Today, I spent a lovely hour at Starbucks with two former students, Michelina and Steven. As I sipped chai (nom nom nom), we talked about books, movies, college, work, and music. Somehow the topic turned to contemporary “music,” specifically Megan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass.” Steven talked about a paper he had written in a college class, discussing the mixed messages within the song.
The first couple of times I heard the song, I thought it had some pretty wonderful messages. Yay, little girls! You should feel good about yourselves and not the media body-shame you into thinking that you have to be a specific body size. As a woman who seems to have dieted for the majority of her adult life, I am pretty happy about the idea of my daughter being told by a popular singer that she should not determine her body image based on magazines, fashion models, or advertisements. Yup, works for me.
And then I actually read the lyrics and watched the video, and one of my daughter’s favorite songs was pretty much banned.
Sure, it’s a pretty cute song with a really catchy beat. But, “…my momma she told me don’t worry about your size/She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night…” Whoa…excuse me?
My daughter is a bit chubby; her favorite forms of vegetables are the non-existent kind. She likes fruit, especially with peanut butter. Yeah, not exactly the queen of health, is she. Furthermore, she constantly complains about stomach aches…because she will not eat healthily. Therefore, it falls upon me to ensure that my daughter learns how to eat healthy so that her stomach pains end and she has a healthier lifestyle.
Yeah, my daughter’s chubby. And I don’t want her growing up like me with body complexes and skewed perceptions. I have worked hard for her to see that I do not judge her based on her body, but I also know that the Girl can inherit heart issues given my father nearly died from heart problems and it looks like my father-in-law might also have heart problems. Therefore, yeah, the Girl needs to eat healthy and exercise.
My daughter said that she just likes the song because of the beat and the sounds, not the words. But she’s singing the words. She dances around the kitchen while washing dishes, shaking her hips and flapping her arms and having the time of her life. And I love the fact that my daughter is filled with the joyous vivacity of life. But when I watched the video, I was really infuriated.
All the colors are bright and pastel, little-girl centered. Although the background dancers/singers are in their twenties (I assume), little girls are shown playing with dolls. In addition, Trainor acts as a Barbie doll, assuming poses that are indicative of little girls posing their Barbie dolls. Several times, a Barbie-esque Trainor is sitting motionless at a table with her “Ken”; the table is covered in food, specifically cupcakes, cake, candy, cookies, and other pastries.
Hello Megan….have you heard about this concern with childhood obesity? Have you thought about how parents around North America are trying to raise healthy children by encouraging these children to forego the sweets and choose the vegetables/fruits? Your video suggests that little girls should accept their pudgier sides. Fine. But my daughter needs to eat healthy because you are not the one who is holding her at night when she cries that her stomach hurts. You are not the one who will have to walk her down the hospital’s halls if she starts having health problems.
But let’s go back and look at that line about how “boys like a little more booty to hold on at night.” Excuse me? My daughter needs to feel good about herself. I don’t care if she isn’t “a size two.” But I do care that she is being taught to justify her size because it will be sexually appealing.
This is where people will tell me that I’m just reading into the song and that it’s not meant for children my daughter’s age. Okay…sure…let’s go back to the colors. To the images. Let’s analyze the fact that the seniors in my high school are not walking around the halls, singing this song. But, on Halloween night, a van full of little girls parked in my cul-de-sac, and the girls got out, formed a kick line, and started singing, “You know I’m all about that bass, bout that bass, bout that bass..no treble.” And a mom recorded it on her smart phone. I imagine she thought it was so cute.
I had a student write an incredible paper about body-shaming. Trainor talks about “skinny bitches” who think they’re fat. By the way, she does the classic “comma-but” when she says that she’s “just playing.” Wow…how many girls out there are laughing?
My Girl has told me that she should be allowed to listen to the song because she listens to the “clean version” on the radio. The clean version merely has a couple of words that are muted; the messages are still the same. And, the fact is, when I look up the lyrics to the song, I am not invited to compare and contrast the clean version against the regular version. All I see are the original lyrics in all of their glory.
I don’t believe in sheltering my children. When the Boy sobbed that his life was “terrible” because he was failing math despite his father and I paying for a tutor, Pat, furious that the Boy would even presume to suggest that his life was miserable, asked me to find non-fiction books for the Boy to read so that he could see what a bad life looked like. The Boy ended up reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and Night by Elie Wiesel. For two and a half years, the Boy has never complained about having a bad life. He has bad days. Perfectly fine. But he does not have a bad life; he’s also not failing math anymore.
But I don’t think that muting a couple of words or changing a couple of words is enough to make it “clean.” In the end, when I do the research, I still see the original words and realize that the message that is being sent isn’t something I really think is all that positive or affirming.
So, the Girl and I’ll just listen to Queen…or Pink Floyd. Sure, they have their own controversies. But, at least they aren’t inviting my daughter to have a big booty…..unless she’s going to ride her bicycle.