You can’t deny, we live in a butt-obsessed world. From Kim Kardashian to Pippa Middleton, every way you turn, it’s to get a better view of dat backside.
I thought the US had it bad, but when I moved to Jamaica, I realized it’s not just us. Big butts, or batty as they’re known here, pop out in tight dresses and leggings that many women in the US wouldn’t wear because they reveal more than desired. I wondered, though, if a beautiful batty was more important for Americans or Jamaicans. So, like any curious connoisseur, I took to the streets.
My methodology was simple: ask Americans and Jamaicans, “what does the ideal butt (or batty) look like to you?” The answers both challenged and confirmed my assumptions.
There seemed to be two camps, the “peach butt” camp, and the “beauty is beyond butt” camp. The “peach butt” camp can best be summarized with this Peace Corps Volunteer’s assertion that, “the ideal butt to me…ummm. Like a peach. Like a nice, supple peach. Not saggy, [but] perky. Not too big, not too small. Gotta look right on the right body size”. Others agreed, stating, “Gotta have undercheek. It’s gotta be grabbable”. And Jamaicans were just as pro-peach as Americans, claiming the ideal is, “not floppy, not too fat, slightly round”.
The “beauty is beyond butt” camp is best reflected with the claim that “[A big butt] is as beautiful as any other kind of butt”. Others agreed, stating “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and, “I can appreciate all shapes and sizes. Just a different look”.
I was surprised by the wisdom and earnestness of these answers. Those of the “peach butt” persuasion (to which I admittedly belong) may reflect just as deeply on notions of beauty as the “beauty is beyond butt” camp, and yet, I found myself wishing the conversation about body image went deeper than “Can you bounce a dime off it?”
Whether we’re discussing legs, arms, or butt cheeks, we inevitably compare. “She has a nice butt, but her boobs are kinda small” or “He’s cute but I wish he had better abs”. Now, I’m not saying that we all have to ignore what we see, and deny what we are attracted to. As a proponent of the “peach butt” persuasion, I’m more attracted to butts that are defined, that look like they would fit nicely in your palm. Lust, it seems, has never been blind.
And of course, attraction plays a large role in love. But what I really admire about those that appreciate butts of “all shapes and sizes” is their commitment to seeing beauty in all people, no matter what Sir Mix-A-Lot (or Nicki Minaj or Meghan Trainor) says.
You don’t have to like someone’s butt to be their friend, in the same way that the sweetest smelling rose might not always be the prettiest. When you recognize someone for their true beauty- the heart and soul they put out into the world- you validate their humanity, affirm their presence, and in a word, love them.
So what did I really learn after my callipygian quest? Desire is a powerful force, defined and managed by the media, society at large, cultural norms, and personal preferences. These norms are often constrictive, oppressive, and unattainable, with histories that place those of a certain skin color and look above others. These histories of oppression should not be swept over.
I firmly believe that you can simultaneously focus on a person’s inner beauty, though while acknowledging their struggles with outer beauty, but you have to start with yourself. When a fellow volunteer described the ideal female butt as, “round, but not super fat, cocked up”, I thought “Oh, so mine”. I stand by that. I can be witty, clumsy, ribald, and determined, and still be happy that my derriere looks great in jeans and leggings. Now isn’t that just peachy?