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The Male Gaze Will Be Televised // Booty Tooch?

10 May

A couple of things popped into my head from today’s entertaining discussion about butts and Baartman.

First, when I read the poems from The Venus Hottentot by Elizabeth Alexander in the perspectives of Cuvier and Baartman, it was absolutely ironic when I turned on my laptop, looked through my news feed from TIME, and found this newly-published article: Women Strip, Men Judge Their Bodies on Danish TV Show ‘Blachman’. 

To my group members in class today, oops. It was Denmark, not Sweden or Switzerland…

Anyways, the article begins, “A woman stands naked in a room under a harsh spotlight. She’s not allowed to speak, but must stand quietly while two men sit on the couch and assess her physical attributes as a camera zooms in and out on the body parts they are discussing.” (1) (Sound sorta familiar?)

The show’s creator and title influencer, Thomas Blachman, stated that he wants to “stir discussion” and have “men discussing the aesthetics of a female body without allowing the conversation to become pornographic or politically correct.” (2) But, what would make this show so successful when it is just showing the nude female body? What about nude male bodies? Why only male judges, and who are they? Who and why are the women participating in this kind of show?

This was interesting to me, especially as it relates to thinking about the ways in which the first person of Baartmen in the poems spoke of being dehumanized and feeling negative about what is happening to her. [“Since my own genitals are public / I have made other parts private. / In my silence I possess / mouth, larynx, brain…”] (3)

And, as it relates to the first person of Cuvier in the poems, he sounds similar to Blachman, who has a positive tone of articulating his discoveries, his new creation, his findings and contributions to society. [“Everything is beautiful / blown up beneath my glass…Ordinary crumbs become stalactites / set in perfect angles… Few will ever see what I see / through this microscope.”] (4) What do we make of their male gazes? They seem especially fascinating to read through tones from the poems and from the clip above from Blachman.

Part of me feels these two moments, from the far past and the near present, are eerily similar…

—–

Moving on, have any of you seen the season of America’s Next Top Model, where Tyra Banks focused her model contestants on how to achieve what she calls the “Booty Tooch”? Tyra calls this “art,” and reveals to us that the models will use padding on their butts to achieve the round, voluminous booty. But, as shown in the following clip, an androgynous contestant, Azmarie, refuses to use the padding because it is not something she is willing the do. Thus, Tyra dismisses her from this particular training.

Was Tyra going overboard? I personally thought Azmarie was being brave in standing up for not wanting to manipulate her body into something that took away her identity of androgyny. One of the models responded to her with, “What? It looks like a natural butt?!”

So, here we are again with what is natural and what it not. Obviously, the padding is not giving these models a natural butt, but… is Banks trying to promote women having a bigger booty? She calls Azmarie’s booty a “flat tooch,” and the clip my group showed during the beauty pageant segment featured a Miss America contestant who was working out her butt because she thought it was too flat.

In the essay, “Jennifer’s Butt,” Frances Negrón-Muntaner presents the negative notions of having a big butt, which makes the claim that having this feature is not a good thing for a woman’s presentability. [“A big culo does not only upset hegemonic (white) notions of beauty and good taste, it is a sign for the dark… Excess of food (unrestrained), excess of shitting (dirty), excess of sex (heathen) are its three vital signs.”] (5) Especially for someone like Jennifer López, she had to endure challenges and criticisms associated with her butt and her race. So, what is Tyra telling us? Do we hate flat butts now?

Today in class, someone pointed out that maybe people are just born with a big butt, and you can’t change that naturally. Is the media, is Tyra, are we embracing the natural booty or the big booty?

(By the way… the YouTube comments on both videos are fascinating…)

—–

1. Melissa Locker, “Women Strip, Men Judge Their Bodies on Danish TV Show ‘Blachman,'” TIME Magazine, May 9, 2013, accessed May 10, 2013, http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/09/women-strip-men-judge-their-bodies-on-danish-tv-show/.

2. Ibid.

3. Elizabeth Alexander, The Venus Hottentot (Saint Paul: Graywolf Press, 1990), 9.

4. Ibid., 5.

5. Frances Negrón-Muntaner, “Jennifer’s Butt,” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, 22, no. 2 (1997): 189.

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5 Comments

Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

5 responses to “The Male Gaze Will Be Televised // Booty Tooch?

  1. xiaodiw

    May 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Talking about booty tooch, I had the same feeling as Lilly when I watched this episode of America’s Next Top Model. Azmarie was definitely very brave because even she knew that her performance would be affect by her refusal of putting on a fake booty, she stood up and followed her own heart; she did not conform or try to please anyone else or the society by following the standard- having a round and up butt. However, is this really a practical and smart choice in reality? This reminds me of the general question we had in class today: “Is beauty something imposed by society, or is it something that an individual can claim?”

    Tyra Banks who worked all the way from a high school girl to a top and well-known model in the fashion industry knows what the industry or the society looks out for beauty- the round and nice-looking booty, this will increase the girls’ chance of getting a job in the competitive world. The beauty standard imposed by the society is like invisible pressure on a lot of women. Despite the fact that feminists strive for more freedom for women, many women still cannot jump out of restrictions set by the society.

     
  2. robertsc16

    May 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I think it would also be interesting to view the ANTM clip through a lens of normalization–as Tyra is walking down the line of models with comments like “perfect, perfect,” they have their backs turned and are dressed identically. They already have very similar body types (a whole other topic) and are wearing a beauty tool (the “booty tooch”) which creates an even greater sense of uniformity. This reminds me of the idea in our discussions of plastic surgery that beauty can be a way to become just normal enough to be an individual–the irony that a women feels like she must conform (or normalize) to be able to stand out in positive ways. Azmarie’s refusal to become one of a series of lined up tooch’s is especially brave in this light. Though I haven’t seen any other episodes, it appears that she has already refused some of this normalization pull through androgyny. In this clip she further ostracizes herself from the group and the beauty norm. I tend to see this kind of individuality as more authentic.

     
  3. kelseyjk

    May 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I think it’s interesting and important to remember that (essentially) whenever people praise big booties, they still mean booties that are big in proportion to the rest of the body–an accentuated “hourglass”-type figure. There is not so much public love for women who are bigger all over–the “apple”-type figure, if you remember those “what body type are you?” questionnaires.

    A comic by Colleen Clark that Adrianna linked to a while back (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/colleen-clark-body-image-comic_n_3140536.html) summarizes this distinction over a few panels: “Wait! But I like curves on a woman!”, then, “No, not these curves.”

     
  4. eondich

    May 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    This clip is interesting to me, though, because I often see female models who look fairly androgynous, at least in build. I’ve never watched ANTM or shows like it, so I’m not sure I’m seeing an accurate representation of the modeling industry, but when I go to the mall or get magazines and see ads for places like Hollister, the girls don’t seem to have many curves, and the clothes they’re modeling tend to be made for thin, uncurvy women. Are these just examples of different looks seen as appropriate for models, does this have something to do with race, or am I reading the situation totally incorrectly?

     
  5. goodyeak

    May 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    The Danish show “Blachman” reminded me a lot of our discussion we had today in class after watching Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull’s music video “live it up.” In class we talked about the fact that in so many music videos nowadays, women are barely clothed and dancing around while men sit, fully clothed watching them. This theme is yet again echoed in the new show “Blachman.” It was a shock to me that such a show came from Denmark, one of the most progressive countries promoting gender equality, a country that really prides themselves on it. I therefore wanted to know more about the show. I was curious to find out WHO and WHY someone would want to go on the show and be scrutinized by two middle-aged men…

    I found this article “Naked on TV: A Danish look at Blachman’s ‘sexism'” (http://www.dw.de/naked-on-tv-a-danish-look-at-blachmans-sexism/a-16801715)

    Blachman’s claims that the purpose of the show is to revise women’s perception of men’s perception of women. “We have a program that reveals what men think about the female body,” she stated. “Quite honestly, what is wrong with that?”

    The major problem however in the show is that it perpetuates gross, sexist power relations between men and women. We see, just as in the music video, men fully clothed staring at naked women. However, what was so striking to me though was a quote from one of the female contestants.

    “Blachman, in her eyes, is deep, clever and funny. And when she stood naked in front of him and his mate, he was reduced to a giggling school boy. She felt empowered, not in the least bit objectified, she tells me…It’s art – it’s not a cheap reality show,” she told DW. “These men are not salivating over our bodies. They just admire women’s bodies in all their shapes and forms.”

    In what way is scrutinizing a female body art? Also who is the audience of the show? Even though Blachman may not be salivating on screen I’m sure many of the men at home probably are…

     

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