There is an Italian saying ‘Nella vita ci vuole culo’, which translates to: ‘In life you need ass’ (ass in Italian slang is meant as a metaphor for pure luck). Simply put, it means in order to succeed in life you need a bit of luck. Sometimes we make our own luck through hard work, determination and fortitude. Other times, luck is bestowed upon us. In the age of celebrity, selfie culture and Internet voyeurism if you’re a woman you’re clearly lucky if you have a big ass. It might be a universal truth that sex sells but nowadays the highest price is going for ass. What used to be the domain of African-American (and Latino to a certain extent) culture has now entered into the psyche of the mainstream. It’s not only a function of mass marketing but it has become a part of the ongoing conversation around female empowerment and what it means to be a feminist.
We get the full back treatment in the form of the most recent Kim Kardashian cover photo for the winter cover of Paper magazine. Shot by French photographer Jean-Paul Goude in all its infamous oily, voluminous and heavily photo-shopped splendour, the object is clearly to titillate. In fact, the title of the cover is #BreakTheInternet and the most effective way to do that is to use The Ass. Kim K, who is famous for being famous, as well as having a big ass, is also lauded in some circles as co-opting control from an industry dominated by men. So yes, there is objectification but in the hands of a woman it can be construed as a statement for a female comfort in her own skin. Thus the more we see of it the better. But Kim K, is not alone and in fact is just the latest example of our booty obsession. The recent months have given us Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ video and Iggy Azalea & Jennifer Lopez self-explanatory track ‘Booty’. In print, in music and online the booty business is booming! But is there a cost?
I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I am not shy with my body and celebrate and appreciate those women who put it all out there. The female body comes in all forms and there is a special confidence to those who know how to work what they got to get what they want. But even though that message might be empowering, I am not sure if it is feminism. The veneration of a woman’s “assets” has always been in fashion. The 90s graced us with plastic boobs and Pamela Anderson. The backside took the back seat in mainstream culture but the tide has clearly changed. As with the nature of trend the female body parts fascination is prone to fluctuation. But if we are going to link this public display to a feminist stance then we might need to go a bit deeper. We can’t pretend there isn’t a paradox inherent in the display of our ass/tits in the name of feminism when that same display used to be called objectification. Does the truth lie in the middle or do the two extremes actually become the same thing?
Everyone in the entertainment business markets themselves as a feminist. The easiest way to justify your nakedness is to say it’s a statement of empowerment. Again, feel free to show off your ass-ets. I have/and do/and likely will again but I would be lying if I didn’t say it didn’t give me pause at times. Am I empowered or am I am simply misleading myself and others about what success is and where it comes from? Being comfortable with our sexuality is definitely crucial but we as women should also be able to convey the message, especially for ourselves and for the next generation, that we can be more than that. Our body is not the only asset we have to be successful. I wrestle with this and maybe you do too.