The rise of Meghan Trainor amidst the sphere of popular music has sparked many controversies and debates. Her music, while catchy and empowering, has been the target of many critics. These critics accuse Trainor’s music of being sexist and that her lyrics unfairly target and generalize men to be liars and cheaters. But even more importantly, many critics are targeting the prevalent “skinny-shaming” in her music, putting skinny women down in order to promote the curvy women.
To address the first half of her haters, Trainor’s music cannot possibly be the most deserving of the title “sexist.” There are many, many popular songs on the radio that are not only sexist, but fundamentally and morally unjust. To begin with, Big Sean’s “I Don’t F*** with You” is a song about a man who is very angry and tired of his ex-girlfriend. Throughout the song, he repeatedly refers to her as a “little stupid ass bitch” and a “little dumb ass bitch.” The profanity in this song is off the charts and that is just the tip of the iceberg. These lyrics themselves are extremely demeaning to women, yet this song is not controversial at all; we still hear it constantly on the radio and men and women everywhere sing and dance along without considering the actual content.
But this song by Big Sean is only one of many popular songs that subvert meaning to the essence of women: as if all womankind are only “little” and “stupid” compared to the masculine male, forever inadequate and the dependent “other.” We rarely raise an eyebrow to the connotations and suggestive diction in popular culture, yet once a woman writes music that embraces her curves and imperfections, her image becomes flawed and she is labeled as a “man-hater.”
Furthermore, those who critique her “skinny shaming,” cite Trainor’s hit song, “All About That Base,” when she sings, “yeah my momma she told me don’t worry about your size / she says boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Many interpret this as an attack on women without “booty” which is completely absurd. This interpretation is a result of binary thinking — just because Trainor is singing in favor of one specific body type does not suggests that she is against all other types. If we tweak the lyrics a little and replace some of the words, for example, “yeah my momma she told me don’t worry about your size / she says boys care more about brains at the end of the night,” would the public still be so offended? Would this, then, be seen as a healthy promotion of women focusing on what’s inside rather than what’s exterior? The two versions are almost identical, except one focuses on perceptions of beauty while the other is about the importance of intelligence. They are both put in the same context, but why must the subject of beauty be so sensitive to different perspectives and opinions?
And what if the same lyrics were rapped by Drake, “yeah I said don’t worry about your size / I say cuz boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” would that be acceptable then, because it’s coming from a credible male perspective?
So then the biggest issue here must be of credibility. If Beyonce had performed this song would we give her a standing ovation for embracing this underrated female body type? Because she is seen as a sex icon (and rightfully so), we are more persuaded by her messages and eagerly willing to comply. Meghan Trainor is not a sex icon, therefore she does not make as convincing of a case — after all, who is she to tell us what to think and feel?
Sexuality then must be the biggest determining factor when we choose which female artist to listen to. But this mentality that we hold is awfully narrow-minded and it limits the possibility of more women stepping up or singing on behalf of the minority not represented in mainstream popular culture.
We should not be attacking every artist that has the courage to write and sing about controversial issues. We cannot expect all music to be politically correct because the people behind the music are not trained politicians or lobbyists; they are simply humans seeking to express their opinions and frustrations artistically through the medium of music. And we really need more of these people.
Vanessa Hsia is a first-year international studies and French double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.