As the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a break of late. I’ve been on the road with work since mid-September recruiting brilliant promotional staff as part of the ol’ day job, which has been lovely – but all very planes, trains and automobiles, if you know what I mean. On the up-side, I’ve seen a lot of towns I’ve never visited before; on the down-side, I’ve consumed a lot of really, really bad coffee.
Anywho, that means I’ve not been quite as on the ball with what’s going on in the media at the moment – but there are certain things even I, under a heap of paperwork and suitcases, would’ve struggled to miss. Y’all know what I’m referring to: of course, like most of the now-apparently-broken internet, I’m talking about Kim Kardashian’s butt.
As a marketing campaign – or rather, a publicity stunt – for a magazine I’ve personally never heard of, you’ve gotta hand it to ’em: it worked. And I actually don’t hate it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – there are a whole host of problems with it. The did-she-or-didn’t-she photoshop question; the did-they-or-didn’t-they reference to problematic black imagery; the ever-present do-we-or-do-we-not care about Kim Kardashian in the first place issue… As predicted, the internet is collapsing under the weight of thought pieces about a butt.
But at least they’re (ahem) up front about it. It’s a cover that just declares it’s intentions from the start: to make you talk about it. To share it. To make it trend. That’s what they want, and that’s what they’ve achieved – and that’s fine. Honesty is, after all, the best policy.
On the other hand, though, there are a whole bunch of other similar controversies that have cropped up over the last couple of months.
For instance, you’ve got Vogue, who declared this to be – officially – the “Era of the Big Booty” (as though I haven’t been personally working that look since about 2004 – duh, Vogue); and then, there was this campaign from Victoria’s Secret:
The backlash that followed resulted in over 26,000 signatures on a petition demanding it be changed to something less body-shaming (I would’ve termed it “bitchy,” but, fair enough), and the campaign was quietly changed to “A Body for Every Body” a week or so ago.
Now, I’m all for the petition, and I’m glad they changed it – but I doubt very, very much that the wrath of the internet was a surprise to anyone working in the Victoria’s Secret PR team. As Oscar Wilde said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about” – so if this wasn’t in the mind of at least one person in their marketing department before the campaign was deployed, I will go out, buy a hat, and eat it.
Which is what makes it different from, and yet the same as, Kim Kardashian’s ass. At least with the latter, it’s right out there: Paper wanted to cause a storm on the internet, and they did.
I’m pretty sure the same could be argued for Victoria’s Secret, and even Vogue’s article on the big booty – they wanted to make people talk, and they did it. No such thing as bad publicity, and all – and that’s never been more true than now, in a world where the best marketing campaigns are the ones that get the most shares, the most likes, and the most tweets.
Whether they’re positive or negative seems to be irrelevant – in other words, we’re being trolled.
But there’s another, more insidious level to this, too – and one that makes me think it’s worth remembering that in our crazy-ass media landscape, you’ve gotta exercise a certain level of criticism at all times, if you’re going to make it out alive.
The “Era of the Big Booty,” if it is happening – and to be fair to Vogue, the body-type we’re seeing more of nowadays does, generally, have an impressive posterior – seems to be protected from body-shaming accusations by the logic that made “real women have curves,” a non-call-out-able statement that shames thin women by default. Apparently, we’re fine with Photoshop perfection if we don’t see bones – but in a lot of instances, we seem to be too blinded by the butt to call it out for what it is: a new “perfect body” that is still, generally, unattainable for the masses.
In other words, while the words say “bigger is better,” or “real women have curves,” the message is still the same: that this body, this tiny-waisted, big-bootied, shiny body, is the one you should wish you had. The one you should aim towards, to aspire to, and the one which, by comparison, makes you “ugly.”
It’s almost as though the language of self-love – the body confidence rhetoric that, in the nicer corners of the internet, has been spouted for a number of years – is being used to disguise the same old sh*t.
Of course, we love looking at bodies – although apparently, when it comes to magazines and ad campaigns, we like our women wearing far less clothes than our men (it’s no surprise that after two years, the most read post this blog is the one where I’m standing in my knickers – sorry Dad.) Other people’s bodies intrigue us, because they’re different – and that difference invites comparison.
But the message we’re getting from media outlets of all sorts – magazines, music videos, ad campaigns, and so on – isn’t on difference as a positive thing. It’s on perfection of a different kind, rather than difference as perfection itself.
So I invite you to be critical about this more “body confident,” “self-loving” media. Think about the “era of the booty,” before you declare it a good thing. If it invites you to love your body, and to respect every woman you meet for loving hers, then the message is a-ok. But if, on the other hand, it’s a statement that “this body is the best body – you jel?” then something ain’t right.
And in the meantime, love your own body.
Hell, I am definitely a few pounds heavier thanks to two months of eating on trains and in hotels, but I still love my body – if anything, what’s a little faded in muscle definition is more than made up for by my more impressive rack, and I’d love it just the same at whatever size it was, because it’s mine. That ain’t to say I’m not looking forward to getting some exercise, but that’s because the feeling of being strong, and making my heart beat a lil’ faster, is something I enjoy infinitely more than reading magazines that tell me I’m ugly.
When you’ve got the confidence in your own self as a definition of gorgeous all of it’s own – when you choose to see perfection in the mirror, rather than on a billboard – it makes you more immune to the greased-up, Photoshopped images of what we’re “told” to be, whether heroin chic or bootylicious.
In other words: go forth, and love yo’self.