Let's Talk About Butts: The Problem With Declaring the 'Era of the Big Booty'9/12/2014
by Queen Muse This week, Vogue Magazine author Patricia Garcia declared that we've officiall...
by Queen Muse
This week, Vogue Magazine author Patricia Garcia declared that we've officially entered the "era of the big booty." And while many rushed to condemn the author for her failure to recognize the long history of big booty love in pop culture, the article made me think of something else: what is the purpose of a butt in the first place and why is our culture so infatuated with it?
The buttocks a.k.a the butt a.k.a the ass a.k.a the hiney a.k.a. the rear end a.k.a the bum a.k.a. the booty actually serves a pretty important function for the human anatomy, sexual arousal aside.
But this is not what we praise the butt for. We praise the butt for being round and soft, appealing to the eye. We praise the butt as an object of affection so much so that it has become more desired than the human being it belongs to. Having a big butt could guarantee you more dates or even superstardom. Not having one could make you the butt of a lot of a lot of jokes, not to mention breed a level of insecurity and self hate unmatched by any other criticism. The pressure to be 'bootiful' is even more pressing for women in the black community, where big bottoms are often glorified by popular rappers and men.
This is the problem with declaring the 'era of the big booty.'
Our culture's infatuation with big butts has created a new kind of "haves and have nots," a colloquialism typically used to describe those with wealth or financial resources and those without. No one wants to be a 'have not.' But in the case of wealth or financial resources, you could always work or network your way to being a 'have.' But what do you do if you are a 'have not' living in the so called 'era of the big booty'? You butcher and buy your way to 'have' status.
For some women this means overworking their glutes in intense exercise routines like doing 1,000 squats a day or restricting themselves to a diet of foods, like potatoes, breads and beans, that 'help the butt grow bigger.' For others it means costly and often life threatening surgeries, including fat transfers and injections, as well as wearing suffocating undergarments that make the butt appear more plump.
Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's surgery.
But with the 'haves and have nots' of butts, we are not merely asking women to use their knowledge or resources to alter their financial status, we are asking them to alter their physicality. And for what gain? So their butt can be the object of someone's sexual affection or to be the subject of someone's awe?
I cannot blot out my knowledge of a woman who received all of the awe one could ask for and wasn't the least bit happy.
The butt discussion cannot be had without mention of Sarah Baartman, an African woman who's life consisted of animalistic treatment as part of a traveling freak show. What made her a freak, you ask? Her butt. For years, in the early 1800's, people came to gasp and observe her purportedly oversized butt, which was casted and displayed in a museum as a wonder, even long after she was deceased.
Today, when participation in the freak show is voluntary, the irony of the popularity of both the song "Anaconda" and the butt of the artist Nicki Minaj is not wasted on me, rather it makes it apparent just how much we have not evolved as a society.
I recoil when I hear the phrase and popular song lyric, "Oh my God. Look at her butt." I wonder if any of Baartman's observers ever used the phrase.
"Lopez’s behind was so unique, and evidently so valuable, there were rumors she had taken out insurance worth millions to protect the asset," the Vogue author wrote.
I suppose the real tragedy of being simultaneously valued and devalued based on the size of your butt--the body part created to help you walk, to help you sit comfortably, to help support your digestive health-- is that in the 'era of the big booty' you don't even notice that it's happening.