Meghan Trainor and Nicki Minaj's ‘booty songs’ aren't as body positive as everyone thinks they are

Their celebration of larger body shapes is a nice change, but why does it still have to be at the expense of other women?

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The Independent Online

Courtesy of curvy singers like Nicki Minaj, bigger bums have finally made it into the musical mainstream, to the extent that they even have their very own "booty songs". Billed as an alternative to pop's otherwise stick-thin image, their popularity has left the “thigh gap” trend in the dust, for now.

The latest in a seemingly ceaseless onslaught of such songs is Meghan Trainor’s "All About That Bass", which has just reached number one in the UK. It has been packaged as a feel-good ode to body-positivity, with lyrics like "Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two, but I can shake it," and "I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, and all the right junk in all the right places". However, it’s the line "I'm bringing booty back, go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that" that has raised a few eyebrows.

It seems that a song about body confidence can’t be made without sneering at those who adhere to the standards of beauty set by the showbiz world. As curves make their way to the forefront of popular culture, Nicki Minaj and others like her are capitalising from this shift in standards. But rather than admit her cause is simply cash, Minaj has claimed her intention is to liberate those with bigger bottoms,  saying that she “wanted to reinstate something... Because of the shift in pop culture, even hip-hop men are really glorifying the less curvy body."

My own baby fat fell from my form in my early teens, leaving behind a bean pole I wasn’t best pleased with, and with it, the realisation that total strangers saw it fit to repeatedly comment on my tiny frame. When tubby acquaintances poked my ribcage and insisted I should eat more, I often wondered if I could respond with a biting quip about them eating less.

But even then I knew that form of privilege came with my smaller frame, at least in society's eyes. It struck me that complaining about my size would come across as self-pitying and irrelevant, just like reverse racism and misandry often do. Or an upper-class person whining about posh-bashing. 


But while the effects of "skinny shaming" pale to those of "fat shaming", they still work within a troubling binary. In order for something to be "good", the opposite must be "bad". It leaves us fighting in a competition that none of us are ever able to win.

Insults like "real men love curves" and "bones are for dogs" not only reinforce the idea that the only good thing about being fat is that men might like it, but it also denigrates one group in order to uplift another.

Skinny girls aren’t the enemy. The real enemies are the parts of the media that have circled cellulite for years; the catwalk shows that sideline models who aren't under size eight; the video producers who continue to pack scenes with cellulite free, skinny girls (albeit ones with slightly larger bums now).

Replacing one ideal with another isn't body positivity at all. True freedom will only come once we start to genuinely celebrate women of all shapes and sizes, without resorting to playground style taunts of "if you don't look like this, then men won't fancy you."