Editorial: All About That Positive Body Image

Take a look at the Irish singles chart at the minute. Right below Ed Sheeran, doing his usual wailing-over-acoustic-guitar shtick, there’s a certain song which was previously at number one before being overtaken by Sheeran.

The song is in its thirteenth week on the chart and contains the lyric “I’m bringing booty back, go ‘head tell them skinny bitches that.” This song is, of course, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and it is disappointing in so many ways.

First off, the idea of booty needing to be brought back is ridiculous given that Beyoncé, the women who sang “Bootylicious”, is pretty much the undisputed queen of the world at this point. Things like this happen in pop. Justin Timberlake thought sexy had disappeared at one point in his career so he went and brought it back, but it’s the message in the song that is the ultimate disappointment.

Straight after telling the “skinny bitches” that she is bringing booty back, she attempts to recover by saying “No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat, but I’m here to tell you, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”, but the damage is already done. You can’t refer to a section of people as skinny bitches and then preach solidarity. Solidarity prefaced by an insult is very hollow solidarity indeed.

It’s unfortunate that Trainor feels like she has to put people down before preaching what is ultimately a positive message: to be comfortable in your own body. I won’t pretend that I, as a man, will ever truly understand the immense pressure on women to conform to whatever is deemed to be beautiful in our male-dominated culture.

I’d rather see a song tackle these societal pressures which women, at the top of our charts, find themselves under. Skinny shaming is as real as fat shaming, slut shaming and all the other kinds of shaming that our patriarchal society has imposed on women; a crude reminder that it is men who run the world and it is men who dictate what is and is not acceptable in terms of behaviour, appearance and everything in between.

Contrast “All About That Bass” to Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, which has become something of an anthem for the LGBTQIA community. This song’s message communicates positive body image and inner beauty, but Aguilera didn’t find it necessary to preface her message with an insult toward a particular group of people.

That’s what’s so disappointing about Trainor’s hit: it aims to promote a positive body image, but, in the process, insults people who may be perfectly happy with their bodies.

Anyone on Facebook has probably seen at least one “only a dog wants a bone” picture and frankly it disgusts me. These pictures push an idea that a skinny girl is undeserving of love simply for being skinny.

Until society wises up, bad songs over outdated doo-wop backing tracks will continue to reinforce that very idea.

Odrán de Bhaldraithe

Image credit: mix1031utah.com

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