The human butt…. We have a complicated relationship with butts. We obsess over them, we admire them, we assess and critique them and are often complaining about our own while toning them and trying to make them attractive to others. But what is the butt really about?
Author Heather Radke explores some historical significance in some prominent human posteriors as well as how the butt has been transformed (psychologically, at least). We get some history on one of the first famous butts – that belonging to the Venus Hottentot (Sarah Bartmann) – to foot races between man and horse, to Miley Cyrus shaking her booty.
The first couple of chapters were really spot on with what I was expecting. We have a look at what, specifically, the human butt is designed for (as far as we can tell) – which is maybe a little surprising to a lot of us. The race between human and horse was fascinating (it’s tied in to the purpose of the human butt) and I really enjoyed the look back (pun intended) at how man (meaning both man and mankind) has had a bit of an obsession with the appearance of the butt and how clothing styles (specifically women’s styles) have emphasized the backside.
In this way, the first four chapters of the book (there are seven chapters) hold some interest, mostly from a historical point of view. But as we get to the more pop era, starting with the popular “Buns of Steel” phenomenon in the late 1980’s, the book loses steam.
Author Heather Radke spends less time looking at the significance of the butt from either a historical or social aspect to more time informing the reader about specific people who for one reason or another are famous for the their butts. Kate Moss, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, as well as those whose names aren’t quite so familiar but they faces (or butts) were once recognizable because of exercise videos that had become highly popular at the time.
These last three chapters take this book from being a respectable history and social commentary to a People magazine-like, name-dropping, superficial look at pop icons. This is really disappointing. These chapters aren’t a ‘cultural history of the female butt’ as the advertising copy for the books reads, but rather a look at a couple of specific women.
Looking for a good book? Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke starts out with some nice research and a solid historic and cultural look at the human butt but it devolves into a superficial look at a few pop culture icons noted for their prominent backsides.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Butts: A Backstory
author: Heather Radke
publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
hardcover, 320 pages