I find myself having a hard time not thinking about Meghan Trainor’s song, “All About That Bass.” The song’s message is captured in the lyrics: “Yeah, my momma says baby don’t worry about your size/she says boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”
The tune is catchy and fun, and I can totally get behind the attitude of loving yourself and your body for what it is. Unfortunately, though, I worry about both the justification for loving yourself and the “us vs. them” nature of the song and our culture.
Is it really in any of our best interests to begin to love our bodies only insomuch as other people find them compelling? It seems problematic to suggest that we ought to appreciate our bodies because other people want to grab them, or watch us shake them or appropriate them in some way. In the end, this doesn’t free us from the idea that our bodies are only as good as any random stranger declares them to be.
This is the dangerous idea that leads to the current epidemic of problematic relationships between people and their bodies. Rather than saying, “It’s OK to be who you are, people like who you are,” what if we said, “It’s OK to be who you are, because who you are is great!” I don’t want to be proud of my body because other people want to grab it. I don’t consider “shaking” to be a skill of any particular note, anything I can find myself being really proud about. I’d like to hear a song about loving your body because it has gotten you through the world, all the way up to where you are today. Because your mother made it, because it can make another person, because your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day without you even trying, because it houses your brain. Maybe your body can run, maybe it can lift heavy things, maybe it has taken you through physical and emotional challenges you weren’t always sure you could overcome. Your body can dance, it can spark intense passion between you and a lover, it can feel a warm summer rain and a cool breeze.
Bodies are genuinely amazing, all of them, and that’s really something to celebrate. This is a point I think we sometimes miss in a culture that tells us we have to denigrate others in order to feel good about ourselves. We see this in the song’s angry dismissal of “skinny” bodies in favor of the ubiquitous (currently) “booty” of larger bodies. In a world where we have learned to appreciate different cultures, races, ethnicities, sexualities, relationship structures, physical and mental abilities, might we finally learn to appreciate different bodies, too? Can we feel good about all different body sizes? Can we acknowledge that any good piece of music needs both bass and treble?