Yeah, I’m gonna weigh in. (See what I did there?) Love it or hate it, “All About that Bass” is all over the news. And as a singer-songwriter, I’m gonna throw my two cents into the ring.
So why has an infectious and bubbly pop song intended to promote body positivity caused such a royal stink on all sides of the social spectrum? First, it’s an infectious and bubbly pop song, which means it has repetitive and simplistic lyrics. Personal taste accounts for a lot of the dislike, which is fine. The song doesn’t resonate with you. Hey, it takes all kinds of kinds, people. So instead of bitching about how it’s such an awful song, say, “Nah, not my style,” switch stations and get over it.
Second, some people take issue with the message, saying that instead of supporting “heavy” or “large” or “big” women, it demeans and insults “small” or “thin” or “skinny” women. Well, let’s analyze for a moment, shall we? Trainor calls out 2 problems in particular – unrealistic body standards in magazines (Photoshop comments in the first verse) and scorn from thin women (called ‘skinny bitches’ in the second verse). So what about them both? I think we can all agree that the vast majority of women’s bodies that we see in the media are altered a ridiculous amount and made totally unrealistic. From this video courtesy of iGirlTelevision (warning: it’s a mostly-nude woman, so don’t get your knickers in a twist) to side-by-side comparisons of photos before and after digital alteration, it’s plain to see that fakery has gone mainstream. So this is an extremely valid point. Come on, now, make it stop!
What about the skinny bitches then? Isn’t it awful that she calls out thin women in such an insulting manner? Uh, no, I don’t think it is. Why? Because she says it herself – skinny BITCHES. Not skinny WOMEN in general. I think we can all agree that there are, in fact, image-obsessed women out there who condemn their heavier sisters for their weight. Haley Morris-Cafiero is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at Memphis College of Art, and her photo series Wait Watchers is composed of photos that speak volumes about the way women look at each other. The glares, the sidelong glances, the superior looks, all speak to an attitude which openly demeans heavy women, and which is distressingly socially acceptable. The thing I find endearing about the lyric in question is that, addressing those who fat-shame her, she immediately turns it around and points to their own insecurities as the probable cause of their bad behavior. I like to paraphrase it as saying, “It’s awful for you to hate on me like that, but remember that you are yourself beautiful as well, and you don’t need to be so mean when you should love your own wonderful self.” Almost Buddhist, really.
Third, the overall theme breaks down to “It’s okay that I’m not thin because guys actually like heavy girls better.” This critique I agree with. We should be happy with ourselves because we’re happy, not because we have a better chance of landing a potential mate. Really, this argument feeds right back into the insecurity advertising engenders in the first place – You aren’t good enough, so you’re going to end up lonely. FEAR FEAR FEAR Buy our product! Some people will say that men really do prefer heavier women, and that fact should be called out openly. In my (admittedly brief) research on the matter, I didn’t find any consensus on the matter, so I’ll let it lie. And no matter what, men’s desire aside, the point of healthy body image shouldn’t be to attract a partner, it should be about finding how you want to be for yourself.
Some of you are surely going to call me out for inferring more thought and intent than Ms. Trainor put into the song. And maybe you’re right. But consider that she’s been a professional songwriter for 2 years, with songs recorded by Rascal Flatts and other artists. Also, the interviews I’ve seen (video on the page will start to play automatically) demonstrate that she is a thinker, and while her self-expression is still undeveloped, it’s at least heartfelt. So I’m inclined to think that, despite her youth, she chooses her words with a purpose in mind. I can tell you as a fellow songwriter that turns of phrase can be extremely specific and meaningful. So don’t dismiss phrasing or word choice so easily.
Overall, I wish her well. Unfortunately, she’s getting lambasted by people who’d probably complain if you hung them with new rope. But hey, that’s life. The song’s all about haters and how to get past them, so I guess she’s on the right path already.