book tells the surprising story of the butt – SEE

From the dawn of human evolution to showing off on social media, hips have always been more than just an anatomical feature. They are, above all, complex symbols of cultural power that have undergone transformations throughout history. In the book Butts: a Backstoryreleased in the United States and unpublished in Brazil, the American journalist Heather Radke mixes personal memories, science and cultural criticism to delve in a deep and, at the same time, fun way into the social constructions that make derrièresespecially female, go in and out of fashion.

As an evolutionary element, the hip was fundamental for human beings to reach a prominent position among mammals. The full development of muscles in the region allows for long periods of movement, which made men and women do better in the dispute for food. Gradually, human flanks evolved and distanced themselves from other primates. Later, they came to be seen as a way to identify women capable of producing good offspring — a myth debunked by medicine a long time ago, but which is still alive in the popular imagination.

MARKETING – Kim Kardashian: symbol of the “promotional butt” (Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

The history of the butt is not exclusively anatomical. Complex symbologies make the hips awaken antagonistic feelings of desire, disgust, censorship, objectification and shame, depending on the look of the beholder and the society in which the person is inserted. Paleolithic figures, such as the Venus of Willendorf, represented ideal women with wide hips. In the 16th century, sexual practices involving this part of the body were officially censored by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent, with the justification that it was an “animalization of the divine act created for human reproduction”. In the 19th century, big butts were racistly seen as “exotic”. Sarah Baartman, the “Venus of Hottentot”, was removed from South Africa so that her body could be displayed and poked by the European public in freak shows, at the height of the dehumanization of the black population.

Beauty standards have also changed, always accompanied by fashion. Trends threw the butt upwards, like corsets and bustles, underwear that supported voluminous dresses, or downwards, like the looser, low-waisted garments popularized in the 1920s. pudenda, including the buttocks, was a very serious fault for women, who covered themselves with long dresses, linings, petticoats and lace. More recently, the scenario has changed. The emergence of the bikini, especially the thong, and the fitness obsession put the hips in the spotlight again.

IN FASHION – Bustles: big buttocks were synonymous with status (De Agostini/Getty Images)

Nowadays there is what the historian Mary Del Priore calls a promotional butt, used as a business card by personalities — socialite Kim Kardashian and singer Jennifer Lopez are perfect portraits of this trend. “influencers and artists of all kinds use and objectify this part of the body because, since time immemorial, the butt has played a role in the history of desires around the world”, says Del Priore.

Brazil occupies a prominent position in the discussion. In the book, the author cites the Brazilian Butt Lift, or BBL, an aesthetic procedure whose origin dates back to the work of plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy in the 60s. The process involves removing fat from other parts of the body and subsequently injecting it into the hips. But there’s so much more. In addition to plastic surgery, the butt is considered a “national passion”, as sociologist Gilberto Freyre wrote in an article published in 1984 in the magazine playboy, brand then licensed by Editora Abril. At least since the 1980s it has been the focus of advertising and the music industry. From É o Tchan’s axé to Gretchen’s shameless bouncing, from Valesca Popozuda’s funk to Anitta’s gingado, passing through Carnival celebrations, the buttocks are celebrated as part of the Brazilian identity — it’s a fact and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s worth mentioning, thankfully, that we have much more than the butt to show.

Published in VEJA on March 22, 2023, edition no. 2833

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