Kim Kardashian very nearly succeeded in her mission to #breaktheinternet last week when she posted her upcoming Paper magazine cover photo that left nothing to the imagination about her famous derriere.
The world likes big butts and it cannot lie — Sir Mix-A-Lot just said what people everywhere have been thinking for centuries with “Baby Got Back,” the ’90s anthem that ushered in the era of booty worship in popular culture.
Shaking it — whether like a Polaroid picture or twerking — reached another level when Beyonce rightly questioned whether we were “ready for this jelly” in “Bootylicious.” More recently, Jennifer Lopez paid homage to the heinie in her latest song, “Booty,” with a video featuring over four minutes of shameless butt-bouncing with rapper Iggy Azalea. Nicki Minaj also recently made waves with her sexually explicit track and video “Anaconda,” which includes shots of a squatting Minaj in just a bustier and thong.
Curvaceous icons date back centuries among cultures worldwide, but booties didn’t get much attention in the West until the Renaissance, when artists like Rubens and Rembrandt typified the Grand Baroque style with paintings of voluptuous women, says Bernard Andrieu, cultural historian of the body at the University of Rouen, France.
More recently, as Europe has become more diverse, that interest was rekindled.
“The interest in curvaceous derrières corresponds to the morphological type that emerged thanks to the cultural mix brought by mass emigration to [Western Europe] in the 20th century,” he explains.
But the current idolized posterior is significantly different from the cultural and artistic depictions in history so far.
“Today’s figure is far removed from any sign of saggy plumpness — it’s a very new standard whose roots can be found in pornographic productions. The body is highlighted under this new reference of modern culture,” says Andrieu.
But while the audience sits back and enjoys all that hypnotic butt-shaking, performers know that working that booty is hard work. While Kardashian is the new hot topic among plastic surgeons theorizing about whether she had the help of a Brazilian butt lift (or several) to get her posterior so prominent, one thing is for sure. Big butts are pert, and that can’t be achieved by eating dessert.
“You might be able to work on it, but mostly it comes from a genetic background, bringing new standards for the rest of womanhood,” says Andrieu.