Yesterday Vogue published an online article titled, "We're Officially in the Era of the Big Booty." Cue all the eye roll gifs please. The article is a shining example of something Vogue displays oh so well: intentional cluelessness and an utter disregard for diversity.
People, we've been over this. In fact, I generously explained in April, quite extensively, why big booties, are not new, are not a trend and why a white woman is not the poster child for for a voluminous derrière.
The author of the article, Patricia Garcia, chronicles a cultural timeline of sorts surrounding this so-called rise of the booty. In general, I expect little to no self-awareness from Vogue, but the idea that we're now officially celebrating large butts is particularly rich coming from this publication.
Garcia mentions a number black women in the piece, of course, because she fucking has to, but she is careful not to use the word "black" specifically (or even the more PC African-American) or make any suggestion that widespread admiration for this feature predated a Vogue.com post. Her ability to dance around the crux of the subject is downright skillful.
But again, this is Vogue we're talking about. Vogue—the magazine that frequently Photoshops women into oblivion. Vogue—which recently featured its first non-white model on the coveted September cover for the first time in 25 years. Vogue—the magazine that publishes an annual Body Issue which comically claims to support the diversity of the female form but routinely defaults to the bodies of supermodels and ultra-toned male athletes. I mean, damn, if Vogue likes ass so much how come none of their models have any?
Let's be clear: we aren't officially in the era of shit. This is the "Era of the Big Booty" for oblivious white people only. Vogue and its homogenous group of editors are simply noticing for the first time that a fat ass is actually quite delightful when you don't Photoshop it away. A more accurate title for this piece would have been: "We At Vogue Are Just Now Starting to Sort of Warm Up to Different Body Types, Please Give Us a Cookie."
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For years it was exactly the opposite; a large butt was not something one aspired to, rather something one tried to tame in countless exercise classes. Even in fashion, that daring creative space where nothing is ever off limits, the booty has traditionally been shunned.
Who exactly are we talking about here? You can't be talking about the many women in my family who had absolutely no interest in taming their curves. You can't be talking about one of my idols growing up, Serena Williams, or Selena or literally any woman who has ever appeared in a rap video.
Garcia suggests that large butts were undesirable because what? You didn't want one? You can't have a big butt and be Vogue's favorite size — size zero? Further, the idea that everyone aspires to fit into fashion's standards — when fashion, quite regularly, doesn't even represent them — is absurd and steeped in the notion that whiteness is the default.
Perhaps we have Jennifer Lopez to thank (or blame?) for sparking the booty movement. When she first arrived on the scene in the late nineties, a lot of the buzz surrounding her focused on the back of her voluptuous body. Her derrière quite literally stood out against the other sex symbols of the moment, signaling a shift away from the waif era of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss and the outrageously large-breasted Pam Anderson.
Perhaps? Oh well golly gee wiz, perhaps we do! Perhaps Jennifer Lopez was one of the first major celebrities to flaunt her ample behind. Perhaps that's true because people who aren't Patricia Garcia have been saying this for years.
Garcia then, with total seriousness, goes on to cite Miley goddamn Cyrus has a harbinger of ass appreciation.
Then came the total bootification of pop music. At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus proved you didn't need to have a large butt to become a part of the conversation, you just needed to know how to attract enough attention to one.
NO NO NO BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND. You do not get to pull this shit. You don't get to write about celebrating big booties and then turn around and give equal due to a woman who doesn't even possess a big booty. Garcia also conveniently forgets the parade of booty-blessed BLACK FEMALE dancers in that performance who Miley Cyrus treated like circus sideshows.
Some might argue that because this body shape has finally gotten the attention of a publication like Vogue, in a way it is new to pop culture. But something not making it onto the pages of Vogue doesn't mean it hasn't had a significant presence in the world of pop culture. They didn't put a black woman on the cover until 1974 and I recall black people contributing one or two things to the American cultural landscape before that. Vogue hasn't noticed because they aren't regularly out here checking for the beauty of women of color and that's the whole story.
Garcia mentions Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna—currently three of the biggest artists and pop culture figures in the world. (Now, I must say, I love Rihanna, but no one is really checking for Rihanna's ass and I think even she would admit that.)
Although she's been doing it since the beginning of her career, Beyoncé, in particular has reached such a stratosphere of celebrity that Vogue can no longer ignore her shape or the fact that she draws attention to and talks about her butt quite often.
I can concede that some women like Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez are much more obviously flaunting their ample asses than they did in the past, but that's because they're simply capitalizing on this new white interest, which translates into white dollars, and frankly, I don't blame them. It's the same reason why we let white people think twerking was new.
And really, like most things, that's what it comes down to. Black women — and most women of color — are invisible to Vogue until it is in their financial interest to pay attention. I can't say I'm surprised, but I'd like to hope for better.
Screenshot via YouTube.