Big bums are something our mums worried over in the 80s and 90s.
No one wanted an arse that looked like it had been poured into a pair of jeans. No one was working on their bum goals. Thinner was undoubtedly better and that meant having a small bum, small boobs, small waist.
Today, however, we’re obsessed with peachy, plump behinds.
Head down to any gym and you’ll be lucky to find any free mat space among all the people squatting, jump squatting and lunging to get big, firm arses.
On Instagram, #squats has nearly 10 million posts – nearly all of which are pictures of women with shapely bums. It’s the accessory to have – something that shows off how fit you are while giving you an excessively feminine silhouette.
Stronger is better in 2017 and that’s something to be celebrated.
But where does this big bum worship start crossing the line into a particularly difficult form of cultural appropriation?
I’m mixed race and as a child, family members would often say that the most obvious signals of my heritage were in my hair and my bum.
‘One day you’ll make a good Ghanaian mum,’ they’d say, ‘because you have a good backside for carrying a baby on.’
Useful if not particularity attractive, I always felt. Until now (woo hoo!).
In fact, being racially ambiguous is generally very in vogue.
The mainstream has appropriated bigger bums, chunkier lips, thicker hair as being a beauty standard to which we should all be aspiring.
As Tina Fey once said: ‘Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.’
The Kardashian-Jenners are a family of Caucasian women who have aesthetically made themselves as mixed as possible, thanks to cosmetic procedures and workout regimes.
Kylie Jenner, who is of Dutch, English, Irish and Scottish decent, has done her damnedest to morph into some kind of Hip Hop Honey who could be mistaken for a number of nationalities and mixes.
Her and Kim K’s transformations have been remarkable and have sparked a trend among young white women who aspire to the same chunky arses and thick lips that have previously been reserved for those of Latina, black and mixed backgrounds.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se. I doubt you could find someone to admit that Kylie doesn’t look great in her current manifestation.
But picking and choosing racial features to replicate is problematic.
When I was younger, I used to find my identity a difficult one to own – even though my dad is also mixed.
My sister and I were cajoled into going to a West Indian youth club as small children and I used to be a bit embarrassed about being so light skinned. When I went to high school, I was embarrassed about my frizzy hair not conforming to either straight or Afro styles. When I dated my first white guy at university, I felt embarrassed by how he made a big deal of my ‘exoticness’.
Being racially different – even if it’s only by a smidgen – comes with a unique set of challenges.
While it’s amazing that we now live in a world where white people hold ethnic minorities up as a beauty standard, it actually only salutes a very narrow middle and it completely ignores the societal problems that the original owners of those features have to deal with.
It’s beautiful to be tanned, to have freckles, to have tight curls or thick dark hair, to have a big arse, small waist, big boobs and thick lips.
But if you’re too dark, too thick, too…black, then you’re out of the club.
How can someone from a distinctly white background understand the societal issues that come with being part of an ethnic minority, just because they’ve been doing 100 squats a day? Or gone and got a tan? Or had their lips filled?
And in a lot of cases, the celebrities who are subscribing to this racially ambiguous notion of beauty aren’t interested in championing the rights or situations of ethnic minorities.
Kylie Jenner, Iggy Azalea, Kim K et al might date black men but where are they when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement? Or when it comes to speaking out against Trump when he’s busy slagging off prominent civil rights activists?
I’m not saying that you have to be a political activist to follow a beauty trend but as a WOC, it would be nice to see women who champion traditionally ‘ethnic’ traits take more interest in the over-all identities of the women who they are trying to emulate.
Women like Naomi Harris, Jennifer Hudson, Pam Grier, Serena Williams, Lupita Nyong’o – the list of successful, empowering and beautiful black women is endless. These are women who have excelled in their field, and who have broken racial boundaries to be the first black women to fulfill their achievements.
So often, we look at people like Rhianna and Beyonce and want to replicate the way they look without connecting it to the Bajan identity, or Creole/Black mix that they’re so proud of.
And while they might be held up as inspiration for white women looking to reinvent themselves, people like Naomie Harris have empowered black future Bond girls around the world without much being made of her looks. Perhaps that’s because she’s too dark for the mainstream to copy.
Black and Asian women should be at the forefront of fashion, beauty and fitness if we insist on working out and modifying ourselves to look more like them. If the mainstream wants to own a certain colouring, facial feature or body shape that isn’t naturally white, then it’s time to put ethnic minorities in that central space, rather than ertsatz celebrities.