Can a female body part be gentrified?

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble

That’s how new-to-the-scene Meagan Trainor’s hit song starts. I’ll admit that I was ignorant at first and decided I liked the song without much further contemplation of the gender issues inherent in this song and without any consideration of the racial implications of this song. I, a used-to-be-size-4/6-now-size-10/12, can appreciate a song that makes me feel good about my size. These days I feel like I just think about a cupcake and I gain a pound. While I try to be real and know that body image ideals for women are ridiculous and misogynistic, I also go through bouts of insecurity about my new curves.

Then I saw this article and I thought about how much I was ignoring. It’s not cool for us, as white women, to act like we’re pioneering the comeback of the booty, when in many races, it never went out of style. Also lost in this song and the subsequent media responses is the acknowledgement that most female beauty standards, as horrible and unrealistic as they are, have a foundation in white women’s physical traits. The fact that a white girl can make millions acting like this was all her idea and a white woman (me) doesn’t even consider the racism inherent in this song is evidence of our white privilege and internalization of white supremacy.

Still. I was disappointed that a guy would write an article about women’s bodies and NOT acknowledge that regardless of race, women get horrible messages multiple times per day about what their bodies should look like and how they should feel about themselves if they can’t measure up. Do I think women of color are more adversely impact by these ideals than white women? Yes I do. But for a man to freely comment on women’s bodies and not acknowledge that women have the sh*t end of the stick in terms of body image, and well all things gender-related, is arrogant. Nor is there any acknowledgement that the big booty beauty (say that 3x fast!) ideal is still coming from a straight, male gaze and one that ultimately pins women against each other. Nor is there any stated awareness in this article of the ways in which men hold these ideals and their opposites, words like fat and ugly, over women to belittle them, devalue them and control them. Or that Meagan won’t describe herself as a feminist and most of her lyrics are anti-woman – but that’s for another post. That none of this is acknowledged is, to me, this is evidence of another type of privilege, male privilege.

Gentrification, while perhaps a cool way to describe this racist trend, is also concerning to me. For one thing, gentrification typically refers to the appropriation of white people of a neighborhood that is traditionally of-color. I mean, seriously do I even need to explain why insinuating that a part of a woman’s body can be appropriated like an inanimate thing is not okay? Also, to me, gentrification implies there’s a choice. Like this column about white gay men appropriating black women’s culture totally makes sense to me. Not that the author used the term gentrification, I’m still weary of using that to describe a human being in anyway (perhaps appropriation isn’t the best term either, though?) but I bring this article up because it speaks to the element of choice. White, gay men don’t just suddenly start talking like black women, they have a choice in the matter. And while I can certainly understand why gay white men might initially think this is heterosexist, if they step back and consider their level of oppression vs the level of oppression women of color endure, they should understand why their behavior is problematic.

I didn’t choose to have my metabolism go down the crapper about 7 years ago and for my weight to be an issue from there on out. I don’t want for my weight to impact my self-esteem and my sex life. I don’t want to be considered an “ugly” woman by society’s standards. But like my ever-expanding hips and thighs, I don’t have a choice. This is how I am now and this is how society sees the new me.

I really think it’s important that we all acknowledge our privileges, most of us at least have some, whether it be white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, able privilege. I regret that I initially didn’t think much about how racist this song is. I see this as a reminder to hold myself accountable to my white privilege. Furthermore, I must be aware that as a white woman, there are racial implications of me airing some beef to a person of color, even a straight man of color. I also think it’s important for men of all races to acknowledge their privilege and consider how their words may come off.

DSC05705

Me, from the back, on our recent road trip

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2 Responses to Can a female body part be gentrified?

  1. Interesting take on this topic!

    I like the Meghan Trainor song and I’m sure I’ll keep listening to it, because it’s fun. She’s young and I truly think she means the song to encourage girls to love their bodies. Though, I understand how one can take exception to the lyrics.

    I do, however, take issue with the Vogue and NYT articles that touted the new popularity of the booty. The NYT has been particularly tone deaf when it comes to race lately, it’s like one thing after another. Vogue is notorious for their lack of cover model diversity.Two of the women on (Kim & Iggy) are rumored to have had plastic surgery to come by their bottoms!

    • izzy82 says:

      Yeah I agree! I think the song is just meant to be fun and there’s a lot to be said for a song that encourages plus-size women and girls to feel good about their bodies. I thought the post by the guy I referenced was good in many ways b/c it points out the racism/white privilege in the song and media response of outlets like NYT & Vogue but it was frustrating that it was lost on him how much crap women have to go through when it comes to physical appearance and that misogyny is what led this song to be written in the first place. Guess that’s male privilege though!!
      Thanks for reading my posts and commenting!! I look forward to reading more of your blog! 🙂

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