Feature image from “All About That Bass.”
The coolest, smartest, fiercest, prettiest, snarkiest, loveliest girl in the whole world lives in upstate New York and she’s 17 years old. Everyone else can probably just pack it up and go home now. My little sister is the best at everything — including all the hobbies I thought I was reasonably good at, but apparently, I am not. Figure skating? Check. Listening to music? Check. Navigating feminist spaces online? Oh gosh, all the checks. And what I find simultaneously awesome and terrifying is that (as far as I’ve seen) all of her friends are more or less the same way.
Its been about a decade since I was a teenager, but I’m relatively sure that nowhere in that span of angst-ridden years did I self-identify as a feminist. That came a couple years later, shortly after Jezebel launched and I became a devoted reader. That feminist-leaning empire has changed a lot in the past few years (and so have I!), but at the time, I‘d never witnessed anything like Jezebel’s progressive and passionate comment threads.
In particular, I was blown away by Jezebel’s articles about body image and fat acceptance. As a recently post-pubescent female-bodied person, I was still reeling from the shift I’d experienced in the way society now viewed me: as a collection of body parts for anyone and everyone to comment on. Watching a group of people discuss how harmful body snarking and beauty standards are was a revelation to me. It felt groundbreaking, eye-opening, world-changing. It was like I’d been squinting against the glare of the patriarchy my entire life, and didn’t realize there was any other way of looking at things until someone handed me a pair of shades.
With that memory fresh in my head, it’s really thrilling to me to see my sister posting fat-positive content like Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” music video on Tumblr:
Yeah, that line about “skinny bitches” isn’t great; I’m also not crazy about the idea that male approval should be an important factor in determining what kinds of bodies are okay. But let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good,” you know? How incredible is it that teenage girls have access to fat-friendly content, a catchy song telling them that they’re perfect as-is? That they can consume this message, think critically about it, and have discussions with their friends about what they’d like to see done differently? That’s huge.
This morning, my sister posted the excellent video from the #LikeAGirl campaign, which aims to boost girls’ confidence levels during and after puberty. It shows people acting out what running “like a girl,” hitting “like a girl,” existing etc. “like a girl” looks like, and how it impacts girls to see and hear their existence used as an insult.
I remember hearing “like a girl” used against me as a kid. It happened a lot then, and I imagine it still happens to kids a lot now. It was and is damaging; the whole system was and is damaging. But watching my little sister grow up online leaves me feeling hopeful.
I know that the patriarchy is too big for one person (or even one generation) to take down all by themselves — that’s why we all have to be involved. Each of us has to fight every single day; it’s a group effort. But. But. If there was one person who could single-handedly dismantle the patriarchy, it would definitely be my little sister. She’s just that cool.
This was beautiful to read, thank you.
Building yourself up by putting down others (whether fat, skinny, male, female or whatever the notion) is never going create the kind of empowerment I think and hope we are looking for.
I don’t think the song was really putting anyone down. It was just a fun song.
oh man, both those videos soothed my soul, i did not know they existed, thank you for embedding them.
and of course, thank you for telling me about your little sister. it gives me hope for my cousins and all those other little kids (at least in america, at least those that have access to the internet) who are growing up right now.
man. i wish the feminist internet had been more of a thing when i was younger. but the internet was only barely a thing then. pretty sure i came out as bi around the same time my family got home internet access, pretty sure those two events were related.
thanks for this.
This is beautiful. And that #likeagirl video may have made it rain on my face a little bit I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING IT’s FINE
I’ll admit that my first viewing of ‘all about that bass’ left me feeling a little bummed that skinny women were being put down in order to build other women up, but it’s stuck in my head anyway so there you go.
This makes me so happy to see. I saw the “Like a Girl” video on my dashboard yesterday and was moved by it. Admittedly, I was quick to hate “All About That Bass” because I had it e-mailed to me by a “friend” trying to shame me for having an eating disorder. But after I rewatched it, I realized that just because it hurt me a little, that doesn’t mean that other people can’t benefit from it.
Ugh, what an obnoxious way to show “friendship.” Wishing you wellness. <3
Your sister sounds like the absolute bomb and well equipped to face the world
Loved this article! you should post your sisters tumblr, sounds really inspiring.
loved this :)
That ‘skinny bitches’ section of the first video earned a frown. Encouraging ANYONE to feel badly about their appearance – even in retaliation to modern societal/media norms – is not okay. Everyone’s beautiful in their own way and everyone likes something different; the focus should be on saying ‘I’m beautiful despite what some may say’, not ‘I’m beautiful and I think you’re ugly, despite what they say’. I’m saying this as someone who is healthy but a little overweight.
That aside, I really enjoyed this article. It’s a beautiful thing, seeing how the internet can effect positive change in the attitude and mindset of young people. It’s wonderful to know that your sister is completely unabashed to speak as a confident young woman, at an age that I know I struggled with.
my little cousin is like this (always posting such awesome feminist stuff on fb and tumblr) and its awesome. i’ve been happy to see her becoming more aware of race issues as well :) she’s 15!
It’s worth reading the whole verse that mentions ‘skinny bitches’:
I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
Admittedly you have to listen closely, but she’s actually calling people on that phrase too.
Where does the author get off saying that all this is to blame on the patriarchy? Certainly a specific body type or beauty ideal has been set forth by the male population, but women are as much to blame on forcing each other into a specific idea of a body style or beauty image.
This is for you.