Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” took the summer on by storm (and will probably be one of this year’s most popular Halloween costumes, as well) — but although many held it up as an example of a body positive anthem, it was just as frequently pointed to as problematic. If you fell into the latter camp, you’ll dig this: Canadian singer/songwriter Natty Valencia’s cover of “All About That Bass,” titled “Not About Your Waist,” both nods to the intentions behind the original while addressing some of its more troubling elements. The result opens up the song’s goals, encouraging acceptance of all body types and shapes, as well as contributes to the ongoing conversation about body positivity and impossible beauty standards.
20-year-old Valencia opens her video with a statement about why she rewrote the lyrics in the first place: “I think that the intent behind the song was really noble; there is a lot of fat shaming that goes on,” she says. “But what’s been missed is that it’s body shaming in general — including skinny shaming.” Ayyyyy-men to that: Like many, I really do appreciate the sentiment behind "All About That Bass"; fat shaming is no good. At the same time, though, all kinds of body shaming are no good, which is exactly Valencia is getting at. The trouble with Trainor’s tune, critics have pointed out, is that it flip-flops, ultimately underlining its main point: In some verses, it preaches accepting your body and embracing self-worth; in others, however, it directly counters these ideals by putting down other women and advocating looking to men for approval. Here's the original video:
The lyrics that are most frequently held up as problematic are these:
“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 chaseAnd all the right junk in all the right places”
“Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size She says, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’"
“I'm bringing booty back Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches thatNo I'm just playing.”
All three sets of lines are pretty heavy on the skinny shaming: They imply not only that “real women have curves,” but also that if you don’t have curves, you’re not a real woman. And then there’s that bit about “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night” — which, besides narrowing men’s vast and varied preferences down to one type (also not doing anyone any favors), suggests, as Kelsey McKinney wrote at Vox, “that the only reason to love your body is because it might be satisfying to a man.”
These are the issues that Valencia addresses in her cover. Her point of view is that no one should have to deal with negativity being thrown at them because of their size, no matter what that size is. On a more personal level, Valencia notes that yes, she’s pretty petite — but, “Just because I don’t have these beautiful curves doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a human being. Some women are slender; some are tall, athletic, petite, bodacious; some have big eyes, or long legs… these are the physical traits of real women that we should be celebrating and not shaming in song.” Body positivity is about celebrating all bodies of all sizes and all shapes. Accordingly, her version of the “size two” line plays:
"Yeah, it's pretty clear, I am a size two But I can shake it, shake it And girl, YOU CAN TOO Let's make some room room for kindness in this place Cause real beauty is something you cannot replace"
Mama’s words of wisdom become:
“Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size She says, ‘Love the skin that you're in, girl you can shine so bright’"
And the “skinny bitch” line turns it from a backhanded compliment into an all-inclusive call to action:
“I'm bringing beauty back Come on where all my REAL ladies at? Whether you're curvy, skinny, white or black I'm here to tell yaEvery inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”
Is it perfect? No, but it’s still a powerful statement and a step in the right direction. The definition of a “real woman” isn’t limited to just one quality, whether it’s size or anything else. A “real woman” is absolutely anyone who identifies as a woman — and it’s really, really not about your waist.
Check out Valencia’s video below — the song kicks in at about the 1:30 mark: