The song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor soared to the No.1 spot in the charts this weekend in both the UK and US. The undeniably catchy tune appears to have been marketed as a song full of body positivity, but has recently been surrounded by controversy about the true extent to which the song and Trainor herself celebrate women of all shapes and sizes.
When I downloaded this song on my way to University this week, the upbeat retro tune certainly cheered up my grim Monday morning commute. At a first listening, the song does appear to have some really positive affirmations. Meghan calls the Media out on their use of Photoshop which promotes unrealistic body images that influence so many women and young girl’s perception of their own appearance. Trainor soulfully declares “I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop/We know that shit ain’t real/C’mon now, make it stop”. She then goes on to encourage women to accept themselves as they are “’Cause every inch of you is perfect/From the bottom to the top”. Hallelujah! However, the feel good factor ends here for me.
The choice of language in Meghan Trainor’s song initially escaped me but as I listened to it more and more I started to pick up on quite a negative body shaming element to the song. The most obvious example of this being her announcement in the song that she’s “bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that”. Although concealed as a joke “I’m just playing” this is a perfect example of what so many women do every day to one another, which is body shame other women to make themselves feel good about their own bodies.
Body shaming whichever side of the fence it is, is still body shaming. If this song had been sung by the “stick figure silicone Barbie doll” that features in her music video, calling curvier women “fat bitches” I believe there would have been more of an uproar. This leads me to the language that I have previously heard women use to describe one another. I have friends that are classed as “naturally thin” women. They don’t have an eating disorder and they don’t control their food; their body shape is just naturally slim. Whenever they have said something about their body, other women have said things such as “Oh shut up you skinny bitch!” all in good humour apparently… However, if the roles were reversed and one of your friends called you a “fat bitch” when you went shopping, do you think you would honestly still be friends with that person? Why is one way acceptable, and the other so offensive?
For me personally “All About That Bass” is such an oxymoronic song. In some ways it celebrates women as they are and of course curvier women that “ain’t no size two” yet it fails to embrace thin women, in fact it down right degrades them. The song on closer inspection says that thin women can’t “shake it” (interpret that as you wish!) and more importantly that thin women will not be found attractive by men because “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”. This is perhaps the most infuriating part of the song, not only because it creates the idea that thin women are somehow unattractive to men but because it generates the ridiculous notion that a woman’s self-acceptance should be based on whether or not men deem you attractive. As cheesy as it may sound, true self-confidence can only come from loving yourself, an important point that Meghan Trainor fails to point out in her song.
Do I believe Meghan Trainor is a malicious anti-feminist body shamer? No I do not. Her talent is undeniable and I believe the message she has tried to put across has unfortunately got muddled up along the way. I think the celebration of women and embracing yourself as you are is great. It is just so frustrating that she didn’t include all women in this, not just those she herself identifies with more easily. I believe this mistake has powerfully undermined her message that women are perfect as they are because she has neglected an entire body group within her music, which is very sad and unfair.
Looking back to my initial reaction and feelings towards the song, perhaps I personally felt good and enjoyed it initially because I myself, as a UK size 14 sit on the curvier side of the fence. Subconsciously perhaps Meghan Trainor’s celebration of curves brought me that much closer to the goal of self-acceptance that so many women strive to reach. However, as easy as it is to fall into the trap of making yourself feel good through the criticising of others, body shaming other women is undoubtedly not the recipe for happiness and self-acceptance. Some may say, “It’s just a song, lighten up” but women in the media have a great deal of influence on society. I believe as women we must embrace and encourage other women of all different shapes and sizes to finally accept and love themselves for who they are today.