It's this time of year that we start seeing an influx of advertisements for workout and diet plans, pre-portioned meals delivered right to your door, at-home equipment for X-number of "easy payments" of however much, and gym memberships encouraging new members to join for either a single penny or the "special" price of $20.21.
New Year, New You!
It seems inescapable for the last days of the fleeting year and most of January. There's this pressure to get fit, get in shape, shape up, etc. I'm all for making lifestyle changes or taking steps towards improving your health, but there seems to be an almost unhealthy pressure this time of year, more so than trying to obtain that coveted "summer bod."
It's this time of year that I find myself thinking about a particular song I'm sure most of us are familiar with: "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor.
If you've rid yourself of the earworm or have avoided it altogether, you can give it a listen below.
Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that while I wouldn't call myself a fan of her music, I have nothing against Meghan Trainor as a person.
However, I do take issue with this particular song. Is it catchy? Sure.
But I can't help but feel "All About That Bass" contradicted its central message and defeated its own purpose, and it would be years before I finally had the body-positive anthem I needed when I was in high school: Sheppard's "Kiss My Fat Ass."
Similar to last year's "Gleevance" post regarding my opinion of why Glee's Quinn Fabray should not have survived her texting-and-driving accident, I wanted to take the opportunity to get this unpopular opinion off my chest.
Why I'm (Not) All About That Bass
Like I mentioned above, something about "All About That Bass" didn't sit quite right with me when it came out back in 2014. That's in part because of my experience with the song itself and with growing up in general.
2014 was the tail-end of my high school career. "All About That Bass" dropped a couple days after graduation.
I've always been overweight. Although it didn't bother me too much, save for my frustrations when it came to shopping excursions and typically having to assemble Halloween costumes from bits and pieces scored at thrift shops rather than being able to just buy one ready-made in a plastic bag like everyone else in my class.
Prom wasn't exactly an easy ordeal. I lucked out in my junior year and found the perfect dress within five minutes of entering a plus-sized-centric store. Senior year was a weeks-long scouting effort to find The Dress, somewhat related to the frankly atrocious neon fabric and oversized rhinestones that were everywhere that year and gave me Grandma goes to Las Vegas vibes, but also because a handful of styles I liked in magazines or online weren't anywhere close to my size. Those that were sized up for larger girls didn't fit the same way and felt disproportionate. The best explanation I can provide for this feeling is scaling an image up in MS Paint and seeing it get pixilated and blurry because the original was so much smaller to begin with.
While there are of course some lifestyle contributions to my size, there's also a medical factor I didn't know about until I was twenty-four, when I started learning more about and was later diagnosed with a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is often linked to the person's weight, mainly having difficulty losing weight.
Of course, I didn't know this as a teen (which is one of the reason I've become so vocal about it since my diagnosis). Had I been aware of what PCOS was and my having it, adolescence and puberty might have been a more tolerable situation.
But I didn't. And I got caught up in the pressure of body image.
I went through the Special K cereal and shake diet phase. While I attributed it mostly to not having enough time in the morning, I'd often skip breakfast. There were many days in high school I'd bring lunch from home and not actually eat it; sometimes I wouldn't even enter the cafeteria and duck into the bathroom for those twenty minutes. I dreaded Picture Day. I'd usually be one of the last ones out of the locker room ahead of PE because I wouldn't want anyone to see me change into my gym clothes (even though there were curtained-off areas). And yes, I was picked last for team sports 99% of the time.
Surprisingly, my weight didn't make me too much of a target for bullying (as far as I know). There was teasing, especially in middle school, but it did eventually die down.
My self-consciousness, however, persisted.
Fast-forward to June 2014 when "All About That Bass" was released as a single. It went viral, especially in my direction.
Plenty of people were sending me links to the music video on YouTube or tagging me in the comments when it was making the rounds on Facebook.
It was never "You like this band or this singer, so you might like this song because they're similar."
"Have you heard this?" always felt more like "You wear a size 20-something don't you? You'll LOVE this song! or Here's a song about being okay with being big. You'll like it because you're big."
I wasn't offended by it, per se, as I'm sure it was meant with the best of intentions. But having a bunch of people send me the same YouTube link to the point I thought their accounts had been hacked, when they hadn't sent me anything more than a standard Happy Birthday on my wall made me a little wary.
When I did take a chance and click on the attachment, let's just say I was more than a little uneasy.
Representation is essential, which why I'm so glad to see people fighting for and promoting it in all areas, not just body types.
And it's that representation that drew me to Hairspray when it came out.
Let's be honest. There is something to be said for 2000s Zac Efron and his portrayal of Link Larkin was actually the thing that had me crushing on him initially because while High School Musical's Troy Bolton chose the pretty brainiac in the end, Link Larkin left the "pretty girl" Amber for Tracy Turnblad, a girl who looked like me. The "fat one" was the lead. The cool one. It was the first time I really remember seeing myself on screen in that light.
It's this kind of thinking that had me underwhelmed with Pitch Perfect. I didn't have much interest in it after watching the trailers and didn't see it until it was the movie of choice for the bus ride on a field trip to see Wicked.
And for some reason unbeknownst to me, almost everyone was surprised I hadn't seen the flick.
I immediately got Mean Girls feelings from it, but the introduction of a character calling herself "Fat Amy" really got under my skin, especially when I could feel a few eyes on me.
Granted, I fully support owning your body image, but Fat Amy's explanation of why she calls herself that felt more to me like accepting what others thought of her as a defense mechanism rather than embracing the person she really was. Beyond that, she was mainly relegated to being a side character and source of comic relief—the role that the "token fat one" characters are usually assigned to.
It just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Body Positivity VS Body Inclusivity
Based on everything above, you'd think I would have loved having a song like "All About That Bass" hit the mainstream airwaves.
I'll be the first to admit that although the first couple bars were annoying and repetitive, once the first verse got off the ground, I was curious to see where it would go and hoping it wouldn't disappoint.
It didn't take long for my doubt to settle in.
Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it, like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
While the song does talk about the unrealistic expectations induced by photoshopping in magazines and how you shouldn't "worry about your size," there is an emphasis on how boys prefer larger or curvier girls because, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
The song seemingly out to combat fat-shaming did so by skinny-shaming. Literally calling them "Skinny bitches" in a song meant to promote body positivity.
Not to mention the implication that a girl's happiness is derived from what other people think of them. Whether or not a someone thinks she's pretty or sexy or worth chasing being strictly related to her body type or physical appearance and not her personality, her mind, or her interests.
Rather than self-acceptance and self-love, it places an importance on feeling accepted by others.
Just as is the case with my size being linked to PCOS, there are plenty of medical conditions that could be present someone wearing a smaller dress size. Are they less attractive because they're not wearing a double-digit?
The truth is, I really liked the lyric, "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top." It resonated with me. But it's tacked onto a lyric trying to laugh off the "skinny bitches" comment the way someone picking on me in elementary school would say, "Wait, I'm just kidding!" in their efforts to talk me out of telling a teacher when they realized I was hurt by their insults. Not because they regretted it or were apologizing sincerely, but because they didn't want to get in trouble for it.
Overall, my greatest issue with "All About That Bass" was that although body-positive in some capacity and a small step in the right direction, it wasn't body-inclusive. It's a mess of mixed signals set to a catchy, danceable, doo-wop-esque rhythm.
Although Trainor did respond to this kind of criticism by saying, "I didn't work this hard to hate on skinny people, I wrote the song to help my body confidence—and to help others," there are ways to celebrate one body type without putting down another.
That song, however, wouldn't make its debut until 2019.
Kiss My Fat Ass
While "All About That Bass" was Trainor's debut single, Sheppard had already released two albums before "Kiss My Fat Ass" and I had been following the Aussie band for a couple of years.
The song was inspired by Amy's unintended body positivity movement on Instagram, sparked after she shared an poolside photo captioned, "A little dimple action for you all to feast your eyes on because we aren’t all barbie dolls. Lighting is a huge factor when it comes to having perfect Instagram photos so hope this imperfect photo inspires some of you to embrace your womanly bodies!"
Since then, Amy began posting unfiltered photos with the hashtag #KissMyFatAss, highlighting the kind of effect things like lighting, posing, angles, and editing can have on social media, highlighting the illusion of the "perfect image."
In 2019, the band released "Kiss My Fat Ass," inspired by Amy's movement of the same name.
As soon as I saw this, I started tearing up. At first glance, it's reminiscent of a typical Victoria's Secret ad—except it featured a broader range of not just body sizes, but types.
One woman in the video is pregnant. There are visible tattoos. You'll notice Paralympic medalist Monique Murphy dancing alongside the rest of the crew.
This was first time a body-positive song really felt body-positive to me. More importantly, it's body-inclusive.
And the emphasis of the song is not on the opinions of others or your sense of beauty being dependent on what others find attractive, but rather self-love. Embracing what makes you, you, rather than trying to fit whatever's on TV or "perfection." Calling attention to the influence of social media filters and how that can skew your perception of yourself, and standing up to it. It's about being comfortable in your skin rather than forcing yourself into some mold because, "We're all made in a peculiar way."
Taking those negative comments inundating social media, kicking them to the curb, and telling them to kiss your fat ass.
And that is truly beautiful.