Dec 28 2005

Bum Steer

Where can this "study" kiss my ass?

Three ideas beloved of Western civilization rolled into one: that there is something “wrong” with women’s asses, that this horrible deficiency can be fixed if only women would buy the right stuff, and that people should get grants to photograph hundreds of female butts [link].

One of the greatest female sartorial dilemmas – ‘does my bum look big in this?’ – is to be answered by a team of researchers.

Experts are launching what is thought to be the world’s first scientific study into how clothing can affect the appearance of the female rear.

The team from Heriot Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design in Scotland believes the study could have major implications for retailers.

Female volunteers wearing hundreds of different types of clothing will have their rears photographed for the study.

Participants will then be asked to look at the pictures to assess how big or small each model’s backside appears.

The study will examine how various designs, colours, patterns and fabric types affect perception of bottom size.

Dr Lisa Macintyre, who is leading the research, said four models had been chosen to provide as representative a sample as possible of female rears.

“There’s much discussion in the media of clothing styles that flatter the body and it’s generally accepted that enhancing body perception can improve confidence and self-esteem,” she said.

“But the factors behind this have never been fully investigated in a proper scientific manner.”

[Thanks, Laurel]


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  1. robin

    Arrrggh! And who decides what is “big” with regards to the women’s butts? Oh, right, nevermind. Already know the answer to that.

  2. bitchphd

    “four models had been chosen to provide as representative a sample as possible of female rears”


  3. Steph

    So I’m guessing the researchers aren’t interrogating their own ideas of what a big ass is right?

    Because I have a good idea..

  4. K

    This story is on the front page of BBC News. Jesus.

  5. mythago

    What pantload (sorry) got the idea that everyone likes mini-butts?

  6. Ron Sullivan

    How come nobody ever asks, “Does this outfit make my tits look big?”

    Of course, Whileawayan women love big asses.

  7. piny

    >>What pantload (sorry) got the idea that everyone likes mini-butts?>>

    I can’t stand them. They’re like mini-Oreos: they make portion control damn near impossible.

    >>Of course, Whileawayan women love big asses.>>

    And so does Dorothy Allison. Which is more than enough for me.

  8. frippy

    My greatest sartorial dilemma is “Why am I expected to give a damn about staying fashionable when dudes get to wear the same jeans and t-shirts year in and year out?” Where’s the study for that?

  9. Caja

    Gosh, I’m so glad we got all the real problems in the world figured out, so now we can throw money into resolving age-old mysteries like this one!

  10. emjay

    I’m feeling so smug today. First I got to gloat in the Christmas thread about being Jewish and not having to decorate, and now I am feeling the same way about being an androgynous lesbian and wearing the same jeans and sweaters year after year. I always marvel at Sex and the City, thinking about how many women actually buy things like clothes and shoes.

  11. kathe

    I have a noticeably big butt, and no one has ever complained about it. I did ask my guy once if something made my butt look big, and when he said “Yes” I said “Good.” He agreed.

  12. Ms Kate

    Actually, I know a few women, including myself, who do ask that question.

  13. Ms Kate

    Helloooo! This is beyond sexist – it is also ethnically insensitive!

    I have a big butt and I wear it proudly, particularly when I’ve been biking a lot and it gets a nice round contour to it. It may not be the approved BarbiButt of white anorexic patriarchy, but I’ve noticed many an ethnic male (and female in the Diesel Cafe) digging the glutes with both polite silent and impolite verbal admiration. (I don’t mind the lookers, and pointedly ignore the catcallers).

    In other words, there are plenty of men and some women who appreciate a fine caboose. The rest can just fuck themselves.

    The bigger the cushion … the sweeter the pushin’ (SpinalTap)

  14. emjay

    Well, to all outward appearances I am white, but if I was checking out your butt in the Diesel, you’re welcome. I have been known to appreciate butts of varying sizes. I also often appreciate the rest of the woman, including her intelligence, wit, kindness, or whatever other positive qualities she may possess, so I’m not apologizing for objectifying anyone.

  15. ae

    Sometimes I think I’m not long for this world. A “scientific” study re: how clothing affects the appearance of a woman’s ass? I wonder if it is sponsored by the Fashion Industrial Complex. Feh.

    Concerned w/ women’s self-esteem, are they? Then attack the problem at its core! Shit. Women don’t need advice on wearing the pants, if’n y’all know what I mean.

  16. Polly Phonic

    “One of the greatest female sartorial dilemmas – ‘does my bum look big in this?’ – is to be answered by a team of researchers.”

    “Does my bum look big in this?” isn’t a dilemma, it’s a catchphrase from the Fast Show. Surely there’s more important things they could be spending their research money on.

  17. Erin

    Until a few years ago, I thought that the “does my butt look big in this?” line was a joke. I couldn’t believe that people were actually that concerned (where people = women, I guess). I was so sad when I found out that it’s not just a hackneyed sitcom line.

    Then again, when I was asked why I never dress up or wear makeup to work, I told a coworker “I guess I just don’t give a fuck if anyone here thinks I’m pretty,” so I may not be right on the cutting edge of the crossroads between pop culture and fashion, you know?

  18. frippy

    Well, to be fair, my question was rhetorical since, while I have a boyfriend, I wear the same baggy thrift store sweaters and paint-stained jeans year in and year out and have, over the years since my teens, phased out hair styling products, makeup, jewelry, and high heels. Now I’m comfortable and spend my money on more interesting things. I, too, am amazed by Sex and the City — if I had several hundred dollars at my disposal, I’d spend it on something other than a sadistic looking pair of pumps you can only pair up with one article of clothing. Me, I wear the same pair of men’s shoes all the time. They may put me on somebody’s stupid “Fashion Don’ts” list but hey, at least I’m not a sprained ankle waiting to happen.

  19. piny

    All patriarchy-blaming aside, there’s a whole other annoying aspect to this:

    It’s not a new field of study _at all_. Anyone working in any field related to visual arts or design already knows all this stuff. You learn it over a period of several years, through a combination of lesson plans and trial-and-error experimentation. By the time you get any kind of degree, you know how color works on the eye, what draws attention, what shunts it away, how we perceive size and movement and importance and tension and object relationships in a visual field. This is particularly true of fashion designers.

    Most of the rules are pretty consistent. If there’s a small circle in a large field, your gaze will stick to it. Blue is calming. Red is exciting. Bright colors pull objects forward and make them bigger; dark colors push them back and make them smaller.

    There are hundreds of books expounding theories on all of this stuff, thousands of artists who’ve developed their own personalized visual systems, and plenty of scientists who’ve conducted their own experiments. The human butt–excuse me, the _female_ butt–is gonna follow the same rules as every other object ever framed, costumed, or portrayed.

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