she had worn fitting clothing despite being an underaged girl, as young as fifteen, when she first started releasing music. I knew because it was the same sort of thing I had to navigate as a teenager, which tells me how much work we have left to do to change this culture.
It’s such a simple, simple thing, but apparently we need to still say it. Heck, Billie basically says it in her interview with Vogue. We need to do better by our girls. We need to do better by their bodies which are brilliantly, uniquely, and wonderfully made by a God who made them out of stardust. And as much as I love Billie Eilish, both as an artist and an idol within the younger generation, it’s not up to her. It’s up to everyone who walks through this world. It’s up to the speakers, authors, and pastors who still push purity culture and teach the teenager with a large chest is a “stumbling block” for just existing. It’s on school staff who push the idea that a school dress code is more important than a girls’ education. It’s on every single one of us when a creepy or nasty comment about women and underaged girls is muttered in earshot.
So let’s do better. God, make us do better because I can still feel how stressed and tired teenaged me is. I know for a fact he’s not the only one. Not by a long shot. So, since we can’t apparently say this enough, let’s do better.
And also listen to “Your Power” because that track’s a bop.
Finnely King-Scoular (’14) is stationed at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA, where he lives with his wife, Rosalind (’13). His writing, including the Faerie Court Chronicles series from NineStar Press, focuses on contemporary fantasy with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ representation.