By Renee Sylvestre-Williams
Toronto’s Pride and Caribana festivals may not be strictly about the ass, but both definitely celebrate it. I’m Trinidadian, so I’ll talk about Caribana. It’s now played by not just West Indians, but a variety of cultures that see awesomeness in slipping into something tiny, sparkly and wining in hot sunshine. Good times are had by all.
The bottom is an interesting thing. All genders appreciate a good ass, but the everyday bottom talk conversation tends to be under the radar. The exception is Brits who vote in the Rear of the Year award (which is won by one man and one woman) and fans of Desmond Morris.
Here’s a theory (not that my research has been exactly scientific): cultures that appreciate the bottom tend to have women and men who have a lot of body confidence.
Think about it. My friends who have big bottoms but come from a ass-positive cultures seem to be more confident in themselves. Call it stereotyping, but it seems that my friends with heritage from the West Indies, Latin America, Africa and India are more likely to say “Yes, my ass is amazing.” It’s friends with European heritage who tend to ask, “Does my ass look big in this?” (My response is often, “Yes.” Not quite the answer they’re looking for.)
Since moving to Toronto, I’ve noticed that while we seem to be ok with appreciating another person’s ass, we’re supposed to want our own bottoms to be smaller, tighter and firmer. The so-called mainstream media (all those magazines) tell us that a cute bum is supposed to be small. A big ass is a signifier for unbridled sexuality.
Kim Kardashian is the current flag bearer for big bottoms. She did launch herself into the spotlight with her sex tape, but the media has agreed to treat her ass as a wonder. At least half of the photos of her must be from behind. It smacks uncomfortably of Sarah Baartman, otherwise known as the Hottentot Venus.
We live in a culture that makes fun of women’s body issues and any so-called positive reinforcement is sexual. When individual women cross the fine, invisible line of “too sexual,” we condemn them. Remember the photos of Rihanna at Cropover (for the uninitiated, that’s Barbados’ version of Carnival)? International mainstream media gasped, “Scandalous! How dare she bend over and thrust her ass at that man! She’s asking for sex.” Pearls were clutched, couches were fainted upon. The rule seems to be that it’s ok for others to appreciate your ass, but to appreciate it yourself is wrong and sluttish.
I’ll end this with a recent light-hearted conversation between some Ethnic Aislers. Yes, this is what we do on Twitter and yes, I was being judgey.