Every time someone mentions Meghan Trainor around me, a little fire of rage ignites inside me. I feel like that’s a pretty good, neutral way to start this off.
Meghan Trainor came onto the music scene in the middle of last year with her song All About That Bass I think it was generally assumed that it was a one-hit wonder, similar to the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, but she stuck around with more dubious songs. All About That Bass was hailed as the new anthem for curvy women, just as the re-evaluation of body image, and “real women have curves” became a popular phrase in the body image debate. This song also apparently ushered in the “era of the booty.” I am not sure who decides these things, perhaps there’s a committee for such issues, or maybe there’s a more people-based democratic system? I don’t know. The problem with this song though, is that it seems like an empowering song, a step into the body-positive future, when reality, it’s really not that much better.
Before I get into my rant on the subject matter of the song, I have one fundamental question. What is “that bass”? The song’s most notable line goes: “Because you know I’m all about that bass, bout that bass, no treble,” which is repeated ad infinitum, but what does that mean? Is bass being curvy and treble being skinny? If that’s what it is, it’s a seriously clunky metaphor. And can I point out how there is a serious lack of actual bass in this song? Yes, I get that it’s just a song, but come on, give me a bit of consistency!
Alright, so the main premise of this song is that women who are above a size two are equally attractive as women who are under a size two, as seen in the first verses:
Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real, come on now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
This song sounds like the epitome of self-love and body confidence, right? But then we get further along, and we come across this:
Yeah, my mama she told me “don’t worry about your size”
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that what you’re into, then go ‘head and move along
So. What’s wrong with this picture? Notice how we just dropped from self-confidence right back into body shaming, only directed at a different target? This next verse is the only one that isn’t just a repetition of a previous part of the song, but frankly it just gets worse:
I’m bringing booty back
Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that
No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell you…
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
Oh thank you so much Meghan Trainor for shaming every skinny girl and then visiting us like the body-positive angel of redemption and telling us that we are now permitted to love our bodies. Nothing after this verse is worth discussing because it’s all just a repetition of something from the first one and a half minutes, and equally mind-numbing.
I think it’s pretty obvious that this song isn’t really that positive. All it’s doing is taking the shaming that was directed at women deemed “fat” -otherwise known as anyone over a size four- and redirecting it at skinny women, or, to use a phrase so beloved by people such as Meghan Trainor and Nicki Minaj, skinny bitches. Just how we do not need to degrade men in order for women to feel and be empowered, so too is shaming skinny girls in order for curvy girls to feel empowered so unbelievably ridiculous. Someone please listen to me when I say that THIS IS NOT EMPOWERMENT. This is body shaming, but it’s accepted because it’s directed towards the other end of the spectrum.
But wait! There’s another issue! Remember the two lines, “Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase,” and “She says ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night’”? Oh no, let’s not talk about girls being recognised and praised for their intelligence, or their leadership skill, or their strength of will, no, let’s talk about how they should look to appeal to men. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Can someone please tell me why a song about self-love is using what men want to prove that one type of body is better?
Had it been purely about loving your body, regardless of your size, that would have been wonderful, but this song isn’t doing anything different. It’s sending the exact same message throughout advertisements and the media, but this time its bumping up the “ideal body” a few sizes. Nothing else changes; it’s still shaming everyone who doesn’t fit the ideal, and telling girls to strive for this ideal because that’s what men want. This song is not better. It’s just as bad.
The fact of the matter is that no-one is the boss of anyone’s body but their own. What you look like should not be dictated by what men are attracted to, what the media tells you is beautiful, or what other people are telling you to look like. Similarly, BUTT OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! The only time you are allowed to suggest that someone changes something about their weight or diet is if you have clear and non-circumstantial proof that their health is at risk, if you personally know that person and are close to them, and you are doing so ONLY out of concern for their health and well-being. This doesn’t mean calling a skinny girl “stick” and telling them to eat more, and it doesn’t mean telling anyone who doesn’t fit your idea of the perfect body to lose weight, either. Eating disorders, on both ends of the weight spectrum, are serious issues, and not to be taken lightly, which is why you cannot just apply them to any person whose body you don’t like.
Yes this song came out a year ago, so I’m either really behind on my rants, or I hold a grudge a really long time, right? The latter is true, but that’s not why I’m writing this. The reason I’m writing this is because this song is still popular, almost a year later. This isn’t my crusade to get rid of it, but I think it’s important to recognise that this, this song, is not progress, it’s not making the body image world better, it’s just as harmful, and people will internalise the messages in this song, and the songs like it. Every time we look at someone’s body and make a decision about it, we are making a snap judgement. You cannot know the circumstances behind someone’s appearance.
Maybe it’s genetic, maybe it’s related to medication they’re taking, maybe it’s diet related, maybe it’s a hundred other different things, but you know what? It’s nobody’s damn business.