Apparently the latest craze in Ivory Coast is the Bobarosa – literally, “big bottom” in Djoula – a dance inspired by big bottoms from the perspective of (you guessed it) a couple of Ivorian men. Both sexes are doing it (even the national football team), but really it’s all about the laydeez and their backsides. On the face of it you might construe it as positive. DJ Mix, who is half of the duo responsible for the song, says:
“We made it as a tribute to women, because African women are defined by the shape of their bottoms”
Cause women just *love* to be defined by the shape of their bottoms.
His (female) dancers say it’s empowering, and I can see where they’re coming from, up to a point. They say it helps people to feel good about their bodies, which is important for all women and in particular black women who have the double whammy of racist western standards of beauty imposed on them.
If that weren’t bad enough, the BBC reports that there’s a burgeoning trade in liquid-injectable and cream-based “bottom enhancers” in Ivory Coast, and DJ Mix doesn’t exactly go out of his way to condemn it:
“If a woman goes dancing and wants to take two or three treatments, no problem,” he says. But we don’t say to girls that they must take treatment to enhance your bottom, no.”
We might cheer liberation from the stick-thin turbo-chested (current) western ideal but this type of ‘liberation’ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Real Woman (TM) shtick which goes on in the media (real woman = not thin, although not one of those undisciplined smelly fat chicks either, no) is every bit as pernicious as the size zero mandate. Probably more so, since it purports to be on our side. If we need to define a Real Woman we’ve probably strayed away from the concept of reality already. Hello? We are here! We exist! We are real! Beanpoles, fatsos and stick-thin turbo-chested women alike! The necessary corrollary of Real Woman is Not A Proper Woman, and it sounds a bit much like ‘divide and conquer’ for my liking.
We have always had beauty standards imposed upon us. Whether it be Ruebeneque women of Renaissance times required to be plump to demonstrate their husband’s wealth, a size zero catwalk model of now of 2008, a Geisha with her feet bound, the ‘feedee’ of a fat fetishist, a 1920s woman strapping her chest with bandages to get the flapper look, or DJ Mix’s Bobarosa babes injecting their arses with backstreet ‘buttock enhancer’, we have always tried to modify ourselves to fit the way some men say we should look. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Real Woman just meant whatever we are?
(Note: in the name getting a good image for this piece – so much harder than you’d think – at one point I searched ‘booty’ on Flickr. I strongly advise that you never do. Evential image courtesy of SlipStreamJC shared under a Creative Commons license)