I recently gave this workshop where I opened with Meghan Trainor’s ubiquitous song: “It’s all about the Bass”. Now, on the surface this is a song that seems to be about feminism, self-esteem and breaking the hegemony of the skinny versus voluptuous argument. However, and simply put, this is my claim: Her song masks a much deeper issue: That of the overall greco-roman infatuation with the objectification of women.
How so? First, watch the video to see what I am saying. Note: This is NOT an attack on Meghan at all, it’s the unpacking of how sinister patriarchy can be when left unchecked, that it can hide in the very ways we are taught to even speak, the ways we see the world and each other. She is not at fault, but we have to be vigilant about this.
Trainor’s lyrics set up a false-dichotomy. Although, yes, in the West there has been a privileging of the woman to be quite skinny (which has sent some women into a frenzy to lose wait, take self-esteem workshops, bulimia, anorexia and other addictions), the issue itself emerges that Meghan’s issues are still present in this song. Mainly, due to the fact that she attacks the skinnier female image as being false (‘photoshopped’) and then she validates her position by using her mother’s words of affirmation. However, even these words are dripping with patriarchy and the heteronormative objectification of the woman.
This is quite serious, in that, if there is ever to be freedom from patriarchy, and women are liberated from the gaze of the man, it will come when women stop defining themselves as man’s object of desire. Yes, to be desired is great, it makes you feel good, and it validates who you are and so on. But, like any of us, we should never enter any relationship that is sustained around the notion of the other finding their value in us. Meaning, we shouldn’t depend on something outside of us to define our self-worth no matter how good it feels. This is the whole point of the Emma Watson campaign #heforshe, its meant to illicit a new way to be human, a new form of discourse where men and women fight for gender equality. We don’t need more music that steeps us all deeper in the mire of historical patriarchy.
The irony is here, if you head over to Meghan Trainor’s twitter feed, you will clearly notice her picture has been photoshopped. This is a huge problem, because she clearly does not believe her own lyrics, which again, are themselves highly problematic.The image is itself a testament to the pervasive issue of self-image, or the self-as-a-image, where we set up in our minds what we think it means to be acceptable and pleasing to our peers and those we want to impress and then devour that image at the cost of our own individuality. Ironically, the video is meant to be about the individual, but is still set under the gaze of being the object to make a man happy. (Follow the lyrics link below to find out more)
Men need to rise up and fight for a world where women are treated equal, not as objects, or pieces of meat or are there for entertainment, but rather are valued as fellow humans. Gone are the days of boring heteronormativity. Where men are somehow meant to choose a wife, or women are meant to choose husbands, or that we somehow can’t be alone and be happy. We need new songs that challenge centuries of how we have come to think. We need to embrace change. We need to fight for it. Now is the time for believing, fighting, and defending a world where equality supercedes the objectification of women. Where we all can embrace each other on the battlefield of equality and begin tackling together even bigger issues, like world poverty, economic disparity, Ebola, terrorism and the like.
Better than I could ever say, are the words of well-know feminist, Bell Hooks on the issue: “
Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”