Meghan Trainor Isn’t a Feminist And Neither Is Her Song All About That Bass. But Perhaps There's Still Time
The Debrief: And no, sadly that doesn't stop the song being uber catchy either
It’s Christmas, a few years ago. I am hitting my little sister. (I am 26. She is 20.) ‘You ARE a feminist! You ARE! YOU ARE! You just don’t know it yet!’ I crow, rhythmically smacking her right elbow with a milky, cereal splattered teaspoon. ‘Will you SHUT UP about stupid feminism? And at least hit me with a clean spoon!’ she screams back. Her then boyfriend squints across the breakfast table at us. ‘You’re not a feminist, are you, Daisy? I mean, you wear make-up!’
Come Christmas 2013, the boyfriend had been dispatched, and my little sister has learned, the hard way, that feminism is your friend, especially when it comes to helping you work out that you are dating an idiot. She has been recruited to the cause. ‘And I would have thought of it much quicker,’ she says ‘if it hadn’t been for you and that bloody spoon.’
So when Meghan ‘All About That Bass’ Trainor is outed as the latest lady celeb to announce she’s not a feminist, I’m not surprised. I’m patient. Some women find feminism as fast and as naturally as they find out how to read. It takes some of us a little longer, or we’re a little later. But I really, really hope Trainor gets a wiggle on because I’m not prepared to listen to a decade’s worth of weird, prescriptive body shaming masquerading as empowerment, with a beat.
In case you’ve missed the whole hoo-ha over Meghan Trainor: the US popstar hails from Massachusetts and has been writing songs since she was 11 (she’s now the ripe old age of 20). Her first single has been causing controversy since it launched Stateside back in June and soared to the number one spot all over the world. To date, All About That Bass has been viewed on YouTube nearly 110 million times, analysed to death on the internet and been played on ‘A’ playlists on radio stations the world over – all of which probably has something to do with why this week the track made history by debuting in the UK top 40 on streaming alone.
All About That Bass has been bothering me for some time. It seems so well-intentioned. A cheerful, knowing anthem denouncing Photoshop and rejoicing in human flesh. I’m a size 14, and 98% of all music videos really, really test my attempts to love my body and feel happy within it. But after catching Trainor’s song for the first time, I felt like jumping up and sexily strutting about, possibly in the direction of a shop that sold chocolate eclairs.
‘I know you think you’re fat, but I’m here to tell ya every inch is perfect from the bottom to the top,’ croons Trainor. I thought, ‘Meghan, it’s as if you’ve known my all my life. I want to take you out for pizza.’
But then I unpicked it and started to think, ‘Maybe I should ring Bella Italia and cancel the reservation.’
Meghan’s message sounds like a paid message from the REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES lobby.
‘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.’
Her message is as exclusive and divisive as the very messages she is challenging. It’s not about loving and accepting everyone’s bodies as they are, but having the ‘right’ curves.
My friend Hettie, 28, complained about the mentioning of a specific dress size. ‘I know “two” rhymes with “do” but I’ve had eating disorders and been obsessed with whether I’m an eight or a six or whatever, and that line always brings those feelings back. I felt like an idiot, but someone I was at school with said they felt exactly the same. It makes you feel like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The message I get from the song is no matter what I do with my body, it’s probably wrong.’
Janey, 26 adds: ‘The line “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night” just infuriates me. I’m naturally quite slim and I really don’t have much of an arse, so at first, I thought, “Fine, I guess I’m just not sexy enough! Stupid song!” When I thought about it a bit more I was horrified to realise that the message of the song was basically, the most important thing about your body is that men find it hot. It’s somehow worse because it sounds so positive and bouncy, and I really love the video. We’re being fed a really damaging, sexist subliminal message.’
Arguably the video, directed by Fatima Robinson, succeeds where the song fails. The vintage, candy coloured aesthetic moves the message far away from booty and making boys like you. We see a range of people of different ethnicities, in different outfits, with different body types moving joyfully together. I’d be happy for any niece, cousin or young person in my care to watch it, as long as they turned the sound off.
But then, Trainor is still a young person herself, and as she’s a talented writer and performer, she’s been given a very public platform on which to make the stupid mistakes we all make at 18, or 20, or 29 – just, unlike her, usually in the privacy of our own homes. I hope it doesn’t take her long to realise feminism is her friend too. That it has to be about the bass and the treble, and if you’re going to preach a message about loving your body, it has to give everyone else the unconditional space to love their bodies too, through their own eyes and not those of booty fixated boys. Meghan, feminism is ready for you whenever you need it, and I hope you don’t learn that through a bad boyfriend.
Caitlin Moran, the writer and sage who couldn’t have done more to recruit teens and twentysomethings to the cause if she’d had a clipboard and promised everyone a free Chomp with every signature, recently told the Huffington Post that we shouldn’t judge female celebrities under 30 for failing to connect with feminism because: ‘They’re so young – at that age I still thought I was a bit psychic and would go around saying to people, “I think I knew you in a past life!”’
But if you’ve not got your act together by the time you’re 30, I’m coming round with a dirty teaspoon.
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