What’s Acceptable When it Comes to Body Image (by )

This video has been doing the rounds as it's the number one butt on the Internet, apparently. My social media is split between people perving and people being horrified that it exists.

It's Nicki Minaj Anaconda.

Taking the first - well, people will perve, both male and female; desiring or liking the aesthetic is not a problem as long as you don't a) think it gives you a right to the person b) make people feel uncomfortable c) assume that there is nothing else to them other than the physical appearance of their body.

The second one I have far more of an issue with. It is her body, she gets to decide how it is portrayed and to me it is much better to have her at the centre of the music and not a background pump-and-grind for some male lyricist. There is a very real issue with being told you can be a free and empowered woman as long as you conform to a set of behaviours and often this includes losing all sexual characteristics - instead of "sex on your own terms" it becomes "no sex what so ever", or a rather staid version. People are all individuals and as such we are all going to have different wants and tastes - she is expressing herself, it's not hurting anyone.

I'm seeing it argued that it is not good role model material in spite of being about having "curves" (more on this later). But, you know, music is an art form, it is about expression, about conveyance of what the artist wants to get across - now that may be a higher order better world stuff, or it may be a window into their own world and existence, or it maybe be a mood or feeling or story they wish to express - all of these things are equally as valid as another. Saying someone should not write, dance, or sing in a certain way as it isn't good for the kids or middle class sensibilities is censorship.

Censorship is a gag that chokes the creatives and the inventors and the scientists of a culture. Watersheds and age certification are not censorship, nor are warning labels as they act as guidelines and gives adults the choice of material consumption.

Obviously, the internet is still trying to sort this sort of stuff out but that is kind of a separate problem to what I wish to talk about.

You see there is another video about basically exactly the same thing which is considered far more acceptable by many of my friends - thus far I have many seen other women sharing this one:

It's Meghan Trainor All About That Bass

But you know, they are basically the same! The themes of the songs are the same but framed slightly differently, there isn't even that much extra clothing in the second one and the dancing is only a little less... bendy-bumpy. There is swearing in both, bum wiggling and grabbing and tongue in cheek humour in both.

So why is one so much more acceptable?

If I am being cynical, I would say it comes down to fear of the different and sub-cultures. I think this is what is being seen by a lot of people - second video shows an empowered woman being a bit earthy and bold where as the first video is a sexually excessive gang culture bling bint who is hanging it all out.

This is fixed into the concept of our own perceived body images for both women. One is assumed to have body confidence to begin with and therefore flaunting it is tarty, whereas the other is assumed to have low body confidence and so she is being brave and edgy.

Sadly I think there is some racial stereotyping going on here. Both of these videos are so similar that this really shouldn't be an issue at all. They are both going on about how large bums are beautiful.

Apart from the censorship angle there is something else going on here when people say that a piece of music should not have been made (this seems to especially apply to the work of female pop stars who can't win, whatever they do). What you are saying to the artist is, "You do not fit with my view of the world, you are different from me and therefore I wish to pretend you do not exist. You opinions and life views are not valid, you background renders you opinions invalid - you are invalid." Think about that for a moment - no one, dancer, builder, prostitute, doctor, is invalid; they all have feelings and thoughts and lives and ideas to express. They are not somehow less human and need to be hidden away from the "proper" people of the world.

Comments like "It's not even real music" bug me even more - how is it not real music? Again what you are saying is that it does not conform to the narrow range of music that you have been exposed to and/or told is "proper music". Also if it's not your thing then don't seek it out - don't listen to it. This is easier on the net than it ever was with telly - we get to be incredibly selective with our viewing if we wish. Don't like? Don't listen, or seek it out but then don't say it shouldn't exist or should be banned.

Now to the positive role model issue: showing people that they can make a living by dancing scantily clad is not actually an issue - the issue with role models is when that is the only model people are giving. When they are shown that that is the only option for them. And as always - if you think something is a rubbish bit of art, do not spend your energies moaning about it, but create your own, maybe even counter-examples, maybe even become the role model you think is lacking? Help create the diversity so every one sees there are multiple options and do not degrade someone for their life choices.

Right - now to the negative bit. I actually do have issues with both of these videos.

Both of them are about large bottomed girls, about how they are attractive and wonderful and so on. Brilliant - great! Challenge the fashion of beauty but... both of them use the phrase 'skinny bitches' as if women of slighter builds are at fault rather than a fashion industry pushing stuff for their own agendas. Both portray thinner women as "doing it on purpose" as if they are malicious and horrible rather than just naturally being built differently.

This is really really wrong because the truth is that the world isn't split into the fat and thin; it is split into the body confident and the body ashamed. Pretty much if you fall outside of the average zone you get abuse because you are too thin, or too fat or your boobs are too big or you're as flat as an ironing board. And just because people appear confident, it doesn't mean they actually are either; please remember that when you loudly comment about low plunged necklines or knobbly knees etc...

And lastly, because it seems to fit so well, here is my poem about body image that I performed at Pride this year:

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