Steatopygia Rules

When did America become booty crazed? It seems to me that American popular culture has heretofore been obsessed with breasts.

Being the scions of a popular culture that in the past two decades has exalted the generously flesh-endowed breasts of Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson and the trim figures of Kate Moss and Rebecca Romagne, we must ask, “How did the image of the Jennifer Lopez/Beyonce-esque derriere become so synonymous with female beauty?” Herein we witness a return to pathologies of the Eternal Feminine mystique, rooted in some of the earliest recordings of history. While visiting the National Museum of Archaeology in Naples this summer, I came across an exhibit featuring Balkan cave paintings from a broad period of pre-literate history (about 30,000 to 8,000 BCE).

The paintings were mostly depictions of events in the life of communities of nomadic hunter-gatherers and, later, pastoralist peoples. They were very simple drawings with an aim not of describing perfection or beauty in aesthetics but rather in the recording of history.

The symbol for man was basically a frontal view of a stick person that any three year old is capable of producing. However, the caricature of the female was a whole body profile that emphasized the buttocks; in fact, it left out detail of any significant flesh in the chest.

The upper body was basically a line with two sticks for arms and head. Suddenly though, at the midsection was a distinct protrusion of the buttocks in the shape of a large square, which grew proportionately to age- baby girls having little fat while mothers had, well, a mother lode. There is actually an anthropological term for the genetic accumulation of “much fat” in the buttocks. It is called ‘steatopygia’. The author of the widely acclaimed Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond uses this term in his physiological description of the Khoi and the San (better known for the Euro-given names, the Hottentots and Bushmen, respectively) peoples of Southern Africa. Diamond notes that white imperialists murdered most of the men of these tribe and then took the remaining women as wives. How then do we gain insight as to why fleshy buttocks have reappeared at the forefront of the American consciousness? Is it undubitedly influenced by the historical presence in America of West African descendants and Anglo-Saxons who, as Eldridge Cleaver theorizes in Soul on Ice, desired each other above anything else, as in the case of the Europeans taking the Khoi and San as wives.

Indeed, caucasian males of this continent desired the suppleness of the female slave population. Estimates in the wake of the ongoing Jefferson-Hemmings historiography run sexual relations/rapes of black female slaves by masters or overseers as high as 70%.

Or, is it a subconscious product of an age where thirty percent of Americans are classified as obese and sixty percent are overweight, therefore making trim figures too much to ask for? Could it be a marketing technique for the consumption of thongs and jeans without pockets? Yet maybe it is simply a return to honesty, a natural curiosity, inquiry and worshipping of seemingly useless flesh . In The Second Sex, Beauvoir writes, “the buttocks remain favored objects, because of their unnecessary, gratuitous blooming,” This compulsion is to some degree a product of the misogynistic/paternalistic Occidental tradition whose history we are heirs to and in which we are situated.

However, just as has happened in Europe, men of the liberal American coasts will soon be sporting speedos as the power of the juicy hindquarters, to the possessor of the glance and the possessor of the booty, breaks down the misogynistic barriers to true freedom; the freedom to shake what mamma gave ya’.