Meghan Trainor burst onto the scene earlier this year with “All About That Bass,” a song not about subwoofer rattling low-end frequencies but supposedly about a round thing that is spelled like “bass” without the “b.” Specifically, the song is about the larger ones as “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Because of this message, Trainor has been lauded for her “body positivity” and placed alongside J-Lo and Beyoncé in pushing the acceptance of ample derrieres.
In other words, she’s helping move us past the social construct that says men hate hips and ass.
Granted, it’s an imaginary construct, but it’s also apparently really important. Sir Mix-A-Lot, meanwhile, continues to get absolutely zero credit regarding his inability to be dishonest about his predilection for big butts. He bravely made this proclamation back in 1992. One can only assume he is not credited as a pioneer because he was too far ahead of his time or maybe because he’s a man.
Though I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Mix-A-Lot, I am enjoying the deliciously entertaining fissures this is causing in certain camps on the left. For example, Slate’s ridiculous take-down of Trainor’s newest single, “Title,” features these heady paragraphs.
While the earworm is ostensibly about body positivity, Trainor disses “skinny bitches” and “stick figure[s]”—suggesting that not all bodies are worthy of pride. Trainor assures the adolescent girls who are presumably her target audience, “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” but her support for this claim is that “boys like a little more booty”—perfection apparently depends on male approval. Despite the girl-power packaging, “All About That Bass” reinforces the idea that female bodies exist for men’s pleasure, and that being desired by a man is crucial to a woman’s self-worth. It says it’s all about that bass, but it seems it’s really all about the boys…
“Title” is the cri de coeur of a woman who’s tired of being seen as a casual hookup by the man in her life. “Baby, don’t call me a friend./ If I hear that word again,/ you might never get a chance to see me naked in your bed,” Trainor sings, by way of warning her man that if he doesn’t “give [her] that title”—girlfriend, presumably—she’s leaving him…
Trainor is asking, quite explicitly, to be objectified, as if she were nothing more than a prize. And once again she is sending the message that a woman’s worth is defined by men. Trainor doesn’t want to be this guy’s girlfriend because she really likes spending time with him; she wants to be his girlfriend so that she can feel validated by the status of being his girlfriend.
Granted, Trainor’s song is pretty annoying and don’t get me started on the heteronormativity of it all. I could also point out that the “skinny bitches” featured in the video aren’t necessary and are less clothed than Trainor and the others and that there may be an ulterior motive for that directorial decision, but I won’t.
What I will point out is that the author of the above is insane. Or maybe she’s making perfect sense. Body positivity, insofar as I understand it given my dedication to almost 10 minutes of lazy research into the subject, is about accepting all bodies, not jut ones of a certain size. It is not about accepting the biological truth that humans are wired to procreate and having people want to procreate with you is a logical and natural impulse. Or something like that. This other author, whom I know is serious because she talks about a paradigm shift, elaborates.
If we didn’t 1) think of beauty as important and then 2) create narrow parameters within which beauty is defined, maybe as a whole, we’d have fewer body image issues.
And the body-positive movement is awesome in its attempts to eradicate Problem #2 by broadening the definition of beauty to include more people a la mantras like “All Bodies Are Beautiful!”
After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? And therefore, everyone has the ability to be gorgeous. All bodies are inherently awesome before social conditioning comes along and tries to convince us otherwise.
Science disagrees, but Roger Scruton states it more eloquently.
Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference: beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend. If there are people who are indifferent to beauty, then it is surely because they do not perceive it.
Scruton, though, is a conservative, obviously conditioned, and not to be trusted. The study above about attractive women activating the same nerve centers in the brain as cocaine—how exactly is that a result of social conditioning? Take your time. I expect really crack reporting on that question.
Which brings us back to Trainor. She’s awesome because she’s all about that bass, no treble — except for her voice – but she’s also terrible because she, like most young women, wants male attention. Because deep down in our lizard brains we all want attention from the opposite sex because of the whole aforementioned innate desire to propagate the species, a desire that has worked pretty well for humanity for a minute now. (I’m starting to question if anyone on the left really f’ing loves science.)
Taken together, this confusing mishmash of would-be social engineers is on the verge of civil war and though I’m just tempted to get out the popcorn, sit back, and watch, I won’t. Yet. Because I have to defend Trainor. And I really don’t want to. So here goes.
Trainor is not asking to be objectified. She is not signaling that her worth is defined by her value to men. She’s not looking for validation.
She’s just being a normal human being who wants to be attractive and find a mate. Is “All About That Bass” a social construct shattering work of genius? Of course not. It’s just a silly song that reiterates why men enjoy Beyoncé, J-Lo, Kate Upton, Sofia Vergara, et al.’s more measurable and objective, ummm, talents.
We could herald Trainor for making this obvious point, for helping push us past “social constructs” and into “body positivity.”
Or we could not be idiots and accept that beauty often includes some curves, not because of social conditioning, but because a nice posterior, to return to Scruton, is “exhilarating, appealing, inspiring.” And we don’t need artists to teach us that, just celebrate it.