The Trouble With Trainor

You’re strutting down the street, feeling confident and humming along to your music. You press shuffle and Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” comes on. You sing along without thinking about it because the words are burned into your memory from its constant repetition on the radio. You swear they play the same 10 songs every day. All of a sudden you stop and closely listen to the lyrics. Did you hear that right? “I’ll be the perfect wife, buying groceries”? “You gotta know how to treat me like a lady /Even when I’m acting crazy / Tell me everything’s alright.”? Suddenly you feel a wave of guilt rush over you as your feminist intuition kicks in. What century is this again? Maybe there is a double meaning to this. Is Trainor possibly criticizing these gender roles? You look up her music video for more answers but sadly what you come across is even more frightening. There are scenes of Trainor scrubbing the floor and cooking pies, dressed as what appears to be a 50s housewife. She disapprovingly shakes her head when one of her suitors fails a test of strength. When listening to Meghan Trainor’s song “Dear Future Husband”, the keyword essay titled Gender immediately came to mind. I also immediately connected Trainor’s song and video to our female characters who either reinforce or reject the gender roles that Trainor embraces.

In the essay Gender, it discusses how ideas of femininity are linked with stories of romance and domesticity. We can see a clear emphasis on domesticity in Trainor’s song and video as she cleans and cooks and is therefore the “perfect wife”. In Little Women, Meg desires to be in this role ”Like most other young matrons, Meg began her married life with the determination to be a model housekeeper. John should find home a paradise, he should always see a smiling face, should fare sumptuously every day, and never know the loss of a button” but then the passage goes on to say that Meg was “too tired to even smile”. The reader gets the idea that this is not as pleasant as she had imagined it to be. The essay then goes on to discuss how traits are associated with gender. Girls were thought of to be “passive, emotional”. In Trainor’s song and video we see her waiting for the men to impress her and sitting aside as the men display their adventurous traits and strength. In the lyric “You gotta know how to treat me like a lady /Even when I’m acting crazy”, the stereotype of a woman being emotional and possibly unstable is yet again pushed forward. Gender also discusses how feminist movements tried to “re-imagine bodies” and “disentangle historical conflations of gendered bodies and language”. This is where we can examine our character of Jo as a rejection of these social norms. Jo likes to run, climb trees and participate in “boyish activities” but is still pushed into these roles. “You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn’t matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady.” Trainor’s song seems to retreat to these old views and roles that Little Women, written in the 19th century, also encourages.

You think about all the little girls who must be singing this with their friends, dancing around in their bedrooms, unaware of the underlying message that Trainor is portraying. The question remains, is it just a silly pop song or a tool which could play into the socialization of young girls and boys in possibly harmful ways? Is it really music’s responsibility to put forward a positive message? What do you think?

7 thoughts on “The Trouble With Trainor”

  1. Caroline, this is a really interesting question. I thought about this quite a bit when the song came out- the song is so catchy, and I actually love the kitsch aesthetic of the video, but I agree that the message is problematic. Irony is hard to convey in a Top 40 song. We can give Trainor (and her team of writers, producers, directors, choreographers, costume and set designers…) the benefit of the doubt and assume that the song was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. Even so, children (and adults!) singing along to the radio might not pick up on the tone, and will absorb the lyrics as yet another harmful media influence.

  2. I found this article really interesting because I never really thought deeper as to what these lyrics meant. I have to say I agree with you in that Meghan Trainor is setting unrealistic expectations for children, both boys and girls. Even Meg March, a wife in a book written in the 1800’s is not what Trainor describes as the “perfect wife”, which speaks large measures in itself! This also reminds me of another song of hers called “All About that Bass”, which some people also found offensive because although it encourages curvy women to love themselves, some may also argue it insults other body types in doing so, making it appear that men only like a certain sized woman.

  3. I have heard different debates on Meghan Trainor’s music and the message she portrays through her music. I really like how you related the song, Little Women and the gender essay together, your thoughts flowed together really well and I enjoyed reading what you had to say. What I think about your last question is that it can be music’s responsibility to put out positive messages, and they need to look at who their target audience is. Meghan Trainor’s audience is generally geared toward young, female audience. Girls this age take in things they hear, and believe them to be true. I think we all do this as people, but as you get older I think you seem to understand the difference between songs that are just words or them actually having meaning.

  4. I wonder if Meghan Trainor realizes the amount her music has set women backwards, this being just one song from a string of controversies she’s stirred up that have become talking points among feminists. I would have to say given the scale of her influence and the fact that many young girls are exposed to her work nonstop on the radio and in teen magazines does make me think it could be harmful. Watching the video, though, reminded me very much of a work from another very popular artist who herself is a proud feminist and looked up to on a global scale. I’m talking about Beyonce’s song and video for “Why Don’t You Love Me?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QczgvUDskk0 ). The parallels are interesting to explore and though Beyonce’s seems to be a bit more of a critique of the household gender stereotypes, it is in effect also reinforcing them and playing into them in a way. Something to look into.

  5. While I personally like this song, and know that listening to it won’t change my future aspirations in the slightest, I agree that this could be damaging to girls. I’ve been lucky to have grown up free of influences like Megan Trainor, and allowed to develop as my own. However, I think that young girls who are listening are getting the wrong ideas about marriage and their future. Girls a) shouldn’t be concerned with marriage at such a young age and b) should be looking for a partner who treats them with respect.

  6. After Meghan Trainor’s first big hit “All About That Bass” I had assumed her lyrics would always portray strong independent women. After reading your article I looked up the lyrics to “Dear Future Husband.” I was shocked at how she was portraying women in this song. Interesting how most artist eventually give into gender norms and ideas of males and females roles in relationships.

  7. I found this article to be very interesting and I think it really touches on feminism. I actually was slightly disturbed from reading this because I too sing the song all the time and I never really realized what I was promoting. Her song is wrong because we are in a time when women are finally getting recognition for their strengths, especially in the work place. Women are going on to be engineers, astronauts, scientists, etc. Another thing to consider is that being said women are going on to do “traditional” jobs such as teachers just as well. We live in a time when women are getting their power and respect they deserve and I think it is disheartening to know that a famous singer is hurting that.

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