I am All About That Deconstructing Pop Culture, normally. I am so down to take one tiny thing and analyze it to pieces to make a point. Yet, I had this gut feeling that I “just don’t get” why the skinny shaming in Megan Trainor’s hit single is a big deal. I agree that there are problematic elements, e.g. using black women as props (please read Jenny Trout’s thoughtful essay). Still, it bothered me that friends and other writers were obsessing over this song making a few cheap jabs at slim ladies.
I couldn’t figure out why until I read Melissa A. Fabello’s excellent expose on thin privilege. Like Fabello, “I wear size medium shirts, size seven jeans, and (in case you were wondering) size eight shoes.” And, like Fabello, I’ve “never had someone dismiss me as a dating prospect based on my body type, nor had someone scoff, openly, while watching me eat French fries in public.” I have thin privilege.
I get that skinny shaming is annoying, or even hurtful. At its worst, it’s part of a larger system that treats women’s bodies like commodities and makes men and other women feel like they have the right to tell us how we should look or what we should eat. As a younger, still-growing string-bean of a little woman, I’ve been told I needed to “eat a sandwich.” I was just trying to buy jeans for my first time all on my own, and I was accused of anorexia by the woman behind the counter. And, yes, it was fucking lame.
Still, I’ve always understood that fat shaming is worse: its an institutional system of oppression. Like Fabello points out, at least the mannequins look like me. At least I know my body type is accepted as desirable, as “normal.” I don’t know what it’s like to be fat, but when my fat friends have complained about how they’re treated, I feel like I should not try to compare their problems to mine. So what if Trainor wants to call me a skinny bitch? I am a skinny bitch.
“That’s skinny shaming,” seems like a whiny complaint. It’s like if a woman of color made a poster for a rally and I told her she used too much glitter and spelled “equality” wrong. “Excuse me?” she should say, “Who are you?” What right would this white girl have to criticize her for doing her best with the tools she has? There’s a song out there promoting something other than the default body type, and all I hear is a chorus of, “she didn’t bend over backwards to make this song feel-good for me. I don’t like it!” I’m sorry, princess, but for once it just isn’t about you.
I don’t think this song deserves accolades. I don’t even think it’s that good of a song. It’s repetitive and boring. It doesn’t make any sense (she’s singing in treble, not bass…??). I’m just disappointed that my fellow thin women feel compelled to complain so loudly about this song. It just feels like #notallmen all over again.
I can say it nicer, but I’m not sure I can say it more succinctly than The Coquette: “For now, please just start listening to better music, and rest assured that the concept of ‘skinny shaming’ belongs in the same pile of imaginary bullshit as cisphobia, misandry, and reverse racism.”
Society policing our bodies: Problem. People who are oppressed using imperfect language to try to fight their oppression: Why are you mad about this, are you fucking kidding me?
This is fairly close to my response to the complaints I’ve seen about the song. People say “boohoo she says everyone is beautiful but then shames thin women and says fat women are better. She should be saying women of all sizes are beautiful” which while true misses the point. There are already songs (and advertisements, and shows, and movies, etc) all saying that thin is better than fat. This is the counterpoint to that, and it has just as much right to exist. Complaining about this song is like MRA complaining that feminists hate men and don’t actually want equality, or white people complaining about reverse racism. No granted, I’m all for the quote of “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business” but that’s not the world we live in, and if one side is shaming, the other side doesn’t always need to START at equality. Fat girls (purposely using girls rather than women hear, body issues start young) are bombarded with messages that they are lesser all the time. Maybe they do need to hear that some will think they are better, not just equal.
Also, the song is pretty damn catchy, though I don’t need to hear it on the radio a million times a day.