Baby Got Back

In chapter four, “Selling Hot Pussy”, bell hooks discusses the representation of the black female body.  She argues that their bodies were not only objectified, but attention was paid only certain parts of their bodies (62). Specifically, hooks explores the attention that was given to the “butt,” and argues that this captivation with black “butts” still continues (63). While it is seen as a sign of heightened sexuality, “the butt is talked about in ways that attempt to challenge racists assumption that suggest it is an ugly sign of inferiority, even as it remains a sexualized sign” (63).

hooks argues that all this attention paid to the butt is a good thing because, “they are not the still bodies of the female slave made to appear as mannequin. They are not a silenced body. Displayed as playful cultural nationalist resistance, they challenge assumptions that the black body, its skin color and shape, is a mark of shame” (63). However, sometimes this attention to the body cannot get away from sexist or racist representations.

This is particularly evident in the media today, in images and music videos. Nowhere is this more evident than in the music video to the song “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot. While the music video portrays “butts” that are both “ unruly and outrageous,” they become sexualized objects of consumption not only for the men in the video, but also for the viewers. This is most evident in the very beginning of the music video when the scene pans back and forth between a beautiful black women on a pedestal touching her body with her hands and two white girls criticizing and gossiping about body, particularly her “butt.” While the music video does attempt to challenge racist assumptions that the black female body is undesirable and inferior, which is vehemently voiced by two white girls in the beginning of the video. However, the black female body, particularly the “butt”, which is portrayed as desirable, it is still portrayed as a sexualized object for the consumptions of the rappers and objects of male gaze.

-Kristy Wilson

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