Whether we love them or hate them, think they’re sexy, think they’re strange, consider them too big, too small, or anywhere in between, humans have a complicated relationship with butts. It is a body part unique to humans, critical to our evolution and survival, and yet it has come to signify so much more: sex, desire, comedy, shame. A woman’s butt, in particular, is forever being assessed, criticized, and objectified, from anxious self-examinations trying on jeans in department store dressing rooms to enduring crass remarks while walking down a street or high school hallways. But why? In Butts: A Backstory, reporter, essayist, and RadioLab contributing editor Heather Radke is determined to find out.
Spanning nearly two centuries, this “whip-smart” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) cultural history takes us from the performance halls of 19th-century London to the aerobics studios of the 1980s, the music video set of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and the mountains of Arizona, where every year humans and horses race in a feat of gluteal endurance. Along the way, she meets evolutionary biologists who study how butts first developed; models whose measurements have defined jean sizing for millions of women; and the fitness gurus who created fads like “Buns of Steel.” She also examines the central importance of race through figures like Sarah Bartmann, once known as the “Venus Hottentot,” Josephine Baker, Jennifer Lopez, and other women of color whose butts have been idolized, envied, and despised.
Part deep dive reportage, part personal journey, part cabinet of curiosities, Butts is an entertaining, illuminating, and thoughtful examination of why certain silhouettes come in and out of fashion—and how larger ideas about race, control, liberation, and power affect our most private feelings about ourselves and others.
Book Talk 6-7PM, with book signing afterwards.
Books will be available to purchase in person for $28.99. You may also purchase the book here.
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE FALL: Esquire, Time, LitHub, The Every Girl, BookPage
“Delving into this history, Radke provides fresh insights into why butts hold such sway over society—and what that says about our relationships to race, class, gender, and power.” —TIME “A fun, fascinating, and surprisingly empowering exploration of the history and cultural significance of the butt.” —*Starred Review* Library Journal
In this “deeply thought, rigorously researched, and riveting” debut (Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood and Body Work), Radke presents a compelling case about how this particular part of a woman’s figure actually embodies her experience moving through the world, and how reclaiming it can help us move forward. BUTTS legitimizes the conversation and study of something that’s been typically considered uncouth.