Review: Butts A Backstory

Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is definitely more political than the last non-fiction book I read, Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, but that makes sense. The author’s entire thesis is not so much about butts in the abstract, but more specifically the female butt. As part of that explanation she also considers how the butt was used as one dimension across which to define the differences between European and African bodies. Since race as a concept is itself political (more or less emerging in the Age of Exploration), this causes the book to be more political. This isn’t a knock against it or for it. It just means it’s going to be a bit more contentious and, at times, opinionated than Eve, which was simply talking about science and how our bodies evolved.

I found it very interesting seeing the author draw a line from the so-called “Venus Hotentot” through the flapper era of the 1920s and continuing to the 80s fitness craze before ending with the 1990s/2000s emergence of rap culture and an acceptance of big butts as desirable. Each era presents interesting ideas about European and American beauty standards and how they evolve as each generation reacts to the previous one.

I think it’s a neat read, but it could potentially be polarizing if you’re the type who stiffens at politics in their books – especially if you happen to disagree.

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