The Ass Issue

Sir Mix-a-lot may like a big butt, but anybody who’s actually got back has stressed over its size. Similarly, slim types with smaller handles worry that there isn’t enough of them to love. No matter where each individual body falls on the curvature scale, there’s a stereotype to bring it down: voluptuous types are slutty, the streamlined are asexual, and there are serious consequences if those lady (or man) lumps don’t fit inside the gender box you were assigned at birth. The more racialized a particular body is, the more stringent the judgments tend to be.

This Pride, we present the Ethnic Aisle Ass Issue. Our goal is to dissect how race and ethnicity in Toronto intersect with issues of body image, beauty, sexuality and the all-important ass. We’ve got some fun stuff, including our first-ever audio post and playlist, and some serious thinking. As always, we’re taking this very, very personally.

Karen K. Ho is tall, curvy, and Chinese. Crazy, right?

Hot for teacher: Vivek Shraya shares the story Bubble Butt, from his book God Loves Hair.

Jaime Woo reveals the most shocking thing about being a faceless torso on Grindr.

Our first audio post! In “How To,” MC Jazz takes on the ultimate signifier of feminine beauty: Barbie, of course.

Farzana Doctor’s poem Open Bar is about one-night stands, commitment ceremonies, long-term relationships, and s-e-x.

Shake your rump! Download an asstastic playlist, courtesy of Cherrybomb’s DJ Cozmic Cat.

If Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have taught us one thing, it’s that someone else can like your rearview, but if you flaunt it, you’re a slut. No fair, says Renee Sylvestre-Williams.

“Desire doesn’t care what your politics are.” Navneet Alang kisses a white girl, just like Undercover Brother.

Speaking with Denise Balkissoon, sexual health counsellor Rahim Thawer discusses HIV prevention, fetishes, stereotypes and, most importantly, keeping the ass fun.


My Big Banana Body

By Karen K. Ho

I am five feet, eight inches. I am also Chinese. Surprising but true: not all Chinese women are short, skinny and small-footed. I suspect this perception and outdated stereotype comes from a period when nearly all Chinese people were very poor and had rice-heavy diets. Many Chinese women are still short and skinny, but my guess is that that’s less about genetics, and more due to a modern obsession with thin-ness and a lower prevalence of fast-food outside major city centres.

Growing up in north Scarborough, I always felt like my head was in-between two cultures, Chinese and Canadian. I only just realized my body reflects that in-between status too. There are parts of me that are completely (stereotypically) Chinese, and there are parts that are much more Canadian (or, maybe, north American).

In this top-down, completely unscientific survey, I’ve tried to figure out once and for all if my physical makeup is more reflective of my parents and ancestry, or whether I’m a product of Canada, the only land I’ve known my entire life.

It’s black, straight, thick. The kind seen on the heads of many Chinese, Filipinos and other East Asians and Pacific Islanders. To me, my hair lacks personality, and over the years I’ve attempted to perm it and/or dye it unnatural colours like blue, purple and red. This doesn’t exactly make me more Canadian, just an angsty 20-something. People all over the world chemically alter their hair. What grows out of my head is very Chinese.

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How To…

 MC Jazz for the Ethnic Aisle – How To by Ethnic Aisle

MC Jazz is a queer, Egyptian rapper and poet who is proud to be a part of Toronto’s innovative and diverse music scene. Here, for the Ass Issue, she performs “How To,” a funny, smart, biting spoken word piece about Barbie and body image. This Pride, she’ll be performing on the south stage on June 30th at 6 p.m., and at Blockorama on July 1, also at 6 p.m.

The Ass and Body Confidence

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.

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Slowly Learning to Love My Hair

By Septembre Anderson

For as long as I can remember my scalp has been a battleground. One of my earliest hair memories is of my mother bribing me with a trip to the park if I would cooperate (re: not bawl my eyes out) when hair washing and styling time came that night.

I have the type of hair that is most feared: Black hair. My hair is a revolutionary that refuses to be colonized. In its natural state it is thick beyond belief, difficult to comb and even more difficult to style. While my hair can withstand anything (over the years it has been subjected to bleaching, extreme dyeing, extreme heat and even more extreme hairstyles) it takes a lot of patience, hair products and upper body strength to mold it into something other than an untamed Afro.

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Leave My Arm Hair Alone

By Scaachi Koul

Bushy eyebrows come and go in fashion. Women do weird, new things with their pubic hair every decade or so. But arm hair has never been cute.

It was in junior high when I first noticed that the other (read: thinner, prettier, whiter, blonder) girls in my school didn’t have arm hair. Then I noticed that the women in both American films and my mother’s Bollywood collection had bare arms as well. Even my female cousins, all ten to fifteen years older than me, had smooth, hairless arms. Even my mother’s arm hair was comparatively thin and sparse. They were all like soft, supple babies. By 13, my olive-skinned arms were sprouting dark black hairs.

I thought I was getting away with it, too. Leg hair removal felt unavoidable, and socially required, but I figured arm hair was okay to take to the mall. I was wrong. “Why do you have that?” a male classmate asked me when I was 13, pointing to my arms. “You’re hairier than I am.” I was also meaner and more likely to punch someone in the face, but I didn’t reply. Instead, I sheepishly pulled my arms back into my sweater.

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Your Hair Looks Like a Telephone Cord

By Caroline Shaheed

Caroline curly, Caroline straight

“Nice hair, did you see a ghost?!” That’s what a homeless guy said to me a couple years ago as I was walking down Church Street. It made me laugh to myself, but comments about my hair weren’t always funny to me.

My hair is brown, intensely curly and impossibly thick. My nickname in public school was “Poufy.” That name was given to me by a boy two grades older than me. People used to ask if I lost things in my hair, and one went so far as to stick a quarter in it to see if it would come out. It was one more way I felt different than the kids in my school.

My skin is not white, as most of theirs was. I have olive skin, brown eyes and I tan very, very easily as I am 100% Egyptian. I say this with pride, maybe a pride I didn’t have as a kid who was born and raised in London, Ontario, which used to seem like the whitest place on Earth.

Some people see me and say lovely things about my hair. Other people act like they never to have seen anyone different than themselves. “Oh that’s so cool!” they exclaim. “I just want to touch it! It’s basically inviting me to touch it!” I assure you: my hair is NOT inviting you to touch it. I do not want your paws grabbing at my tresses. I’m not a stuffed animal and grabbing at my hair and asking where I come from, is a terrible conversation starter, FYI.

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