Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since June, you’ve seen Meghan Trainor’s adorable video for her body positivity anthem “All About That Bass.” Every second of it is inventive and engaging and funny, from the pastel pink, purple, and peach palette to the ‘60s girl band choreography of badass QWOC director Fatima Robinson. There’s an impressive array of racial and body diversity in the cast, too, including a show-stealing appearance from Vine superstar Sione Maraschino. After his parking lot stepping took over the Internet last year, it’s cool to see him booking gigs like this one.
But, of course, because we can’t have nice things, the song has inspired some controversy.
For body-shaming skinny girls.
I’ll give you a second to allow your eyeballs to finish orbiting. Yes, in the ears of some listeners, Trainor’s single lyrical reference to “skinny bitches,” for which she actually issues an apology in the very next line, is single-handedly setting the feminist movement back fifty years. A quick Google search for “Meghan Trainor body shaming” reveals the following comments:
- Having a good body image should be about supporting health at any size, not body shaming someone as a “stick figure” or “skinny bitch.” It is a shame, since this could otherwise have been a very uplifting and catchy song!
- The song is cute but it could do without the body shaming of skinny girls.
- Although I understand how she meant to express the idea of accepting oneself regardless of body weight/looks, shaming the other side of the coin “Skinny” can actually taint that message.
YouTuber albinwonderland, who is usually so on-point about all things feminist, chimed in with a strong objection to the video, tweeting, “IT’S BODY POSITIVE…… for these specific bodies. cool you did it, you accomplished nothing, congrats on spinning in a circle.”
The “specific bodies” albinwonderland is talking about belong to women who are constantly and consistently devalued and dehumanized by a culture which views their fatness as nothing less than a moral failing.
As activist Virgie Tovar writes, “‘Fat’ has become shorthand for undisciplined, immoral, lazy, idiotic, selfish, unprofessional, and insatiable… it is quite obviously just the newest manifestation of the war on women, on people of color and on poor and working-class people. It has become the banner under which the mother-blaming discourse blazes forward. It has become shorthand for poor and Brown/Black.” Fatness is stigmatized, skinniness is prioritized, and women, poor people, and people of colour are hit first and hardest.
The “skinny bitch” backlash, it’s important to understand, comes from a position of profound privilege. And, yes, I do mean “privilege” in the most classical sense of the word; skinny people materially benefit from social bias against fat people. Recent studies have shown that overweight students, particularly girls, are less likely to be admitted to university. Obese employees are thirty-seven times more likely to report employment discrimination than their “normal weight” colleagues. The vast majority of health care professionals stereotype heavy patients and chalk up any and all health problems to their weight gain, leading to widespread misdiagnosis.
And so I’m really curious about why anyone would say that a music video filled with curvy brown and black people getting their life to a song about loving their curves “accomplishes nothing” simply because it includes a throwaway reference to “skinny bitches.”
All women live with the tremendous social pressure of body-policing, but the ultimate goal of that body-policing is to deify skinny women over fat women – and, as Tovar elucidated, rich women over poor women, and white women over women of colour. Women whose bodies conform to social standards of acceptability don’t get to dictate how the fat acceptance movement organizes itself. They don’t get to demand space in pop-cultural celebrations of marginalized bodies. “Skinny bitch” doesn’t convey the widespread, systemic cultural hatred–or the implicit racism and classism–of “fat bitch.”
If you want to call out Trainor for her use of a misogynistic slur, then, sure, go ahead. But you do not get to be outraged because she called you skinny.
I mean, goddamn.
Some of the women up in arms about “skinny bitch” have also called out Trainor for the line that kicks off her chorus: “My mama, she told me, ‘Don’t worry about your size.’ She said, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”
Now, the knee-jerk reaction to this line has been, “Actually, you should love your body no matter what boys think, because you don’t need a man to validate you!” And that’s all well and good – or it would be, if we didn’t live in a culture which thrives on telling fat women that they don’t deserve love and sex.
Who cares if a fat woman wants to record a banging body positivity anthem which includes lyrics about… well, banging? So what? Why can’t Meghan Trainor drape her body positivity in overt sexuality? Implying that fat women need men to be happy and comfortable is one thing. Insisting – in the face of constant, pervasive cultural fatphobia – that fat women are desirable is quite another. No one should be pitching a fit about “boys like a little more booty” in a media landscape where fat women’s sexuality is always, always relegated to jokes, where they never, ever get the guy, where their weight is an obstacle, if not a permanent blockade, to love and fulfillment.
More power to Meghan Trainor. More power to women who have been made to feel inferior and undesirable because of this world’s perceptions of their bodies. More power to them as they create their own spaces, sing their own songs, and dance to the beat of their own drums in a world which ignores them.