“Because he don’t like ’em boney, he want something he can grab/Oh my gosh, look at her butt”
The above lines are from the recent hit single ‘Anaconda’ by Nicki Minaj. Personally, I love and approve of celebrating bodies of all shape and size and have been an advocate for body-positivity for years; just not at the expense of other body types.
Fat-shaming has been an epidemic over the past decade, possibly longer. Even walking down the street, we are bombarded by airbrushed and photoshopped billboards depicting oversexualised women, usually digitally altered to appear thinner than in real life. We are constantly fed articles in magazines and the tabloids about the perfect body size and shape, how to lose a ridiculous amount of weight and how we should all be dieting depending on what season or holiday is around the corner. However, we now face a new menace: songs with skinny-shaming lyrics.
Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ may seem fairly innocent (except for the sexualised overtones), but the lyrics are damaging. Her lyrics promote skinny-shaming and feed on the vulnerability of people with BDD and eating disorders. Having been anorexic for two years, I can tell you that these lyrics are triggering and damaging. Anyone with severely low self-esteem and an eating disorder may find these a trigger to harm themselves in some way. The line ‘he can tell I ain’t missin no meals’ is particularly triggering and could initiate some sufferers into a spiral of further self-loathing.
Minaj is not the only one to come out with a song containing derogatory remarks towards thin women. Meghan Trainor’s song ‘All About That Bass’ contains the following lyrics:
“Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size/She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”/You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll”
She also labels thin women as ‘skinny bitches’. Although plus-sized ladies may find both of these songs empowering, they hide a sinister side. They are celebrating one body shape through the hatred of another. We should be celebrating all body shapes and sizes without slandering body shapes different to ours. We should be united in celebrating all bodies and build bridges despite our differences. We should be united in celebrating beauty in all forms, not trying to turn women against each other.
Despite people labelling these lyrics as feminist, I must disagree. In fact, the ‘celebration’ of the curvy girls that Minaj and Trainor sing about is patriarchy in disguise. Both songs focus on loving having a fuller figure because it gains the approval of men, not because these women are happy in their own skins and happy in themselves. The lyrics are a celebration of curvy bodies because with them, one can attain male attention. The message is that women with fuller figures should be happy because men like that and women, after all, are only there to satisfy the male gaze. The lyrics suggest that a woman shouldn’t bother being happy about her figure because she is genuinely proud of the way she looks; it is implied that she can only have true validation of her good looks if men approve of how she looks.
Although there is a seemingly apparent theme of celebrating plus-size and fuller figures, this is not entirely true. Both Minaj and Trainor focus only on a woman having a big bum and celebrating that fact. As many curvy women can testify, having a naturally ‘big booty’ comes with other big body parts, which are not celebrated or embraced in either song. It seems as though both singers believe that the only type of fuller figure that can be praised is one with a big bum, not any other big body parts. Minaj herself cannot be classified as plus-size – her body is toned and thin apart from her behind, which is speculated to have been altered by plastic surgery. This is not the message we should be sending out to anyone – that it is only acceptable to be a bigger lady if you’re only big because of your backside.
On the whole, both of these songs are extremely damaging. They hide behind the façade of trying to be body-positive and, judging by the sales of both songs, this marketing technique is working. However, it is not hard to see how insulting and degrading they are. Skinny women are to be hated for being skinny, although there may be an array of medical conditions behind someone’s weight, or they may just naturally be that figure. Curvy girls can only be praised if they have a big bum and if they therefore gain male attention and approval. The notion of sisterhood is being smashed apart with both songs. We should support and embrace our own figures and each other’s, not despise one another for being a different size.