I’m sure by now you have heard (or at least heard of) the hit songs, “All About That Bass” and “Anaconda,” by Meghan Trainor and Nicki Minaj, respectively. Both artists claim that their tracks celebrate healthy body types and promote positive body image among young women, however, the reality is that these songs simply repackage old ways of talking about sex appeal.
It is true that both songs glorify an alternative body type to the currently fetishized stick-thin waif. In the “Anaconda” video, Minaj proudly shakes her substantial butt, and Trainor boasts, “I ain’t no size two…/I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop/we know that shit ain’t real/c’mon now make it stop.”
This in-your-face self-confidence is refreshing; however, it is overshadowed and complicated by controversial measurements of self-worth. For starters, both artists affirm their attractiveness by assuring the consumer that their bodies are sexually desirable, implying that in order to feel good about oneself others must find one appealing. Minaj’s lyrics state, “… he love my sex appeal/because he don’t like ‘em boney, he want something he can grab… Yeah, he love this fat ass.”
Similarly, Trainor coos, “’Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase/and all the right junk in all the right places… Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size/she says, ‘boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”
Another disconcerting aspect of both songs is that they champion curvier body types by putting down slim women. Minaj states, “Fuck those skinny bitches in the club/I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club, fuck you if you skinny bitches,” and Trainor sings, “I’m bringing booty back/go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that/No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat/But I’m here to tell ya/every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”
Trainor defends her lyrics in a New York Times article, and says, “I think they stopped listening after they heard ‘skinny bitches’ and didn’t hear the part about, ‘Nah, I’m just kidding, I know even you guys think you’re fat, and I’m here to say you’re perfect.’ I have beautiful skinny friends that destroy themselves in the mirror because they don’t think they’re perfect.”
As feminist blogger Angyal points out, Trainor’s defense is inadequate and confusing. Trainor’s assertion that even skinny women “think they’re fat” insinuates that fat is bad, and this implication confuses her message.
Both of these songs come close to combating one of the most damaging ways that the media portray women’s bodies, but they fail to offer a new perspective through which women can feel positive about their bodies. Although both songs may promote confidence in women with curvier body types than the ones usually portrayed in the media, the songs do so in tired and damaging ways. Until women succeed in thinking positively about their bodies without bashing others or being objects of desire, nothing substantial will be accomplished.
© Elizabeth (Elise) Sidamon-Eristoff