The XX Factor

Wait, Are Feminists Supposed to Drool Over Women’s Butts or Nah?

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Hilary Duff.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Being a feminist is hard work! We must endure weekly lashings from fellow pro-women writers on Twitter, late-night meetings where we craft our feticidal agendas, and the spiky discomfort of the transition phase between smooth- and hairy-leggedness. There is no rest for the feminist, who must follow closely the ever-changing consensus on whether and how we are supposed to dance across the political minefield that is women’s bodies.

Last I heard, we were all supposed to be casting hexes upon David Edelstein and Rich Cohen, magazine writers whose approach to criticism involves analyzing the shape, angle, and degree of sexiness of individual body parts as shorthand for an actress’s character. But also, the same outlets that are telling us to slay all day and clap back at body-shaming haters are salivating over those same body parts.

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People Have Just Realised Hilary Duff Is Thick And, Honey, They’re Living,” read a BuzzFeed headline from earlier this month. I think that’s supposed to be celebrating Duff and her larger-than-average-for-the-film-industry butt? But it also sounds like something a gross dude would tweet while poking a pair of binoculars through her curtains. Which is it and where are we? The post is full of peach emojis and claims that “she’s got THAT CAKE” and is “👏 SERVING 👏 A 👏 LOOK👏,” approvingly aggregating tweets that would, in another context—and maybe this one, too?—amount to a series of online catcalls. A whole post about Hilary Duff’s butt, on a site that has an entire well-populated tag for stories about the horrors of “objectification”! The post’s URL even comes up with a new nickname for Duff to honor how much her tush arouses people: Thickary Duff, which sounds either like a schoolyard taunt or a secondary Harry Potter character.

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As Jessica Roy pointed out on Twitter this morning, Cosmopolitan, too, is taking cheerleading body-positive rhetoric and bending it so far it comes around and slaps your ass on the other side. Here’s how Cosmo explains Rihanna’s airport get-up: “Rihanna’s Butt in This Tracksuit Is Straight BOI-OI-OING.” That, reader, is the onomatopoeic rendering of a boner in motion. Where someone who described a woman’s body as ah-OOga, ah-OOga, sproooooing! would once be castigated as a pathetic horndog who thinks of women as heated-up sex dolls, he might now find himself writing headlines for a relatively woke women’s magazine. The duality of man, in one share line.

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Plenty of other outlets have turned well-meaning appreciation for bodies and beauty into googly-eyed droolfests. Mic recently published a piece on “the radical power of Wonder Woman’s thigh jiggle,” pinpointing a moment in the film during which the flesh on Gal Gadot’s upper leg moves about. The Huffington Post applauds “23 Crazy-Fine Asian Dudes,” “stunning nude photos” of fat people, and men who are “Gay. Disabled. And Sexy As F**k” in headlines that could easily belong on a magazine in an opaque bag at a gas station. Marie Claire’s post on Khloe Kardashian’s exercise attire features a close-up image of her butt, noting that “Khloé’s butt also attended” the dance class, “as it’s attached to her body.” Glad to hear it!

I’m not quite sure which wave of feminism we’re on at this point. I think we agree that people of all genders should be able to look sexy and show off—even flaunt—their bods however they want, but I’m not clear on why it’s empowering or slay-y to write about those bods like we are currently masturbating over them. That seems like something we should leave to fetishists and misogynists—otherwise, what will feminist bloggers have left to internet about, right?! Or maybe I’m just too thick—and 👏living 👏— to understand.

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