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The Big, Round Obsession

Bums

Art piece by Jay Alders

Part of why I want to talk about this topic is because, as far as I am aware, a conversation about it has barely begun, and I think it would truly do us damage if there wasn’t one.

Societal expectations for any person’s appearance are always changing and are often unrealistic, putting pressure on people and causing many of our insecurities. However, I do not wish to talk about expectations as a whole, but speak precisely about one in particular that has developed in recent years and has such a huge hold, whether we know it or not, on many of us in today’s society.

Having a big bum has become somewhat of an obsession. Speaking in general terms, girls tend to want one (or a bigger one if they already do; society has a way of preventing us from being satisfied), straight boys often desire a girl with one. And when I consciously think about it, I cannot wrap my head around how highly having a large behind is valued. Not to mention the influence the societal expectation has on our lives.

It impacts what many girls wear, how they stand and sit, how they walk, what pictures are taken, deleted, or edited, how they perceive themselves, how long they look at themselves in the mirror, how much time they devote to working out, what they eat, how they think, what they feel.

A psychological, behavioural explanation that can be applied to the unrelenting admiration for large bums is called the Learning Theory. Through Operant Conditioning, we could say that the value we put in large bums slowly grows due to a complicated process of both punishment and reinforcement. Observing or receiving approval for having a big bum (e.g. comments such as “Damn she has a nice batty”) acts as positive reinforcement in which increases the chance of our behaviour—and along with this, our thought processes. Therefore, behaviour (such as wearing tight jeans as well as potentially conforming to the conversations which effuse approval) is reinforced. In turn, our behaviour is also discouraged via positive punishment, perhaps because of negative attention, which makes us not want to slouch or wear really baggy clothing. Our behaviour and thoughts are tightly linked, so through this process of conditioning behaviour, our thoughts usually form patterns also which can be hard to become aware of and break.

Another explanation could be the influence of social media. It is flooded with content that perpetuates and reinforces the expectation of a large bum every day. It—to an extent—brainwashes us. And we carry this indoctrination into our day-to-day lives, projecting it onto each other through our comments and conversations. Our thoughts become automatic towards large and small bums and, again, this becomes difficult to become aware of and challenge.

Question your thoughts critically. Are they logical? Are they conditioned? Because realistically, how can the shape and size of some fat and muscle below our backs be so damn important?

If we can identify the thought patterns that cause damage, we are a step closer to bettering ourselves and unlearning the obsessive cognitions we've adopted. Could you imagine the increase in confidence as people decide they no longer give a fuck what is expected?

This is not to say you cannot like or want a big bum. It is just easy to allow ourselves to become consumed by ideas constantly presented to us to the point they become unhealthy obsessions. To the extent they dictate how we feel in our everyday lives.

All I wish to encourage is that those who feel the pressure to attain to society's standards learn to love the bum you were born with whether it be big, small, round, or flat. 

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