Meghan Trainor is known for her retro style, but with her latest music video, “Dear Future Husband,” the 21-year-old singer is giving a whole new meaning to the word “vintage.” Singing about housewife duties and expectations for suitors to shower her with gifts, Trainor creates an outdated picture of what relationships should be, depicting scenarios that have more of a place in Mad Men than they do in real life. Wrapped up in a catchy pop song and vibrant music video, the message is unassumingly dangerous.
The video shows Trainor clad in her go-to twee ensembles, singing her demands for her future husband: “Take me on a date,” “don’t forget the flowers every anniversary,” and “treat me like a lady even when I’m acting crazy.” In return, the singer says that she will “be the perfect wife, buying groceries, buy-buying what you need.” It’s clear that the relationship Trainor creates an image of is not one where husband and wife are equals, but rather one based on antiquated, heteronormative gender roles.
Though she refers to herself as “the perfect wife,” the 21-year-old does show that in practice, her definition of perfect doesn’t quite match up to the stereotypical ideal—she “never learned to cook” and also works “that 9 to 5,” so her future husband can’t expect everything of her. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t expect him to live up to a traditional definition of chivalry—opening doors for her, buying her presents, telling her she’s beautiful every night—all in exchange for “that special loving.” Trainor’s narrative shows that her main contribution to the relationship (if it can really be considered a relationship) is her sexual favors, which can easily be withheld if he doesn’t meet her demands—as if he’s the only one who would benefit from sex.
While the singer’s demands for her relationships show her own effort to establish her standards, they really evaporate any sense of equality and further engrain traditional dating and relationship roles into the listener’s mind. It’s a stark contrast to Taylor Swift poking fun at “crazy women” stereotypes in “Blank Space” and Beyoncé singing about self empowerment in ”***Flawless.” At best, this video is cringe-worthy. The worst case scenario, though, is that this song could easily prove to anyone who is misinformed about feminism that the best relationships are the ones in which men bestow gifts on women and women are housewives.
Regardless of her intentions, Trainor’s video, with its over-the-top aesthetics and cheeky acting, does not come across as a sarcastic statement about traditional relationships, but rather an earnest, misguided call for a return to the dating sensibilities of years past. When speaking to TIME about her album last October, she said that songs like “Dear Future Husband” were her way of pushing against today’s hookup culture, saying, “I hope people can hear my songs and know I’m a badass girl and I deserve a good guy to take me out on a date.” Perhaps the demand-laden song was meant as a way to encourage girls to see their own self-worth, but the result falls flat. It’s possible to show women that they have value that’s independent of how men see them—but this doesn’t even come close to doing that.
When Trainor powered onto the pop charts in the summer of 2014 with her body-loving anthem, “All About That Bass,” reactions were a mix of pleasant surprise that diverse body types were suddenly becoming embrace in popular music and disappointment that this new preference for curves was still presented in the male gaze. “Dear Future Husband” makes it clear that Trainor’s message leaves women in their stereotypical, traditional gender roles and fails to make any progress from the outdated dating norms of the 1950s. And when a message like that is cloaked in a radio-ready pop song, it becomes all the more easy for it to dangerously permeate society.