Meghan Trainor’s feminism is not my feminism.
This seems troubling initially. Trainor is heralded by white feminists in America for tackling issues of body positivity and tearing down conventional gender roles in society. Her song “All About That Bass” has a safe spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Her songs “Lips Are Moving” and “Dear Future Husband” have monopolized radio time for months. What’s wrong with a strong woman in the media singing about the problems she faces as a woman?
I remember the first time I heard “All About That Bass”. My older sister had played it for me, excited to find a song for me that mimicked my proclamations about body positivity. After a few listens, however, I realized the song is very exclusive to people with different body types. The song doesn’t preach body acceptance—it preaches positive body image for people who like Trainor herself, people with “curves in the right places”, shunning larger bodies or skinnier people. And that, I was forced to admit, is not inclusive feminism; that’s not right.
I didn’t have any large qualms with Trainor until “Dear Future Husband” came out. I read through the lyrics once, and never listened to the song itself until I tried to write this article. I understand that the intent of the song was cheesy, meant to be nothing but a flimsy pop song. However, when I watch young women singing along at the top of their lungs, I’m forced to reckon with the content being promoted by Trainor.
Let’s first ignore the obvious heteronormativity that the song promotes. I have many other issues with the song’s lyrics. It is difficult to be okay with a song that promotes gender roles (I’ll be the perfect wife/buying groceries/buying what you need/you got that 9 to 5), encourages the “crazy” stereotype forced on emotional women (even when I’m acting crazy/tell me everything’s alright), and suggests that solving an argument could be as simple as make-up sex (after every fight/just apologize/and maybe then I’ll let you try to rock my body right). How does a song like this promote feminism? It seems closer to a stereotypical song on how the American society views women in a relationship nowadays—the woman is merely here for the man, not for herself. (For the record, the picture below is from the song’s music video.)
Any of this could be dismissed as simply the setbacks of modern song-writing. They are just lyrics, after all. My real issue with Meghan Trainor and the ideals she is promoting to her fans stems from an interview she gave to Entertainment Tonight last year. The intent of the interview was to discuss the role that mental illness and bullying has played in Trainor’s life and writing. However, the highlight of the interview was when Trainor discussed her experience, or lack thereof, with anorexia.
“I wasn’t strong enough to handle an eating disorder…I tried to go anorexic for a good three hours. I ate ice and celery, but that’s not even anorexic. And I quit.”
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and mental illness that causes significant body dysmorphia and completely ruins one’s relationship with their own body. People suffering from anorexia become obsessed with weighing themselves, avoiding situations where they need to eat, and deny any problems with their habits or body. Anorexia is characterized by intense starvation, which if unnoticed, sends people suffering through it straight to the hospital to receive a feeding tube and counseling, or in severe cases, can be deadly. Anorexia affects one in every fifteen Americans. If you do not have it, you probably know someone who has been affected by anorexia or has suffered through it themselves.
I refuse to understand the ignorance expressed by Trainor over an issue that affects so many people, many of which are her own fans. I refuse to believe it is okay for someone like Trainor, who heralds herself as a body-positive feminist, to so blatantly misspeak about an eating disorder that is taking lives everyday, and is constantly combating the public stigma attached to mental illness. And further, I refuse to be silent when someone who claims to be a feminist is so intolerant of people who are not like her.
Meghan Trainor has been given a spotlight and a microphone, where she chooses to call herself a feminist. Yet she refuses to promote the importance of including the mentally ill, the differently-bodied, or the LGBTQIA+ community. And I refuse to promote some who takes this spotlight, and not only defies her feminist title, but promotes ideas that bring society further from truly embracing everyone, regardless of gender, privilege, health or appearance.
My feminism is intersectional, inclusive, and without limits about who can be equal. My feminism does not discriminate based on mental health, sexuality, gender or any other trait we try to love about ourselves. What I’m trying to say, then, is Meghan Trainor’s feminism is not my feminism. And I want everyone to know that.