By: Paula Assou
“Got a big booty, so I call her big booty.” “I found you Ms. New Booty.” And the list goes on. We’ve all heard lyrics like these at some point or another praising the females blessed with a large derriere. It’s almost impossible to avoid in mainstream music. However, as a black female who was gifted with the “big booty genes,” I have to admit that having a big butt isn’t all its chalked up to be.
It took me many years to be able to accept my body type and although all women and men face self-esteem challenges, being a black woman makes self-acceptance that much more difficult. Our desirable features are only desirable on every other female besides us, the decision to celebrate our bodies by revealing them in the slightest is often demonized, and we are constantly fighting for acceptance in a society that doesn’t allow our bodies to be our own.
Growing up, I was tall and lanky until 6th grade when my hips grew in and everyone, from family members to men on the street, had something to say about my body before I could even come to terms with the changes I was going through. I was seen and treated as a woman faster than I could quote Twilight and I was an object of sexual gazes before I completed my Hannah Montana phase.
My friends constantly tried to get me to flaunt and appreciate my curves but as the only black girl in most circumstances, I knew before I had the terminology to explain it that showing skin would mean something different for me than it would mean for my other friends.
Distinguished author and theorist, Bell Hooks, writes about the hypersexualization and the commodification of black females that dates as far back as slavery. As black women, we are the only group of the human race that was put on display, completely naked and vulnerable, for the purpose of being sold.
Our bodies were dissected into parts and they no longer belonged to us. A South African slave named Sarartije Baartman was actually the center of a freak show in the 19th century in Britain because of her “large buttocks” and when she died her body parts were dissected and displayed in a museum. The first time I learned about these theories and historical events, I was observing the shocked expressions of my sociology classmates while I was the only one that wasn’t surprised.
To me these weren’t just theories or historical facts, these were histories that were reflective of my life experience. It took me years to accept my physical appearance because I knew that it would automatically put me on display during a point in my life, as a nerdy, introvert, where all I wanted to do was be invisible.
After many hours of pondering my flawlessness, I did eventually get to the point where I accepted the body that I was given but there is always the constant tension between how I perceive myself and how society perceives me. Yes, there are more curvy body types in mainstream media because society has deemed them beautiful and acceptable. However,those big butts, fuller lips, and large hips are often attached to white or lighter skin bodies.
What’s worse is that they are often achieved in unhealthy, artificial ways. Of course I adore curvy women like Nicki Minaj, Amber Rose, or Dascha Polanco. However what is their value alongside skinnier or lighter women if they’ve had to subject themselves to waist training and other harmful methods of achieving the ideal “curvy body”?
For those of us that naturally have a thicker body, we’re automatically overly sexual for exposing them in the slightest degree. We face criticism in ways that our white or thinner counterparts wouldn’t. I was completely baffled when I came across the amount of blatantly racist and sexist criticism that tennis player, Serena Williams, faced after posting a picture on Facebook of herself in a bathing suit.
It was even more jarring when that photo was placed side by side with a white female athlete, Rounda Roussey on the cover of a magazine in a more exposing bathing suit. Serena was accused of being degrading towards herself while Rounda was praised as being sexy.
At the end of the day paradoxes and double standards of beauty for black women, especially thick black women, probably aren’t news for you. Unfortunately, they probably aren’t going away anytime soon either. However, what I wish for you, my fellow black queens, is that you will accept yourself for who you are.
Whether you are slim like Zendaya or thick like Nicki, I hope you love your blackness in whatever way it comes and seek to do the same for others. At the end of the day, if we don’t uplift our own community and take ownership up of our bodies no one will. You are more than your saleable parts and you have much more to offer the world beyond your physical appearance.