Let’s be critical of our media! I just heard this super catchy song called “All About That Bass” by Megan Trainor. It’s a Fat Positive Body Love ANTHEM! And I want to love it so badly, but I cannot love it because 1) I have committed to loving people, not things and 2) even if I did love things and not people, being a critical consumer of media demands a little bit of pause before declaring that this is the best song ever about loving your fat body. Let us watch/listen and then pause/think.
Why I want to embrace it with wide open arms:
It contains the song lyrics
- I ain’t no size two but I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do
- All the right junk in all the right places
- I see the magazines working that Photoshop // We know that shit ain’t real // Come on now, make it stop
- If you got beauty beauty just raise ‘em up
- ‘Cause every inch of you is perfect // From the bottom to the top
- Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size
It also features one of my favourite dancers, Sionne Maraschino, inventor of the Maraschino step, one of my favourite contemporary dance moves and Vine videos:
But it also contains the lyrics:
Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,
And this is a problem because:
- Expanding the male gaze so it also objectifies the bodies of fat women does not progress make. “Boys they like a little more booty to hold at night” still essentialises male desire into a “this is what men want and like” formula. Using essentialist rhetoric about male desire in order to make your body a sexy thing too, doesn’t resolve the problem that the way women are supposed to feel about themselves is dictated by the male gaze.
- We don’t need to shame the bodies of skinny women in order to embrace our bodies as fat women. True body acceptance will come through abolishing the ideology of the ideal body, not by pluralising it.
- Shaming the use of silicone (and let’s be honest, that implicates the use of cosmetic surgery in general) also feeds into the shaming of the bodies of trans women, and the idea that if you’re not born with X, Y, or Z feature, then your womanhood is therefore invalid. This is not true. What ever surgical or non-surgical route a woman takes to the body she loves is not a licence for anyone to hold a referendum on the authenticity of her womanhood.
And so I really like this song, but I am critical of it because:
Trainor also sings the verse:
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches // Hey No, I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat// But I’m here to tell you that // Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
Which clearly acknowledges that skinny women are also harmed by widespread fatshaming, because it policies the bodies of all women. The actual music and visuals in the song are good too. (I’m sucker for that neon-mod look.) But the false “skinny vs. fat women” lyrics and “real natural vs. fake/modified women” lyrics shows inconsistency in its attempts at social reform and empowerment messaging.
And it is good to be critical of our world.
“A critique does not consist in saying that things aren’t good the way they are. It consists in seeing on just what type of assumptions, of familiar notions, of established and unexamined ways of thinking the accepted practices are based… To do criticism is to make harder those acts which are now too easy.”- Michael Foucault