“Bass” misses the mark on body positivity

Caroline King

Caroline King
Caroline King

If you have a radio you’ve been listening to lately, you may have heard Meghan Trainor’s overnight hit, “All about that Bass.” The catchy doo-woppy style song is the number one hit single in America, and is a top contender for the title “Song of the Summer,” not to mention dominating the charts in more than 10 other countries. Besides being ridiculously catchy, the song has been widely regarded as an anthem for the promotion of body positivity and a rejection of fat-shaming; after all, it is all about that bass, right? Yeah! And the treble … and all of the sound variations in-between. While Trainor is rightfully commended on parts of her message, her latest hit is less progressive than she is getting credit for.

One of the crucial ideas of body positivity Trainor botches in her song is that all body types are beautiful. While on the one hand, she sings confidently, “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” mere lines later she contradicts her short-lived ode to accepting all body types by singing, “I’m bringing booty back, go ahead and tell them skinny b****** that.” Unfortunately for Ms. Trainor and everyone else listening to the song, skinny-shaming (criticizing or having prejudice against people with thin bodies) is neither helpful, nor effective for spreading a body-positive message.

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Trainor goes on to assert that big women shouldn’t worry about their size, because “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” This is yet another problematic interpretation of body positivity on Trainor’s part; all women, large and small, have bodies worth loving — but only if men do first. A woman’s self acceptance does not and should not be based on male opinion, because frankly, a woman’s opinion of her own body or anything for that matter should not require validation. The only person’s permission you need to feel great about yourself is your own.

That being said, it is difficult to walk your positive, self-affirming talk in a world where women’s bodies are made a spectacle for everyone’s consumption, and further, that bodies (both male and female) are held to a standard of beauty that is severely limited. While there is nothing wrong with thin bodies, it is wrong to assume that everyone should have bodies similar to the images our media bombards us with, and that for everyone who doesn’t look like this, it is a condition deserving of fault. These are precisely the pervasive ideas that body positivity attempts to combat. And skinny-shaming, while different than fat-shaming*, promotes the message of body acceptance about as much as saying a woman’s self acceptance depends on male permission.

However Trainor seems to be unaware of the impacts of these two elements in her song. In an interview with the Guardian, Trainor reflected on the “flak” she’s gotten. When asked if people should base their self-worth on what men find attractive, she responded dismissively. “I kinda giggle when people say that. I just wrote a song. I’m not saying this is how women should feel – I just wrote a song and funny, clever lyrics, and that’s how I look at it. And if people can relate to it, that’s awesome.”

While her lyrics may be problematic, at the end of the day, has a song sending mixed messages or being degrading to women has never stopped it from being a hit single before? No. It should, but for now, I would prefer the title “body-positive artist” to go to someone who fully understands what that means, and is committed to sending a positive message instead of jumping on the first line that rhymes.

*Shaming individuals who are fat has additional implications and complexities due to the negative and oppressive effects of sizeism that thin people don’t experience

Collegian Columnist Caroline King can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter by @cgking7.