On Body Image, Photoshop, and All About That Bass

Unpopular opinion coming here: I do not like the song “All About That Bass.”

I may be one of the few people to feel this way, because contrary to the positive message about body image the song seems to portray, in my opinion, it does exactly the opposite.

Most of us have grown up worshipping an image of beauty that simply does not exist in reality, from Disney Princesses to Barbie Dolls to the models in beauty and fashion magazines. I know I was one of many young women to look at Rebecca Gayheart’s 1991 Noxzema commercial, sigh and wonder why my skin didn’t look like that. As savvy adults, we know that much of what we see in advertisements has been touched up. However, can we say the same for adolescents? So many of them take what they see at face value, believing an impossible image of beauty they must aspire to. The flipside of that coin, however, is the very dangerous message implied in “All About That Base,” which, when combined with a lack of knowledge about healthy eating as well as easy-access to fast food, can send our already skyrocketing obesity epidemic in children to epic proportions.

Meghan Trainor, the singer who performs this song, is not your typical pop artist. She has a thick frame, one that some would argue is ‘normal,’ and I’m thrilled to see someone with her stature rising to stardom. Her lyrics bring to attention the usage of photo altering in advertisements, saying “I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop. We know that sh*t ain’t real. C’mon now, make it stop.” I applaud that notion. That being said, other lines from the song such as “Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two. But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do” not only encourage women to be unhealthy, but condemns those of us who are petite and thin.

Although I’m all for being a proponent of having a healthy body image, we are not meant to have “all the right junk in all the right places,” another line from Trainor’s popular hit. If you spend any time watching each season’s early episodes of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” you are a witness to when the show’s doctor makes it clear to the contestants just how dangerous fat can be underneath the surface. “Junk” is a detriment to our health, not something to be proud of. Songs that encourage women not to “worry about your size” are not helping, because caring about yourself enough to worry about your health is important. I’m even more disturbed by lines from the song that call out the women Trainor sees as “skinny bitches.” A song with the reversed message would never have risen so high in the charts, so why is thin-shaming acceptable and empowering when fat shaming is not?

The truth is, neither is acceptable, and yet we continue to tear each other down.

It has to stop.

We live in a society where women are constantly judging other women, and Photoshopping is the norm. This Youtube video shows how quickly a model can be manipulated using photoshop.

It’s frightening how the woman you see in the beginning doesn’t resemble the final image at all. Fighting against this kind of unrealistic expectation is one of the positive messages heard in Trainor’s song, and it’s one that is being heard across the world. Recent legislation in several countries is showing an attempt at a turnaround. As far back as 2009, members of the British Parliament were calling for a ban on Photoshopping, citing the damage it was doing to young girls. On March 20, 2012, Israel announced plans to enact the so-called Photoshop Law, which includes regulations on underweight models as well as limits to digital alterations of advertisements. Even some magazines are coming out against digitally altering images. According to the Huffington Post, Verily Magazine adopted a No-Photoshop Policy for their online fashion and lifestyle website, one that encourages women to be “less of who you should be, more of who you are.”

The problem, however, doesn’t only stem from magazines. We are tearing down one another all by ourselves, another obvious factor of Trainor’s song. Ashely Judd spoke about the phenomenon of women judging other women, in an article about US Magazines’ response to her “puffy appearance,” saying her changed appearance was either from weight gain or plastic surgery, both of which were unfair assumptions.

Society nitpicks our bodies, but then we go ahead and nitpick each other. The catty atmosphere we live in is a constant, doing nothing but bringing out competition and fear between women. Even the “I jiggle therefore I am” film created by This Girl Can, a UK website celebrating active women everywhere, sparked a range of comments.

While this video sends another fantastic message, one that Jillian Michaels herself commended, the site’s Facebook page showed our constant propensity to judge one another. It also lends a voice to the idea that only women who jiggle are “real.”

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Are we not all real, regardless of body type?

If you take the time to scroll through more than 2000 comments this video spearheaded on Facebook, you’ll find plenty of positive feedback, but also responses from women who were taken aback by the concept that those of us who do not jiggle cannot be considered real. You’ll see women attacking one another for their opinions. Even when it comes to inspiration, we can’t stop tearing one another down.

When are our ideas and accomplishments going to matter more than what we look like, both in the media and to one another? When are we going to realize that yes, true beauty comes from within, but we must nourish that beauty inside and out?

I personally have worked very hard to get rid of my jiggle, and I refuse to feel ashamed of that fact. I didn’t do it because of that Noxzema ad, or because society told me to. I did it to fend off the morbid obesity and diabetes that were coming down the pike for me if I didn’t. I did it because I cared enough about myself to want to be healthy and active. I want that for every woman—not to sit back and say I’ve got junk and I’m proud of it. We should all strive to be the best possible version of ourselves.

So to Meghan Trainor, I say “I ain’t no stick figure silicone Barbie doll” either, and not a single one of the photos of me on this site has been photoshopped. I still have parts of me that jiggle, and that doesn’t make me any less or more real. I applaud the size twenty woman on the treadmill next to me just as much as the size two on the other. What we should be doing is not about shaming, one way or another. We need to change the way we see ourselves. We need to change the way we see each other. As Ashely said, we need to change the conversation.

I hope you’ll join me.

(86 Posts)

2 thoughts on “On Body Image, Photoshop, and All About That Bass

  1. Maryann

    Great article, ladies. But I have to admit I don’t like that song much, especially when my tween daughter is listening to it in the car. I think it sends only the “sorta right” message to girls. While the anti-Photoshop message is great, the songwriter’s main argument for loving her curvaceous bod is that “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Why not embrace your curves because YOU love them and you love YOU? I say, we need to stop worrying about what men think. We need to stop worrying about what other women think. And we need to love ourselves. And teach our girls the same.

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  2. Justine Salas Mationg

    When I first heard the song “All About that Bass” released in June by Meghan Trainor, I loved it. With a strong beat and lyrics such as “‘Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” and “Don’t worry about your size,” the song seemed catchy and empowering. I quickly memorized the rest of the lyrics but soon felt unsettled when I realized the deeper meaning ofthe words I was singing.

    The song reflects the image of women as sex objects rather than as people. Although it was designed to make large women feel desirable, it is at the expense of thin girls. “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night” is supposed to be uplifting, yet the implication is that girls who aren’t voluptuous, or are “skinny brats,” are unappealing. I was disturbed by this thought as well: I’m skinny, so does that label me as unattractive? Why put down smaller girls in order to empower the bigger ones?

    We should not be singing and dancing along to lyrics like “‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, all the right junk in all the right places,” I am a “size two,” built like a “stick-figure,” but I love myself, no thanks to this song. Girls, big or small, should be proud of and confident about their bodies. There should be no need to live up to the physical expectations of anyone else. No girl should feel that she needs to adhere to a body image to find love.

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