It’s Not All About That Bass. Skinny Shaming and Fat Shaming Are the Same

Fat Shaming

I think it’s great when women feel empowered. I hope that one day all women can feel empowered. But when I see songs like “All About That Bass” becoming the theme song for a generation my heart just breaks.

Nothing brings me greater joy than to see women, unselfconsciously, enjoying their bodies. So when I walked into my classroom, full of girls dancing to this song, I was instantly touched by their willingness to move and groove. It’s a catchy tune. I don’t hate it. But it’s not all about that bass. Some “real” women are just not that curvy. And girls and women need to know that.

So, I asked my students about the song (hello teaching opportunity!) When I asked them what they liked about the song the answers varied from the general (it has a good message) to the specific (she makes curvy girls feel empowered). When I asked them what was wrong with the song their answers were all the same, “nothing”.

And so I broke it down for them.

1. “It’s all about that bass, ‘bout that bass, no treble”

The song is exclusive rather than inclusive from the very beginning. It’s not ALL about the bass. It is about the bass, but it’s also about the treble. We have a terrible habit in our culture of empowering one group at the expense of another. The message we send to our youth should be that ALL bodies are beautiful.

2. “I can shake it, like I’m supposed to do”

You are not supposed to shake it. You are not supposed to do anything. Of course, shake it if you are so inclined. Run, jump, swim, climb, stretch. Use your body. Absolutely enjoy your body, by doing what feels good.

3. “I got that Boom Boom, that all the boys chase”

Not all the boys chase that “Boom Boom”, and who cares if they do. We need to shift the focus in more ways than one. Our bodies are beautiful for all the glorious things they can do (remember the shaking?) and all the tremendous places they carry us. And yes, they are also beautiful to look at and to touch – but this beauty is not something to be measured by what the boys may or may not be chasing.

4. “Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that”

Ouch. This is a fairly standard example of name calling. Unfortunately no one thinks “skinny bitches” have a reason to be upset because being skinny is a “privilege”. But no one, even “skinny bitches”, likes to be scrutinized and judged and called a name for how they look. Shaming people in any way shape or form is unacceptable.

The way we use language in a culture plays a huge role in how we treat others and what we think is or is not acceptable. If we change our language, perhaps we can create a more loving, nurturing, inclusive environment where all bodies can be happy and free and comfortable and celebrated.

Cath Witten