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How Much Do You Like Your Curves? Take the Butt Assessment Test

Today's celebs sport bootylicious proportions, but can those of us who came of age with Jane Fonda's aerobics-sculpted glutes ever embrace our curves? Find out where you stand.

This century has been full of surprises for us baby boomers: Self-driving cars, portable phones that are smarter than we are, the ubiquity of hummus. But nothing has made my jaw drop further than the phenomenon of big butt worship.

My college-aged daughter has explained to me that the ideal figure now is something called “thick.”

I grew up hating my big fat butt, in fact, feeling humiliated by it. Oh sure, many other body parts were on my shit list as well, but only my thighs could really touch my butt (ha ha). I now know that girls of all shapes and sizes also felt this way, but I was bona fide chubby. I constantly compared my body to other people’s, whose cute little butts I could see a lot better than I could see mine. In fact, the only good thing about my butt was that I didn’t have to look at it. When I did, for example in a department store three-way mirror, I would feel a degree of self-loathing that eventually caused me to avoid department stores. And while some of my negative body consciousness lightened up around the time I became a mother, I still had enough rage against my butt in my 40s to come up with the Butt Assessment Test (see sidebar).

In 1992, we first heard this line on the radio: “I like big butts, I cannot lie.” That was Sir Mix-a-Lot in his landmark cut, Baby Got Back. In 1998, Juvenile begged us to “Back that ass up.” These songs certainly made me smile, but as I had already gotten the impression that African-American culture did not have the same boner for anorexia that plagued the white world, I wasn’t all that surprised.

Read More: 5 of the Best Butt-Toning Moves: How to Get Your Rear in Gear

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Nicki Minaj in her “Anaconda” video.

Now, big butt worship has crossed all color lines, with Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez leading the charge. My college-aged daughter has explained to me that the ideal figure now is something called “thick”—skinny waist with big butt and thighs. She showed me a whole series of pictures that girls have posted on Instagram to show off the size of their hips and butt, a sort of imitation of Nicki’s iconic poses in the music video of “Anaconda.” One of these Instagram posts drew the comment “You been eatin’, girl!” This, she explains, is a compliment.

This is good news for the post-Twiggy generation: we who pretty much invented eating disorders.

Wow. Good news for the post-Twiggy generation: we who pretty much invented eating disorders.

When I checked with my African-American friend Cija, a 42-year-old academic advisor who grew up in Harford County, MD, she basically agreed with my initial assessment that a few extra pounds have generally been better tolerated in black culture than white. Cija attended a predominantly white high school in the ‘90s, where girls with big butts were mocked for having a “wide load.” However, her African-American friends who attended a more racially diverse public high school talked about “the booty girls”—narrow-waisted girls with naturally generous butts who were admired for the perfect thick figure that is now sought after by one and all.

These days, the conversation has gotten quite a bit more complicated, as our devotion to ideal body aesthetics meets our more enlightened feminist attitudes. Cija called my attention to a 2017 storyline on Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It where a character—an aspiring dancer named Shemekka—has silicone implants in her rear. The episode where these implants exploded during a performance was supposed to be funny, but it drew sharp criticism from women writers on the internet as a severe example of mansplaining and body shaming.

Thanks Twiggy

There’s a great article by Elizabeth Enochs on Bustle, “How America’s Ideal Butt Has Changed Over the Last Century.” She shows that the big round butt of today actually had a precursor in 1910 with the hourglass of the Gibson Girl, and the pin-ups of the ‘40s and ‘50s had curves for days. The no-butt years heralded by Twiggy in the ‘60s gave way to the aerobicized superfit butt that came into vogue with Jane Fonda and stayed until things blew up, as it were, with our big butt pop culture queens.

Sadly, the focus on having a perfect body, no matter how perfect is defined, is always going to mean some people are miserable.

Sadly, the focus on having a perfect body, no matter how perfect is defined, is always going to mean some people are miserable. I wish I could say that my demographic has aged out of this sort of thing, but that would be a big lie. Though I bet they see very few midlife women at the butt-injection clinic, it’s because they’re all over in line for Botox, collagen, and facelifts.

Even if I’m more or less out of the game, the whole “thick” thing makes me happy. When my daughter explained that it applies not just to the butt but to the thighs, it took my breath away. It’s too late for me to grow up sane, but she and her friends are beautiful, curvy girls and happy about it. A more generous social ideal for women’s bodies can only be a good thing.

Read More: Middle-Aged Mom Butt: How to Keep Your Pants Up When Your Booty Size Goes Down


Welcome to the Butt Assessment Test (BAT)

While factors such as personality, intelligence, education, and work experience are all important to a person’s self-esteem and prospects, these indicators are secondary compared to the importance of butt size. Even the most accomplished and beautiful among us can find herself trapped in a snake pit of self-loathing and madness if her butt is too big. And how do you know? When you end up in a department store dressing room with fluorescent lights and a three-way mirror and learn that a hideous alien life form is posing as one of your body parts? Fortunately, most of the time, your butt is in your head, and that is why psychologists have at last provided an assessment tool in this area.

While a written test like the BAT cannot determine the actual, i.e., “physical,” size of your butt, studies have shown that physical reality is less important than delusional projections when evaluating the effect of your rear on your daily life. So take a seat and let’s begin.

Sentence Completion Section

1. The best thing about my butt is:

a. it looks so good in a thong.
b. guys are crazy for it.
c. it is comfortable to sit on.
d. it is in a place where I rarely see it.

2. When I was a child, people made fun of my:

a. little sister.
b. lunch box.
c. frizzy red hair.
d. butt.

3. The most serious obstacle to my personal happiness is:

a. my boring job.
b. my tedious partner.
c. my drug and/or alcohol addiction.
d. my butt.

4. It is said that some men prefer women with big butts. This is:

a. true in a song I once heard.
b. true in cultures to which I do not belong.
c. if true, proof of the existence of a benevolent God.
d. really not the point.

5. The best way to minimize the appearance of my butt at the beach is:

a. a French-cut leg.
b. a vertically-striped maillot with a belt at the waist.
c. a tricky skirted number.
d. a giant t-shirt which you never, ever take off.

6. The best exercise for your butt is:

a. squats and lunges.
b. the “Buns of Steel” exercise video.
c. wriggling into a Spanx.
d. fathomless yearning.

7. Liposuction is:

a. dangerous.
b. expensive.
c. extreme.
d. always a possibility.

8. One of the most unfair aspects of the disparity between the sexes is:

a. men are paid more for the same work.
b. men don’t menstruate or bear children.
c. men control virtually all aspects of government and business.
d. even totally out-of-shape men rarely have big butts.

9. I absolutely hate women who:

a. sleep with other women’s husbands.
b. sell our national secrets to enemy countries.
c. cut in line at the grocery store.
d. have perky, cellulite-free butts.

10. True or False?

a. At least my butt is relatively smooth and unblemished. T/F
b. At least my butt looks okay in clothes. T/F
c. At least my butt is not the size of a Chevy Suburban. T/F
d. At least my butt is not responsible for the many problems of the world. T/F


Score one point for each “d” and each “False” answer you chose. If your score is over 5, your butt is ruining your life. But you knew that already.


University of Baltimore professor Marion Winik is the celebrated author of First Comes Love, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead and other books. She also hosts The Weekly Reader podcast on WYPR. 

A version of this article was originally published in June 2018.

By Marion Winik


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