June 7, 2019

The Rise of the Belfie: the Booty Selfie.


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The world’s gone bum mad!

Not a day goes by when round, cheeky bottoms in thong swimwear or lacy undies don’t line up in my Instagram feed like peaches at the greengrocers, ripe and juicy, ready for biting.

Flashes of bare flesh lighting up my tablet screen from digital nomad girls in tropical locations, women working out, celebrities, and even one lady at a swimming pool posing with her baby.

Now, before you dub me a boring old fart who is clearly living in the Victorian age, where freedom of expression for arses wasn’t yet a thing—I haven’t got anything against women celebrating their bottoms.

The opposite, in fact. I find it fascinating to ogle these works of art.

I mean, the effort it takes someone to poise in perfect plumpness—hanging over the edge of a yacht, or twisted around to face the gym mirror as if they suddenly have arms growing from their backs, clasping their iPhones as they take a belfie (yes, a butt-selfie!).

It’s impressive. I’m genuinely impressed by their photo snapping skills and apparent body confidence.

So much so, that I was once inspired to post my own booty selfie.

I was on a solo trip to Mexico, and when I found myself at a deserted waterfall with a friend, I knew exactly what to do. The Timotei advert I’d seen in my teenage years of a woman writhing under the waters while flowers, suds, and her self-respect flowed downstream, gave me all the moves I needed to make my own booty selfie a success. I flicked my hair out of the water, bent at the hips as if squatting for the loo with hands on my hips to make my butt pop like JLo grinding in “Booty”. There I stayed in statuesque stillness for what seemed like 10 minutes while my friend clicked away on the camera to get the Insta-winning shot.

I admit that when I saw a direct message shortly after saying “hey babes, we love your profile, DM us to feature you!” from a swimwear brand promising to make me a “brand ambassador” in return for 50 percent off their collection—I stifled a delighted “me?!” And my new life as a bum model—with all the world travel, assistants holding umbrellas over my rump to avoid sunburn, and autographs I’d do on photocopies of my butt—flicked before my eyes in one rose-coloured filtered hue.

I was tempted.

That is, until I remembered that my grandad follows me on social media and I doubt “booty selfies are a women’s right” just like the vote, or going on the pill, would make me sound like the liberated and independent lady he hoped that I would be in the 21st century.

He once told me about the time when my great nanny, his mother, had to take her clothes off to see the doctor. In those days, people rarely took off their clothes and apparently nanny didn’t even do it to bathe! She would have a “sink wash” and cleverly negotiate her petticoats as she flicked a flannel around up there. Her doctor left the room to give her some privacy, and when he returned ready for the examination, my lovely, innocent nanny had done a runner to avoid the embarrassment of undressing in public.

What do you reckon my old nan would think of these cheeky girls, if she saw their bare bums on Instagram? I reckon she would’ve gone into shock and died in a state of paralysed fear, instead of in her bed at the age of 101.

Back then a #belfie (that’s an actual hashtag), would have seemed as mental as space travel, an African American Barbie doll, or Pop-Tarts. Your buttocks were for sitting on and helping to carry you the four miles round-trip, just to collect your weekly rations. Not for public display.

It begs the question, why then, as modern women, are we obsessively taking booty selfies?

It seems that taking photos of our bums and posting them online has become yet another way to get noticed and gain validation for who we are at the expense of true self-actualisation.

Our sense of self-worth heavily tied up with how many “likes” we’ve had that week, or whether swimwear brands want to feature us as an “influencer” in my case. It may all seem harmless at first. Until no one clicks “like” on our belfies and we begin to question “is my bum worth liking at all?” and then body confidence takes a dive, so we hit the gym in a misguided attempt to make it onto the Belfie Hall of Instagram Fame.

The promise of becoming a modern-day-pin-up-online-star is such a huge lure that we forget ourselves and whether our spending five nights a week at the gym truly makes us feel like secure, happy, and fulfilled people.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves.

By all means hit the gym for an hour-long squat session if it means having a stronger bum for walking to work, sitting at a desk all day, or carrying your baby without injury. That’s healthy.

We just shouldn’t feel compelled do it because everyone else we follow on Instagram seems to have their bums cast from the Goddess of perfect posteriors and ours isn’t like it, or because we’re looking for a social media boost. Our bums won’t thank us for it, and neither will our followers in the end.

Also, by presenting an idealised image of the perfect bum, we can unconsciously cause other women to feel bad about themselves when they don’t live up to it.

It’s rather sad when you think about it.

Female empowerment has come such a long way in the last 100 years and yet we still suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and negative emotions in relation to how society views our bodies, just as my old nan’s generation would’ve back then.

We should feel confident celebrating our bums, without having to awkwardly belfie in front of the snorkeling guide, who, instead of showing us the coral delights of the Indian Ocean, is waiting patiently while we get the sand positioned “just right” over our bronzed butts while laying in the surf.

Surely our bottoms are more than just a fleshy mound to be adored and envied by lunchtime escapists eating chicken salad at their desks?

We should love our bums for what they’re intended to do (hold us up and keep us balanced) and take care of them because without their collection of muscles and fatty tissues, our lives would be much worse for it.

The diversity of bums—squidgy bums, flat bums, pert bumps, and those bums that bounce happily to the rhythm of internal reggae music—should be praised, not homogenised. Bottoms come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the needs of our body, and I think it’s high time we should treat them with a bit more respect.

Instead of spending precious time posing for the perfect belfie, we should give our bottoms a massage with indulgently expensive skin cream, as a thank you for always having our back. So pat yourselves on the backside and say “great job today,” after hauling those food shopping bags home without driving, or cycling around that reservoir on a seat so thin that it was precariously close to getting lost in the crack of our bum. Surely this is a better expression of gratitude—for this amazing instrument that lets us walk, jump, and perform any number of miraculous activities that we take for granted—than a belfie is.

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