beauty standards black beauty plastic surgery self-esteem
To Inject or Not Inject: Why Are We So Obsessed with Bigger Booties?4/01/2015
by Altheria Gaston It may not be on the list of most popular plastic surgery procedures, but many women are doing more than squats to ...
It may not be on the list of most popular plastic surgery procedures, but many women are doing more than squats to achieve the much-desired (by some) luscious, curvaceous butt. As our cultural obsession with big booties grows, so does the availability of buttocks augmentation, including injections and implants. (A quick Google search turned up at least five such businesses in my area.) Unfortunately, not all of these procedures are being performed by skilled, licensed medical professionals. These butt augmentations are frequently done underground. Such is the case of a Dallas woman, Wykesha Reid, who likely died while receiving butt injections at a local business that was billed as an eyelash salon. As a resident of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I first heard the story on local news after Reid’s body was discovered abandoned in the salon on February 19, 2015, the day after she went in for the procedure.
I think Black women are particularly susceptible to conforming to butt pressure because the big butt has been essentialized as a Black woman feature (e.g. “Kim Kardashian has a Black girl butt!”). Our music, especially hip-hop/rap, includes tons of references to the coveted Black girl butt. There have been many critiques of hip-hop/rap videos for sexually objectifying Black women’s bodies because of the emphases (through the use of strategically placed cameras) on the women’s rear ends (and breasts). In one such critique, sociologist Erving Goffman is quoted as saying, “Women’s bodies are often dismembered and treated as separate parts, perpetuating the idea that a woman’s body is not connected to her mind and emotions.” The butt is certainly one of these idolized body parts.
I can’t tell you how many tabloid-like stories I’ve seen on my News Feed, discussing whether Nikki Minaj’s butt is real. And these conversations about women’s buttocks are often harsher and meaner than discussions about other plastic surgery procedures, like nose jobs or breast implants. In a recent episode of Wendy Williams’ talk show, her gossip segment focused on Iggy Azalea’s recent confession that she got breast implants, and the idea that butt implants are not as acceptable as breast implants. Perhaps this is one of the reasons women resort to undercover “bootleg” methods for their procedures, but the secretive aspect of these unregulated businesses is dangerous.
We are living during a time when “thickness” and “curves” (only in the right places) are celebrated. Should we be surprised, then, when Black women resort to unsafe measures to achieve a desirable butt?
I can’t tell you how many critical comments I read about Wykesha’s decision to have butt injections. Surely, Wykesha is partly responsible, but it is always easier to blame the individual than to address the bigger issues surrounding the effects of women living in a misogynistic society that expects us to live up to unrealistic standards of beauty. Not all of us have a body like Beyoncé’s or Serena’s. What if we were more accepting of the reality that not all Black women have big butts and curvy hips?
To be clear, this article is not about whether Black women (or any women) should get butt augmentation or plastic surgery. My purpose is to make others aware of the dangers of having these procedures performed by unqualified providers who inject unsafe products like super glue and cement into women’s bodies. And more importantly, I hope to initiate a conversation about the importance of resistance. Let us resist this current fascination with curves and big butts, whether we have these features ourselves or not. Those of us who are not shaped as such are just as womanly and just as Black and just as beautiful.
The obsession is dangerous—both for the women who are objectified because of their prized features, and for those who feel inadequate because they criticized for lacking the coveted big booty. Our girls deserve to grow-up in a world in which their butt, breasts, and hips are not their defining attributes.
Photo: Cash Money Records
Altheria Gaston is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at Texas Christian University. She’s working on a dissertation studying the experiences of African-American women who are poor.