And I wanted to love it upon first discovering it because of the body positive message. I can get behind lines like this:
I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon 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
But I struggle with loving the song, because I believe there are some serious missteps. I wish that we could present a body positive message for fuller figures (of which, I have to point Trainor is just barely—she is by no means a “big” girl) without dissing other body types. This song loses me with these lines:
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.
I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
Some of these are less offensive than others. You could probably say any girl of any body type has “junk in all the right places” because whatever that “junk” is, I would hope it would be applied to a wide and inclusive view of beauty. But, I balk at the idea that there is a “boom boom” that all boys chase or that there is a certain body type they prefer to be in bed with at night for a few reasons. First and for most, I hate that any standard of beauty would be defined by the male gaze. But also, there is no one true beauty type for all boys. At least, there sure as hell shouldn’t be. When we are working on body positive thinking, I think we need to work on women (and men) defining their sense of beauty and confidence internally. They should not be dependent on how attractive they think they are to the opposite sex. Especially if they think they need to be attractive to all boys. How daunting is that?
But then Trainor gets even more aggressive using terms like “stick figure silicone Barbie doll.” The implication is that a thin girl is plastic, not real. But her realness and beauty are just as valid as any other body type. I hate that she has to be perceived as unattractive to send a message that full-figured girls are also attractive.
And the worst of them all is the phrase “skinny bitches.” Upfront, I’m just going to say that no woman ever should be referred to as a bitch … or compared to an animal/thing in any way. The idea that women do this to each other is maddening. A patriarchal system depends on women being perceived as less than human. Using language that encourages this is never okay. And in the context of this song, the application of the word to skinny/thin women infers a personality trait—a disagreeable one—is connected to a physical trait. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
To be fair, this most offensive line is followed up with the words “No I’m just playing.” But that is not enough. If Trainor wanted to present a true body positive image, she wouldn’t even pretend to demonize all women of a certain body type in order to promote another. Women who are born into thin body types can’t help it any more than women who are born into bodies that are curvy and plump. Vilifying them because our image conscious society is solely focused on them doesn’t help promote an inclusive idea of beauty. It only trades in one evil for another.
Maybe I can’t blame Trainor solely for this though. She had a co-writer, and a lot of times for pop stars that means they sat in the room, maybe giving some input, while a songwriter wrote their song. And then, as it turns out, maybe it was someone else who wrote this song altogether … Either way, even though I might bob my head and sing along when it comes on the radio, I’m super disappointed that it had the potential to be a great feminist song, but failed to send the right message.