Feminism

Meghan Trainor Gets It Wrong

What’s wrong with a video that shows images of a woman in 50s garb cooking and cleaning while looking for a man? That seems to be the question that everyone is asking about Meghan Trainor’s video “Dear Future Husband,” and the shit is flying in all directions in the quest for an answer. After the amazing reception that “All About That Bass” got for being a body positive anthem, people are decrying Trainor for promoting tired stereotypes of relationships and gender roles.

Trainor doesn’t think anything she said is sexist. “Everyone’s going to say something,” the singer told ET at the Kids’ Choice Awards Saturday. “I don’t think it’s sexist. I just wrote a song for my particular future husband out there, wherever he is. I’m just preparing him. Lettin’ him know what’s up.”

Sure, Trainor is allowed to set whatever rules or preferences she wants for her future husband, but as someone who’s in the spotlight, especially among young girls, it’s not out of line for people to question the messages she’s sending when she lays out what she wants in a relationship. And there are some extremely troubling things in this song, most of them worse than her floor scrubbing and jokes about baking.

There are some good things in this song. Trainor says she’ll be working 9-5, not at home baking, and she happily welcomes a guy with a pizza rather than someone who tries to give her a tiny meal she’s not interested in. But the way that she sets up the relationship is worrying in that she treats herself like a prize that her man needs to win by performing the right set of actions.

She tells him she expects flowers regularly, that he needs to admit that she’s always right (even if she’s not right…that doesn’t sound healthy), and relies on the tired trope of the “crazy woman” to say that he has to “put up” with her no matter what. She says “if you’ll treat me right, I’ll be the perfect wife, buying groceries, buy-buying what you need,” as if the role of a woman is shopping. The worst line in my mind was “I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed/open up some doors for me and you might get some…kisses.” No one should have to earn sex acts, and no one should feel that the only way they’ll “give out” sex is if someone else does the right combination of things. It seems to me that if someone wants to sing about sexing up their partner, they should sing about doing it because they want to.

Beyond the weird relationship dynamics the song seems to promote, the video also shows Trainor rejecting a man for not being strong enough. There’s already enough people who think that feminism and female empowerment come at the expense of men, or that women just want alpha males. We really don’t need any more images to add fuel to that fire.

I personally am completely sick of the idea that a man has to earn a woman, and most particularly a woman’s body. This reeks of nice guy logic that says the right number of flowers and presents is the key to opening up a lady’s womanparts for sex, and yet also seems to insult men by implying that only the alpha menfolks are good enough. Relationships should probably be about mutual enjoyment of each other’s company, respect, and actually feeling that your life is improved by the other person. This song just seems to reiterate that relationships are a transactional interaction, in which one party buys and the other sells.

The problem to me doesn’t seem to be that Trainor cooks and cleans in the video. It’s everything else. Watch and decide for yourself.

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Olivia

Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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6 Comments

  1. No one should have to earn sex acts, and no one should feel that the only way they’ll “give out” sex is if someone else does the right combination of things.

    What? Are you saying that women aren’t sex vending machines that you can hack by being a Nice Guy™?

    Next you will be telling me that if a guy is speaking he might not actually be lying, I mean what kind of Bizarro world are you living in?

    But seriously, as awful as this all is (and it is awful) it could be much, much worse. Like a song by a woman about girls that is focused solely on men. Yuck.

  2. This can’t be too surprising. As much as “All About that Bass” is superficially about positive body image, scratch the surface even a little and it’s really about how guys will still bang women who aren’t super thin.

    1. Oddly, ‘pensive’ is in my mind the total opposite of ‘crazy’, if you’ll pardon my use of that word. To me, ‘crazy’ always meant you don’t think.

      I will say, it’s hard to be body-positive without giving a nod to the objectification. You have to say “Whether or not men like you is not the most important thing, and some men will anyway, and some men prefer women who look like you.” Hard to do that as a catchy tune.

      I do find the ironic use of 50s nostalgia odd, just given that Meghan Trainor was born in 1993, and…any clue about the demographics of her fandom? I imagine the bulk of her fans were born in the early 2000s, no? They literally have no frame of reference. They even missed the 50s nostalgia of the 70s and 80s.

  3. Not sure what to make of that song, was some of it meant to be a parody? Seems the intent has got lost because of mixed messages.
    What I found a little more disturbing was her other song “all about the bass”.

  4. I just find that the song does not reach me. This song plays to a stereotype, although who even falls into this stereotype? I am making a guess but I am certain none of my friends picked their mates after their feats of strength is proven by winning carny games. I guess many popular songs just don’t seem to reach me these days. What I want from a partner is asked/negotiated/compromised/and often times just let go. I think that is normal though. Is there a song like that?

    Something like, ‘We try to respect each other, listen to one another, find a loving path somewhere in the middle.’ . . . blah, blah, blah. And in the video, the people wear practical shoes and only have 10+ year old vehicles in the driveway and probably don’t just pull their shirts up in the backyard and don’t make demands about sex for holding doors or some such nonsense (because that is dumb.) I know, no top ten hit there.

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