I first heard Meghan Trainor’s song on the radio a few weeks ago and instantly decided I liked it. She has a gorgeous voice, the music is catchy and the harmonies hit that spot.
But then I listened to the lyrics, and watched the video.
The video starts off innocently enough, with nice colour schemes and the dancers wearing pretty pastels. All of them are noticeably larger than girls (and guys) who would usually be seen in mainstream media (although it must be said that none of them are what anybody would call ‘fat’).
I’m not going to say they’re ‘normal’ sized because there is no ‘normal size’. Everybody is different and equal right? Well not according to Meghan.
Within the first 25 seconds of the video comes the skinny shaming, and that’s when I realised that this song is not for all women, doesn’t send a positive message to all girls, and has no intention of doing so.
The first we see of the ‘stick figure’ is her wrapped in plastic, looking like an idiot standing next to a black girl dancing, unable to shake it like she’s ‘supposed to do'(the fact that most of her dancers are black is also problematic- the black girls with the token white dancer around the successful white singer who barely dances at all. Let’s look back at ‘hard out there’ by Lily Allen shall we?). Here they’re using images of plastic to represent women who are thinner than they are, women they’ve been told have more worth because thin is seen as the ideal in society (but not too thin Millie Mackintosh, you need to gain some weight girl!). Plastic represents something fake, something hard, cold, unfeeling and undesirable.
The next images we see of her are her standing next to Sione while he’s dancing with her hand up to him like he’s not worth her time. So not only is she thin, but she’s also a stuck up bitch (‘skinny bitches’)- a stereotype of pretty thin women that has prevailed through time.
In the making of video, Meghan says ‘why not do a song about loving yourself and loving your body because I don’t think girls love themselves as much as they really should’. And the reason? Because we’re always being told that we’re not right. This song, for example, is telling girls they’re not right if they don’t have ass. It reminds me of the ridiculous phrase ‘a real woman’ (meaning one with ‘meat on her bones’), which not so subtly implies that women who are size (US) 0 (in this case 2) are nothing- they’re not real. Her video shows that being a ‘stick figure silicone barbie doll’ is negative, and the line is sung while the dancers walk around doing the mannequin (a less smooth version of the robot would be a good way to describe it), which definitely does not scream ‘I WANT ALL WOMEN TO LOVE THEMSELVES AS MUCH AS THEY REALLY SHOULD’ now does it? They’re saying, thin girls are like plastic, fake unable to move in the right way and unnaccepting of larger people (the girl wrapped in plastic is obviously being mean to Sione who is just doing his thing).This song is definitely not accepting of all kinds of bodies, and definitely not encouraging girls to accept themselves whatever way they were born (the black girl boots the thin one out of the frame with her dancing).
‘My momma she told me don’t worry about your size, she said boys like a little more booty to hold at night’ So now we’re at the crux of the matter. Don’t worry about your size – be glad that boys will like you better because you’re that size. This is what’s supposed to be the consolation for not being the prescribed image of beauty- a boy will like you all the more for it. Women should aspire to please men. Men will prefer it if a woman looks a certain way. A woman’s worth comes from her ability to attract and please a man.
Then we come to that main guy that Meghan wants to impress in the video. He’s white (of course) and quelle suprise, he’s thin. I’m sorry but if she wanted to be all about all body types she would have included some bigger men. Yes Sione is a bigger man, but he’s there (like the rest of the girls) because he has some talent. He’s a brilliant dancer. This guy has nothing, no value, no purpose other than to be the ideal of what these girls want to snag in life with their junk. The stereotypical white male who has Meghan, the girl who is supposed to be the star of the video, dancing around him even though he has done nothing to deserve the attention.
Why does it matter what men think (it doesn’t)? Why can’t women be allowed love themselves FOR themselves? Why do women have to aspire to what a man might want in a woman? And why are women encouraged to drag each other down to feel better about themselves? This song would have been so much better if she’d said ‘just love yourself no matter what anybody says, if you’re happy with your body, stay happy with it, the only opinion that matters is yours’.
I understand the message she thinks she’s getting across, but in order to boost the confidence of bigger girls, she is dragging down thinner ones, and that’s not what women should be doing. We should be encouraging each other to be strong and not depend on men for our self worth. This video and song is cleverly disguised as something that promotes body positivity for women when really all it does is perpetuate stereotypes, remind women that their value lies with the ability to please a man with her body, and pit thinner and bigger girls against each other.
I’m going to take a quick moment here to say I can hear people now saying how rarely bigger girls get any kind of love from popular songs or videos, why make it into something negative? But what I care about is the perception of women in our society, and how we can make it the norm that a woman’s worth comes what she can do, from her brain, not what she looks like. I want to live in a world where women aren’t force fed the idea that they need to gain approval from men by looking and behaving a certain way. This video (and song) does not send that positive message that women are worth something in themselves. It holds us back.