I WAS All About That Bass... Then I Wasn't... Now I Am Again.
When I Became All About That Bass
Good luck keeping your toe from tapping or your hips from swaying when you hear Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" for the first time. The smooth combination of prohibition-era-jazz, with some 50's-doo-wop, and dash of modern-day-synth-pop makes for some FUNky tunes that is sure to bring a smile to your unsuspecting face.
And that's precisely what it did the first time I heard it. The song is just pure fun and easy on the ears.
Then, once I saw the video, it took it to a whole other level of appreciation and likability. I mean, who doesn't enjoy watching people genuinely seem to have a good time dancing and singing? And, furthermore, watching people who might traditionally never be featured in a music video like this, get front and center attention? People who don't have a "perfect" figure, or who don't match what society has come to expect in terms of beauty or attractiveness? You bet.
It's impossible not to catch the message of this song, and that was another thing that drew me to it in the first place. With lyrics like,
I see the magazines working that Photoshop We know that shit ain't real Come on 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
Super empowering for women and girls who have been manipulated by the images they see everywhere.
You know I won't be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll, So, if that's what's you're into Then go ahead and move along
In other words, boys, listen up: I have no interest in meeting your ridiculously high expectations that I actually look like the images in the magazines. If that's what you're expecting, then move along.
Again, some really good and positive stuff that you don't hear much of on the radio.
I was all about that bass.
But It's Still About the Boys
Then I was tuned in to some of the other messages found in the song, and suddenly I found myself enjoying it far less. Because try as Meghan might to empower girls to be proud of their bodies and see them as perfect from the bottom to the top, the metric she was using as a point of affirmation was still coming from boys.
At its core, this song seems to be a message about how girls can find their worth and value and affirmation from guys.
Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night
In other words, girls, listen up: don't get discouraged, there are still boys out there that like girls with "more booty to hold at night."
And suddenly I found myself unable to really enjoy the song. As a feminist-in-training, I want to be conscious of all the ways in which we communicate to women that they are subject to men. And it seems to me like telling girls that their body is good because men will still find it attractive is not, in reality, a message of empowerment. Rather, it's a message that perpetuates the notion that women are here for the fulfillment and enjoyment of men.
I was no longer all about that bass.
But It's Also About Meghan
And then, as time went on, and the song continued to play in various settings, and continued to bring me to a place of cognitive dissonance (my body says GO but my convictions say NO!), something else occurred to me.
What if this song is Meghan's story?
And that little question caused something to click. Because now, instead of it being a message to girls that they will be okay because boys will still like them, it became a story of how Meghan's mom found a way to help move her from a place of not-being-okay to being-okay.
I can imagine, for instance, a young full figured Meghan totally unhappy with her body. I can imagine her coming home from school in tears because, well, kids in school tease the fat kids. No surprise there. I can imagine Meghan lamenting that she'll never get to go to Prom, or on a date, because what boy would ever want to go out with her!
Then, I can imagine Meghan's mom's heart breaking for her little girl. Who she sees as beautiful, and who she knows is beautiful, but who right now is in a lot of pain because, well, a lot of teenage girls really want boys to like them (as do teenage boys). It's called adolescence.
So her mother starts telling her, "Meghan, you listen to me. Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top. You don't need to change anything about you. You are beautiful just the way you are!"
Meghan protests, as would be expected, by her own real experiences, "but mom, no boys ever talk to me. All the girls laugh at me. I'll never ever have a boyfriend!"
Sure, in our enlightened minds as adults we can see how having boyfriends at such a young age may or may not be all that important. But to this young teenager? It means everything right now!
At this point perhaps the feminist in me would want to see Meghan's mom say something like, "baby girl, now hold on. You need to hear this. You do not need a man in your life. You be YOU, Meghan. Find out who YOU are. Don't let yourself be defined by a man. Don't find your self worth and value in being someone's girlfriend." And so on...
But without knowing her, I'm going to trust that Meghan's mom knew her daughter better than I do, and knew what she needed most in that moment. Not a female-empowerment message of the particular variety I just described. No, she needed encouragement and support for where she was at in her journey at that moment. And at that moment it was about feeling like boys would never be attracted to her. So her mom does the sensible and loving thing, and tells Meghan, "honey, I promise you, there are boys out there that love women who have more curves. Who are more full figured. Even if those boys don't go to your school right now, please trust me that they are out there. And one day you'll find one and he will love you just the way you are!"
So when I think about this song as being a story of how Meghan moved from a place of despair to a place of hope, suddenly I'm back to being all about that bass.
I'm All About the Process
In life, we rarely jump over stages of deepening our consciousness. We have to move along at the pace that we move along. If people are at stage K then next for them is stage L. Not jumping all the way to stage N or stage R. And the people around a stage K person can do a lot of damage by trying to force that person to make such jumps.
Sure, I might think of Meghan Trainor and hope that one day she'll be totally liberated from feeling like any of her identity should be found in what boys think of her. But my hunch is that that was not the stage she was ready to jump to as a young girl struggling with her body image.
No, the next stage for her was to move to a place of learning to love her body AND coming to see that there is hope for her to find a romantic relationship because not all boys only want skinny girls.
Life is about transformation and change and growing and expanding. But it's a process. And I now see how this song represents a significant transformative event in Meghan's life, and likely can serve as a powerful device in helping other young (or old) girls also take the next step in their life journey.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Meghan!