So Billie Eilish Took Her Shirt Off. What's to Celebrate?

Billie Eilish at the BRIT Awards in London, February 2020.  (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Billie Eilish is being praised for a new video in which she calls out those who criticize her appearance. The clip, which played during an interlude at her Monday night concert in Miami, shows the Grammy winner slowly shedding most of her clothes, before sinking beneath black water. Over the visuals, her voice can be heard dispassionately explaining that, when it comes to her appearance, she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. Its impact is undeniable.

"You have opinions—about my opinions, about my music, about my clothes, about my body," she begins. "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."

She continues: “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."

For Eilish, fashion has always been symbolic. Last year, in a video made for the #MYCALVINS campaign, the singer stated clearly why she favors loose-fitting clothing—she uses it as a form of protection. “I never want the world to know everything about me," she says in the promo. "I mean, that's why I wear big baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven't seen what’s underneath."

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What happened in Miami—though undoubtedly a powerful middle-finger to critics—was a watershed moment. Essentially, we just witnessed the exact instant that Billie Eilish realized the one thing she's been relying on to protect her, could no longer do so.

Less than a month ago, Eilish spoke on British television about the bullying she has increasingly experienced, and how it has recently forced her offline. "The cooler the things you get to do are, the more people hate you," she told BBC Breakfast. "It's way worse than it's ever been right now... The internet is ruining my life."

Eilish's dedication to wearing everything oversized has always been part of her allure. Her look was never anti-fashion, or just weird for the sake of it—it was Gucci and Burberry and Chanel in gender-defying forms that sought to carve out a new means of self-expression. It refused to succumb to old-fashioned beauty standards. Eilish has also been careful to always make sure her style wasn't used to shame other women.

"The positive comments about how I dress have this slut-shaming element. Like, 'I am so glad that you're dressing like a boy, so other girls can dress like boys, so that they aren't sluts'," Eilish told V Magazine last year. "That's basically what it sounds like to me. And I can't overstate how strongly I do not appreciate that, at all."

Usually when a pop star performs a metamorphosis like this, they do so as part of a new album cycle. Eilish has done it out of the blue and just weeks after noting an increase in online hate directed at her. As such, it's hard not to wonder if that was the motivation. Though, smart and tenacious as ever, she successfully managed to put an empowering spin on it, that doesn't necessarily mean we should celebrate. Going by her own words, she essentially just threw her hands up and abandoned her security blanket.