The Vagenda

Dear Future Husband, Please Don’t Listen To Anything Meghan Trainor Says


A couple of weeks ago, while my sister and I were engaging in our usual cooking/dance session one evening, a previously unheard Meghan Trainor song came on Spotify. We both bopped along to the catchy melody, chopping courgettes in time to the rhythm and waving our knives around precariously. Later that same evening, during our teeth-cleaning-dance-party (we dance around like idiots for 90% of the time that we spend awake in our flat) the song came on again. This time I started listening to the lyrics properly, and I was disturbed by what I heard.

Now, I have no problem with Meghan Trainor, and tearing apart someone’s creative work (especially another woman’s) isn’t something I have a habit of doing. However, this song, despite its wonderfully catchy tune, is just too wrong to exist unquestioned in the world.

Several critics have already picked up on the horrible gender stereotyping that permeates the music video (Julia Shumway of The State Press and Christina Garibaldi of MTV News), but here I’m going to concentrate solely on the lyrics, and their warped portrayal of a relationship.

The first verse is innocuous and sets the song up to be sweet, sincere and romantic:

Dear future husband,
Here’s a few things
You’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life

Being a literary geek, I enjoy the use of the underappreciated epistolary form, which seems to have peaked in the pop music world with Britney Spears’ ‘Dear Diary’. She also addresses her ‘Future husband’ in warm terms, displaying clear signs of commitment. So far, so good.

Then, however, Meghan starts with her demands:

Take me on a date
I deserve it, babe
And don’t forget the flowers every anniversary

It’s reasonable (if old-fashioned) to want to be taken out, and it would be a nice gesture to get flowers on anniversaries (although personally I’d always go for chocolates, unless they invent edible flowers), but it’s the use of the imperative and the patronizing tone that bug me here. This is not how you should address someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, surely?

Fortunately, it turns out Meghan is reasonable enough to offer compensation for these demands:

‘Cause if you’ll treat me right
I’ll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buy-buying what you need

Where to even start? With the fact that she’s treating marriage (as it used to be) as a business transaction: dates and flowers for perfect wifely behaviour? Or the fact that buying groceries is what makes someone a perfect wife in Meghan’s eyes? Have we travelled back in time to the 50s? I’m confused; I thought this was going to be a modern love letter.

The next verse brings the song back momentarily from the brink of disaster, although there is still the underlying assumption that women should have learnt to cook and should be baking apple pies:

You got that 9 to 5
But, baby, so do I
So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies
I never learned to cook
But I can write a hook
Sing along with me
Sing-sing along with me (hey)

Then we get to the chorus:

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s alright

Now, the chorus is tricky. In some ways, it could be argued there’s nothing wrong with it. Husbands should treat their wives well and reassure them, even if said wife is being less than sane at that moment. However, it is the use of ‘lady’, which harks back to old-fashioned views of female decorum, as well as carrying classist connotations, that is problematic. The marriage seems to be slipping rapidly into the realm of inequality, where husbands and wives adhere to specific behavioural norms according to their gender. As for ‘crazy’, it becomes apparent later in the song that this is an early warning sign of psycho girlfriend Meghan just waiting to emerge.

After this, I’m afraid to say, it all goes downhill. The song (as most do) repeats a lot, so I’ll only mention the lines that haven’t already been discussed. Next up, using sex as a weapon:

Dear future husband,
If you wanna get that special lovin’
Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night

Firstly, I want to know what the difference between “special lovin’” (why does it make me think of McLovin from Superbad?) and normal “lovin’” is. Does her poor husband still get the normal kind even if he’s been unpleasant? How much better is the special kind? These are all questions I would ask Meghan given the opportunity. The problem, of course, is that Meghan is using this special lovin’ as a power play: this is a clear threat to withhold sex if her future husband doesn’t behave in a certain way. Of course, we all want our partners to think we’re beautiful, but threatening to refuse “special lovin’” if he doesn’t shower her with compliments every night seems a bit unreasonable. It also draws on the cliché that men are the ones who want sex and that women generously grant it to them.

The next verse is almost too painful to include, but here it is:

After every fight
Just apologize
And maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I’m never wrong
Why disagree?
Why, why disagree?

Oh Meghan, I really can’t see this marriage working out. Arguments are normal in any relationship, but the way to solve them isn’t for one person to concede every time to keep the peace, especially if it’s because the other person is withholding sex. Now I have to admit that I’m the type of person who tends to think they’re always right, but even I realize that adopting the standpoint ‘I’m never wrong’ is just not healthy. Why disagree? Because, Meghan, otherwise you’re going to end up with a relationship full of resentment.

Quick caveat: ‘Why disagree?’ is a wonderful phrase when employed to annoy siblings, and my sister and I have taken to using it to excuse all unreasonable behaviour.

Before its conclusion, the song quickly goes over a list of needy demands. At this point I expect the future husband has already run a mile, but the lyrics continue digging their huge, un-feminist hole just in case he needs further convincing to cancel the wedding:

Dear future husband,
Make time for me
Don’t leave me lonely
And know we’ll never see your family more than mine

I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some… kisses [Ed: I think we all know exactly what the subtext is here]
Don’t have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring
Buy-buy me a ring, (babe)

I don’t feel that much needs to be said here. Creating distance between one’s partner and their family is a sign of a very unhealthy, possessive relationship, using physical affection as a reward for certain behaviours (although we might do it subconsciously) is verging on psychological bullying, and making sexual innuendos whilst telling him not to have a dirty mind is cruel and confusing. Is he going to buy her a ring? I sincerely hope they both get some couples’ counseling first.

As with ‘All About That Bass’, which is close to being brilliantly body positive until it starts talking about skinny bitches, ‘Dear Future Husband’ is stuck-in-your-head catchy. The melody is so addictive that the awful lyrics haven’t actually stopped me from listening to it, although there are some lines where I have to block out the words.

I will, in fact, probably play it at my upcoming wedding, as it is a great song to get people dancing. However, to insure that our marriage lasts for more than a day, I will warn my own future husband well in advance that from a lyrical point of view, I strongly disagree.


18 thoughts on “Dear Future Husband, Please Don’t Listen To Anything Meghan Trainor Says

  1. I agree with you about the song – but why would you continue to listen to it when it’s so damaging? Increasing it’s plays/views/revenue is just validating it…

  2. I hate it when people tell me not to “give it up” too soon when I am dating. And when I protest that sometimes I want sex as much as a man does, they brush right past it, expecting me to not give in to my lust any more than I should give in to a craving for ice cream. Isn’t feminism supposed to be about an end to deprivation for everyone?

  3. The song that really gets on my nerves is rude by magic. Solely for the fact that its about a guy asking a father for his daughters hand in marriage. So 19th century!

  4. Me too, that song makes my skin crawl. I could not believe what I was hearing in the lyrics the first time… I mean, REALLY???

  5. So, first, I always believe that you should treat a woman with respect and appreciate her for the person she is. My wife of 11 years (together for 18) is my best friend, and the strongest person I know, the best mother and the most impressive person I have ever known. I find it hard to believe she would demand these ridiculous, stereotypical things or withhold sex. I thought sex was an expression between two people who loved each other, not a reward for good behavior. Such an insulting insinuation.

  6. I Love this blog, and most of the time I agree with the writers, but honestly I Think you’re taking this song….Waaay out of context.

    You say that she sounds patronising and even comment that she seems a little old fashioned that’s okay it’s you’re opinion. But my personal belief is that the song is meant to be humorous, the song is about Meghan Trainor and her PERSONAL ideal husband it’s a FANTASY. She isn’t telling us that men should act this way or that we should want this type of relationship.
    If you want to pick at this you may as well say Brittany’s song dear diary is damaging because she sounds like a stalker.
    seriously let it go..

  7. I HATE the line ‘You gotta know how to treat me like a lady/Even when I’m acting crazy’ – it evokes the stereotype of women as more emotionally unstable and irrational than men.

    It belongs in the same discourse as when guys talk about exes as ‘crazy bitches’, to avoid having to address the real problems, involving failures on behalf of both parties, which led to the relationship breakdown. It’s so annoying when women help perpetuate this ridiculous trope.

  8. I also hate the ‘Even when I’m acting crazy’ bit. Aside from the fact that this list of demands is clearly unreasonable and reinforces some pretty awful gender stereotypes, I’m so sick of this concept that women are ‘crazy’ if they get upset or emotional or angry about something. If it’s not the ‘you must be on your period’ response, it’s ‘bitches be crazy, brah’ or some such, which not only trivializes those with mental health problems but also equates the concept of emotional response with toxic ‘crazy’ and ‘feminine’ stereotypes. Ugh.

  9. I always found that a weird concept too. I remember watching old sitcoms when I was a kid and it was always the women either withholding sex when they were angry or sort of letting the man, ‘oh, go on then!’ when the man had been good to them that day.

    Now I find it confusing, because why wouldn’t the wife want sex as much as the man? Why is it something they let someone else ‘do’ to them, so to speak, instead of something they like to do, too? Says a lot about old fashioned attitudes still existing only a few years ago – and even today.

  10. You’re lucky. Her last hit song included the lyrics:

    ‘I ain’t no size two – but I can shake it shake it, like I’m supposed to do.’


  11. Its not just sitcoms. I always felt that sex ed at school always had this assumption too. I had my schooling in the nineties, but i doubt attituded have not moved forward much.

  12. The message in All about the bass always annoyed me. Great that she is confident about her body but “boys like a little more booty to hold at night” isn’t really a message I want my daughter to hear.

  13. If you like the melody but not the lyrics, check out “Dance With Me Tonight” by Olly Murs. Same fun tune and beat but nicer (and without the sexism!). Trainor ripped the beat and melody from Murs because they are on the same label.

  14. the lyric is normal i think.. there is no doubt that meghan wishes for the husband that can treat her like what the lyric told us..
    but it’s only a wish , and it’s no use for you to hate people for their wishes ..
    and … i like the music

  15. i thought so too.. we can wish for everything , can’t we?
    i just enjoy the music , and it sounds fun