All About That Bass? Body Image and Skinny Shaming

“If I see something saggin’, baggin’, or draggin’, I’m going to have it nipped, tucked, or sucked!”

Dolly Parton

“All About that Bass” is very catchy. I sing it while I cook, I hum it walking to class, and I even dance around my room to it with my flatmates. It’s one of those poppy pop songs that won’t leave your head for weeks. In September 2014, the song beat Taylor Swift’s for the number 1 slot on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Anyone displacing T-Swift warrants some attention.

Despite my fondness of the song’s catchiness, however, I can’t help but notice it reflecting a shift in our culture’s ideal of female beauty. Of course, you’re thinking, we saw that shift happen years ago when the Beyonce cult gained traction and pre-teen girls began to order booty bump panties for themselves. After all, who wouldn’t want to look like Queen B?

The celebration of curvaceous women is taking off, and I’m all for celebrating. It’s interesting to observe, however, that every ten years the ideal of beauty shifts from curvy to skinny and then back again. Just as one body type begins to feel comfortable in being the “perfect shape” they are displaced by their polar opposite—and so we see the Marilyn v. Audrey battle wage on.

In the 2012 film Pitch Perfect one of the most popular characters is Fat Amy. Played by the ever more popular actress Rebel Wilson, this character acts as the voice of bigger women everywhere, saying to two of the protagonists:

Aubrey: What’s your name?
Fat Amy: Fat Amy.
Aubrey: You call yourself Fat Amy?
Fat Amy: Yeah, so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.

And you know, when she said that, every curvaceous woman in the audience cheered!

But what I am confused by, and maybe this calls for a deeper conversation about the way women interact, is why the celebration of one body type necessitates the rejection of the other. I know as little girls we were told (or should have been told) that each of us is beautiful just the way we are. But how is it that we can teach our children this, then go on singing songs that shame one specific body type in order to celebrate another?

A few days ago, the rapper Diplo tweeted that someone needs to start a campaign to “get Taylor Swift a booty,” and sure enough someone shortly after made that campaign on Kickstarter. Thankfully, Lorde made short time of this foolishness tweeting back at Diplo “should we do something about your tiny penis while we’re at it?” The idea that Taylor Swift’s body is lacking in any area shows that things have certainly taken a dark turn—she shouldn’t have to apologize for being skinny any more than Beyonce should have to apologize for being curvy.

Meghan Trainor, the artist of “All About That Bass” has denied the accusation that she is “skinny-shaming.” She points out that in her song she says “Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that. 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.”

This seems like a weak point to me, though. First of all, if you need to prove within your song that you are not attacking one particular body type, then don’t prove it by telling that body type “Aw, I’m just playing.” This addendum seems particularly weak when played over the image of a skinny woman wrapped in cellophane being pushed around and off the screen by people bigger than her.

Second of all, the song is simply full of instances of Meghan comparing herself to skinnier women and asserting that her body type is better, for a variety of reasons. In the song Meghan tells a potential boyfriend “You know I won’t be no stick figure, silicone, Barbie doll. So if that’s what you’re into, then go ahead and move along.” It seems like this song, despite the assertion that it celebrates variety, is simply doing what every other body shaming song has done—it compares two differing types, and determines a winner and a loser.

This song and the entire “in with the curvy and out with the skinny” movement is particularly upsetting for me, as a person who has had to learn to love my own body type—one that doesn’t even fully fill out an A-cup. I can remember in middle school being embarrassed at a costume fitting because the busty girl measuring me joked that, as she moved from measuring my ribs to my chest, things seemed to go concave.

As I have gotten older, though, I have begun caring less about my body in comparison to other women’s. I think this carelessness comes with the ability to admire and appreciate variety in shape and style. We all look a little different, and that’s great! Variety is beautiful.

I’m tired of the age old battle between the skinny and curvy. It’s antiquated, and it’s time to move on. How about we stop padding our bras, binding our chests, wearing booty bump underwear, and just listen to what our moms told us at five, “you’re beautiful, just the way you are.”

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