This month’s issue of Glamour pronounces 2014 to be “The Year of the Booty,” and it would be illogical of me to disagree. From the mainstream new (i.e white) obsession with twerking, to the Nicki Minaj video named after a huge and throbbing allegorical snake, to the now famous internet-breaking (or at least fracturing) photograph of Kim Kardashian’s oiled ass, the rear is here! And it seems like it’s here to stay.
And I’m perfectly fine with that. As someone who struggles to find jeans that don’t create that awful gap in the back, I am so ready to have my butt appreciated for what it is: awesome. This could be my time to shine. Fat bottomed girls unite! Let’s smash the idea of a size two being perfect with our fully formed derrieres! I want to be able to fully embrace the new cultural trend of women showing off our ass-ets (sorry, couldn’t help it), but something about this rump sensation bumping across the nation seems a little off.
We, the women of the world, are being told by the mainstream media that it’s acceptable to have large buttocks, on the non-negotiable stipulation that we shake it. And that it’s not too big, and that we wear revealing clothing, and that we’re young, and fit other bizarre ideas of beauty, and that we’re willing to appreciate the wave of male attention for what it is: approval of our bodies.
The power of aesthetics, the idea that a person has power over their body and therefore has power over who sees it and what is done with it, is being warped by the people allegedly giving us that power. Furthermore, the power of aesthetics is not an equivocal type of power to the types of social and economic power that the people who set the standards of beauty have. The mainstream media-approved obsession with butts is nothing more than another ploy to distract women from fighting for real forms of power. In short, we’re getting played.
Having power over your body is one of the most important forms of personal power. If everyone would fully respect what people want to do with their own bodies, a lot of this world’s horrible problems and crimes would stop. But when the entertainment and media industry oversexualizes women’s bodies, and their butts, while pretending that they are giving this power to women themselves, we stop being seen as a whole person with thoughts and feelings and are demoted to a specific body part. The personal power of how people see you, the power of aesthetics, is compromised and warped.
Let’s take Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” music video as a strong example. Product placement aside, this is a pretty visually appealing music video. I like the fruit and I can appreciate these women’s dance skills; I sure as hell don’t have that good control of my muscles. This is a pretty solid dance hit, and I definitely jam to it in the shower.
There is one scene that seriously bothers me though: Ms. Minaj and rapper Drake are in a dark room. Drake is sitting in a wide-legged stance watching Nicki Minaj provocatively dance around him and on the floor. As the sexual tension becomes too much for Drake to handle, he reaches out his hand to touch Nicki Minaj’s behind, only to be slapped away and left unsatisfied by our supposed protagonist.
A lot of people argue that this scene gives Ms. Minaj an inherent amount of aesthetic power. She’s in control! She’s not letting him do anything! She can seduce him and then walk away! Although this amount of control feels liberating, this sense of power is only based on the role-reversal of expected gender norms where the man is in charge. Without the element of spectacle, Nicki Minaj loses all her power. This isn’t a music video about a woman loving her ass; this is a music video about a woman loving the male attention she is getting because he loves her ass. Which, is frankly, ass-backwards.
This trend is seen in a lot of popular music videos. Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea in their song :Booty,” sing, “Don’t you worry, you’re dancing/it’s his birthday/give him what he ask for/Let me show you how to do it” followed by the lyric: “I’m Queen big booty Iggy, now find me a bone to sit on.” Something tells me that the “bone” in question might be a metaphor.
It’s worse in “Birthday Song” by 2 Chainz (whose only birthday request is “a big booty ho”) featuring Kanye West. During the course of the video, you hardly even see the faces of the women who are dancing and/or showing off their behinds. Why? Because their faces are not deemed important enough for screen time. Only their behind, the most appealing part of their bodies, matters.
Watching female musicians grovel for appreciation and attention from men does nothing to instill hope in the future pop culture climate. Even the supposedly body-positive anthem of the year, “All about that Bass” focuses on the attention women can gain from their not stick-thin bodies. Meghan Trainor sings, “Yea, my mama she told me don’t worry abut your size/ She says, boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”
Isn’t this supposed to be the song to encourage women to love their bodies? To embrace their huge ass and thick thighs for what they can do and how they make them feel, not for what a man says? Where’s the quote from Ms. Trainor’s mother telling her daughter to be proud of who she is for her own sake?
This trend of pop culture creators appreciating women who have full behinds isn’t one that benefits the whole body and mind of a woman. It is just another tactic for the media industry to take advantage of our lack of economic and social power. The power of aesthetics isn’t a true form of power, it is just a bone thrown to us to take our minds off the other ways we could be in power now.
Women are so much more than how they look, and this current media obsession with butts is just another way those in power are trying to keep women begging for attention from men. But don’t give in!
Strut your stuff, and do it for YOU! Swing your hips into the boardroom, and sashay your behind toward your goals. We, as women, cannot let the media warp our sense of bodily autonomy and our power over our physical selves. If anyone tries to tie your sense of self worth to your buttocks (no matter their size), you can tell them to kiss your ass.