I’m not a prude, and I don’t like to judge other women’s personal choices. But I do care an awful lot about how women are portrayed (and portray themselves!) in the media. We’re now averaging 13.6 hours of media consumption per person per day, which means the stories we see played out in the media can’t not impact our self-image. And today’s stories are all about butts.
I’ve been keeping a list (Yessiree, I have!) since the summer, and I now present to you some of the most recent visible examples of celebrities getting us to focus on their butts.
Recently we’ve had headlines such as:
- “Jennifer Lopez Shows Off Her Butt in Tight, High-Waisted White Pants”
- “Carol Vorderman, 53, Shows Off Her Shapely Rear of the Year in Figure-Hugging Gown as She Steps out at the Pride of Britain Awards”
- “Make-up Free Iggy Azalea Puts Her Famous Derriere on Display in Tight Black Skirt as She Catches a Flight Out of Town”
- “She’s Looking Booty-ful! Khloe Kardashian Reveals Her Curvy Rear and Toned Legs in Clinging Wine-Coloured Dress”
- “Rose v. Kardashian: Who Posed in White Bikini Selfie Best?”
- “Did He Really Just Say That? Puff Daddy Calls Jennifer Lopez’s Famous Behind ‘a Work of Art’ and Feels ‘Lucky’ to Have Dated Her”
- “Move Over JLo! Demi Lovato Shows Off Her Shapely Derriere During Dance Rehearsal in New Instagram Snap”
Add to this, of course, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video and the JLo/Iggy Azalea offering simply called “Booty” (in which JLo is revered as the mother of this butt-shaking movement — which is nice, I guess, since credit is due… but it’s also just yucky).
To break it down, pop culture messaging right now is teaching girls that the pathway to recognition, personal empowerment, and success is by flaunting it if you’ve got it. Belfies (butt selfies, of course) are hot, and celebrities are leading the way when it comes to showing off their booties and encouraging everyone else to do the same in the name of female autonomy and choice. And we all seem to be alright with that because the booty is hot! It’s what’s in! It’s exciting! In fact as Vogue magazine proclaimed, we’re “officially in the Era of the Big Booty.”
In my opinion, however, it’s kind of a weird time for everything to be all about that bass. In recent times, the court of public opinion has totally freaked out when girls internalize oversexualized media messages. Take, oh, just about everything Miley Cyrus did last year, for example. Also, girls are constantly told to dress/act sexy, yet they’re penalized when they do so (as demonstrated by recent brouhaha over girls’ dress codes).
I don’t mean to wring my hands like an old granny here, chastising womenfolk for being sexy. And my unease concerning the “Era of the Big Booty” isn’t just sour grapes (I’m talking to you, Jonathan Cheban re: your “You Want to Be Her!” comments to Naya Rivera after Kim Kardashian’s #BreakTheInternet photos for PAPER magazine).
But I’m confused. Here we are, a decade after the Girl Power Movement and Third Wave feminism, which in part promoted the idea that girls shouldn’t need to rely on appearance for success or recognition. And yet, current pop culture role models — because that’s what they are, even if they deny it— keep forcing the focus right back on their appearance by making it all about showing off a body part.
Some argue that the fact that female celebrities are choosing to do this — and cashing in on it big time — makes it alright.
Um, I guess. That’s certainly a better scenario than the famous ladies being forced to do this and someone else (a male someone else) laughing all the way to the bank. But ultimately, I wish women in the spotlight would use their power to create new mainstream portrayals of powerful women.
Because wouldn’t that be way more exciting than another belfie?
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty,” a media literacy and body image guide for teen girls. She writes regularly about trending pop culture issues for national newspapers, websites and magazines including The Washington Post, SmartMom and XoJane.com.