Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” has been playing on the radio non-stop for months now. Trainor has been relaying the message to millions: “If you have ‘booty,’ be proud of it.” At face value, the song can be praised; there is widespread appreciation for those girls with a bit extra going on. It’s no news that society’s current ideal of beauty is fit and thin (maybe a “stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll”), and those who “ain’t no size two” are perceived as inferior to those who are.
But lately, the song has been criticized for its underlying anti-feminist messages with the lyrics “bringing booty back / Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that / No, I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat,” and “You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll.” Trainor appears to be implying that those without the “boom boom” are “skinny bitches” and that those girls must have a distorted body image. That is a horrible stereotype and potentially offensive to the mental health community when we consider conditions related to body image such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, body-dysmorphic disorder, and binge-eating disorder.
The particular line that irritates me is this: “I see the magazines working that Photoshop / We know that shit ain’t real / Come on now, make it stop.”
It’s comforting and trendy to denounce the use of Photoshop in media. We all know that the celebrities and models we see in magazines are not actually that particular skin tone, their cheekbones are not that high, and their stomachs are not that flat. What we see in the media are products that have literally been sculpted for an industry to make money. But with that knowledge and Trainor’s complaint that this Photoshop “shit ain’t real,” we actually believe that size twos don’t exist, that they’re a construction of the fashion industry. That’s absolutely false. Yes, there are downsides (both in terms of body image and gender expectations) to labeling women with numbers and encouraging them to literally and figuratively aspire to be a size zero, a figurative nothing. But this attitude that smaller girls are inferior comes as a disadvantage to people like me.
Until recently, I had not bought a single pair of well-fitting jeans in over four years. At 20 years old, I am currently 5 feet tall and 85 pounds. Aeropostale is a store at which mostly middle-school and high-school age people shop. I have never fit in their jeans well. There’s six inches of extra fabric at my ankles and a two inch gap between my legs in size 00 pants. This was in high school. Imagine my excitement when they started making size 000 pants three years later, but there was the same two inch gap. Imagine my frustration. In high school, I was less than less than the figurative nothing and now in college, I am less than less than less than the figurative nothing. Thanks to this vanity sizing, I’ve always had difficulty wearing clothes.
Meghan Trainor is saying that any size two figure you see doesn’t actually exist. But here I am, and there are plenty of other girls in the same boat as me (a lot of us probably fit in this size 000 boat), that apparently really don’t exist. I’m 99% sure Trainor doesn’t mean to offend anyone. She just wanted larger body types to get some love too. But it’s an annoyance to hear on the radio every day that you’re not real, you’re fake and not worthy of being with boys because you don’t have “a little more booty to hold at night.”
It’s easy to dismiss skinny girls as having a perfect life simply because they fit a beauty ideal. But we have problems too: pants sag, bracelets slip off my wrists, my feet are too thin for slip-on shoes, and people are denying my existence on widespread media. Trainor says “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” but let’s not forget those who have a few less inches.