Anaconda vs All About that Bass: the Skinny-Fat Bitch Scale

Nicki Minaj holds weights, winking seductively, in Anaconda.

Two big songs have come out recently which contain the phrase “skinny bitches”, and I thought it was enough to warrant a blog post.  As if you haven’t guessed, those songs, and their accompanying music videos, are Anaconda (NSFW) by Nicki Minaj and All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor.

What’s really interesting is the different way in which either song uses the phrase, and what the reaction to those uses has been.  Let’s take a look at the relevant sets of lyrics:

 

Anaconda

Fuck those skinny bitches /
Fuck those skinny bitches in the club /
I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club, fuck you if you skinny bitches.

 

All About That Bass

I’m bringing booty back /
Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that /
No I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat /
But I’m here to tell you /
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.

 

Since its meteoric rise on the music scene, All About That Bass has received some backlash for skinny shaming.  For the record, I don’t really think the song is trying to be insulting to skinny women, even if it does use the phrase “skinny bitches”.  Overall the lyrics emphasise the importance of loving yourself and your body no matter what it may look like (despite some mixed messages – come on Meghan Trainor, do you really think all skinny people are Barbie dolls?), and the video features a range of different body sizes.  Sure, it’s not the most eloquent ode to self-acceptance, but I think the core message is fairly clear.

However, the controversial line in question does sting a little of Trainor wanting to have her cake and eat it too, so I can see why it got people upset. I’m not fully convinced that you can call a group of people skinny bitches (and everything that the term implies) for not having a bangin’ booty and then turn around and say hey, only kidding, we’re all beautiful!  But despite some conflicting evidence, I’m happy to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she did mean to use the phrase ironically to highlight how even people with more stereotypically attractive body types can be (and often are) unhappy with how they look, given that this reading is most consistent with the rest of the song.  Any offence caused is probably down to clumsiness rather than malice.

As for Anaconda, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.  This topic is confusing as hell to try and pull apart in my own mind, let alone the minds of others, so I’ll just start by listing series of statements that I believe to be true:

  • Anaconda is a fun, tongue-in-cheek kind of song.
  • Nicki Minaj is an impressive role model.
  • Nicki Minaj is at liberty to present herself in any way she chooses.
  • Anaconda is an empowering kind of song.
  • Anaconda is also kind of stupid and objectifying.
  • But it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek…

You can see just how many conflicting feelings a song (and a music video) can stir up.  There’s a fair amount which is problematic about Anaconda – for starters the narrator gets with guys because they give her drugs – but I feel like most of it can be forgiven because the song is so darn sassy and cheeky (I had to make at least one bad pun), and it clearly isn’t meant to be taken seriously.  Yes, even all that booty shaking.

For me, the most interesting part of Anaconda is the bridge, the lyrics of which I picked out above.  Nicki goes into a sort of maniacal mini-rant about skinny bitches, whom she seems to hate.  However, as with the rest of the song, this somehow doesn’t seem that offensive, and I think it is largely to do with how wacky the whole endeavour is overall.  When Nicki sang “fuck those skinny bitches”, nobody seemed to get as offended as they did at Meghan’s similar, but comparatively much gentler, comments in her own song.

And here’s my theory: I think “skinny bitch” is a term very few people will self-identify with in Anaconda, even though those very same people might identify with and take offense at the very same term in All About That Bass.  Why?  Because All About That Bass is a feel-good, upbeat song which is also fairly honest and confessional, in which the phrase “skinny bitches” was arguably a poor word choice – people weren’t expecting to be insulted while they were being consoled.  Anaconda, on the other hand, is a kooky romp that I expect (well, have you seen that video?) finds pleasure in trying to shock its audience.  Plus – it’s Nicki Minaj.  Nobody expects to be consoled by Nicki Minaj.

Let me put it this way: Anaconda is to fat bitches as Single Ladies is to, well, single ladies.  I haven’t yet heard Anaconda being played in a club, but I’ll bet that it becomes one of those songs that gets every woman up on their feet, no matter where you may fall on the skinny-fat bitch scale.  Virtually every single female in the club (and most of the males) will put their hands up when Beyoncé’s Single Ladies starts playing, regardless of whether they’re single, happily married, or in a long term relationship with their cat.  When Single Ladies is on, we are all single ladies, at least for the duration of that song.  And when Anaconda comes on, I suspect, none of us are skinny bitches.

But all that aside, it’s kind of remarkable how similar the two songs sound on the topic of men’s desires when it comes to female body types, and what it takes to be a real woman what the menfolk want:

 

Anaconda

By the way, what he say? /
He can tell I ain’t missing no meals /

He keep telling me it’s real, that he love my sex appeal /
Because he don’t like ’em bony, he want something he can grab.

 

All About That Bass

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase /
And 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.

 

This idea, that you must be a certain way physically for men to find you attractive, is still pretty pervasive.  And to be clear, these songs are talking about the right kind of fat – “just fat enough” on the skinny-fat bitch scale – so that ideal is narrow in the extreme.  Let’s not forget, the main refrain of Anaconda is Sir Mixalot’s immortal line “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun” – or literally, “unless you got dat ass, I don’t wish to procreate with you”.

So, while neither of these songs are meant to cause mass offence, and I think both should be taken light-heartedly, they do still highlight a lot of the trouble that continues to exist for women (or men, or anyone really) seeking self-acceptance.  I agree with Meghan Trainor: we should be able to love ourselves for who we are.  But I don’t think it should be called self-acceptance if you have to drag others down to get yourself there, or it it’s built upon what others think of you.  Will we ever reach a day where we can accept ourselves as beautiful without having to insult others in the process or depend solely on our perceived attractiveness to the opposite gender?  I hope so.  Until then, we will all have our place on the skinny-fat bitch scale.

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