Culo, Coffee and Crime: More on Disrespectability Politics

23 Jan
Popular representations of Black and Latina women

From left to right: Jennifer Lopez (, Nicki Minaj (King), Duchess (NY Daily News), Beyonce (, and Saartjie Baartman (Wikipedia)

From an Australian researcher claiming Beyoncé’s name and her celebrity bum with a horse fly, a pissed Wisconsin congressman attacking the national obesity campaign by deriding the First Lady’s derriere, to Diddy riding on somebody else’s butt for more fame in his new book called Culo, across the academic, political, and the popular, our booty remains integral in what CF crunktastic has deemed disrespectability politics.

I came across Culo as a recommended Christmas stocking stuffer from Amazon. The accompanying website bends over backward to market the “coffee table” book as high art by telling the would-be buyer that “culo” is an Italian word rather than the familiar Spanish slang tossed about in rap and reggaeton songs by Pitbull, who pairs with Timberland to provide the soundtrack to the book’s R-rated promotional (music) video. The site also hypes famed fashion photographer Raphael Mazzucco, who has made a career of capturing near-naked women for Victoria Secret and Sports Illustrated.  Diddy’s collaborator, Jimmy Iovine, suggests the book is a part of Interscope’s diversification—expanding from music to book publishing [and I would add, expanding the Black American hip hop aesthetic to include diverse women (read: non-Black)] as part of Interscope’s global booty. (Interscope is a part of the largest multinational music group in the world.)

Book cover for Culo

Book cover for Culo

The art claim is supposed to give Culo international cachet and curtail local cries of racism and sexism. The claim is also deployed to distinguish itself aesthetically from similar visual representations, such as those seen in Waka Flocka’s “No Hands.” It is supposed to celebrate a so-called new era in which “the world is no longer flat.” It ain’t so flattering for African-descended women who carry the cultural baggage of the fuckable, unrapeable, insatiable, and hyperfertile jezebel because of a muscle. Along with my frustration with the postrace rhetoric is the postfeminist one that wants us to believe that Culo is a celebration of women’s power and beauty (by reducing us to a body part).  I mean, actor Al Jolson celebrated his mammy in blackface, but most black folks ain’t remixing that cinematic minstrelsy. [Insert your Tyler Perry comments here.] My 15-year-old Sir Mix-a-Lot big butt loving self might have bought some of P. Diddy’s pro-woman posturing. But, the glossy-printed, 240-plus page fake feminist fantasy could not be sold to me today. I am a grown ass woman.

Poster from facebook page dedicated to Claudia Aderotimi

I am a grown woman who grew up in a southern inner-city believing that outer beauty—the booty specifically—could trump intelligence and was the biggest asset for a dark skin Black girl, so when I heard about young Black and Latina women participating in p(l)umping parties where they inject one another with illegal infertility hormones, industrial-grade silicone, cement, or superglue, I became deeply disturbed that the thang that has narrowly defined our desirability is also taking our lives. Such is the case for the Nigerian-born Londoner, Claudia Aderotimi (aka Claudiyah “Carmella” James), who came to a Philly hotel for the injection and died 12 hours later when a poisonous concoction entered her bloodstream. Aderotimi, named an African princess by 50 Cent, was convinced her hip hop stardom would be deflated after folks figured out her booty was padded.

The sensational news coverage about botched butt injections is as much about the illegal (and deadly) act as it is about criminalizing particular Black bodies. (BBD said you can’t trust a woman with a big butt and a smile in the 1990 hit “Poision.”) Duchess, a transgender woman who has been charged with the near-death of a Florida woman seeking an injection, has had her mug shot along with a full body photograph released to the press. The side view harkens to pictures of Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman dubbed the Hottentot Venus in 19th Century European freak shows. Fast forward two hundred years and African-descended women are still at center stage, fulfilling the twin feelings of lust and disgust regarding Black women.  There was no retraction when the Miami Herald news reported Duchess as having a backside the size of a “truck tire.” And, two women providing a PSA about pumping parties (which turned into an attack on race and gender conformity) saw nothing wrong with describing the supposed ugliness of (transgender) women whose full lips looked like “inner tubes” and whose booties were just too big for their bodies. There was a reason why Baartman was pejoratively called a Hottentot Venus: It could recall erotic beauty defined by the Roman goddess while reminding folks that our so-called less-than-human bodies could be exploited for commercial profit under white patriarchy. In the “new era” of booty worship, we might want to remember that one.

Make Me Over: The dangers of ‘Pumping Parties’

8 Responses to “Culo, Coffee and Crime: More on Disrespectability Politics”

  1. Celiany Rivera January 23, 2012 at 10:40 AM #

    Excelente pieza. Muy relevante, muchas gracias.

  2. Lynwellyn Gudger January 23, 2012 at 11:21 AM #

    I am seriously shocked by the blatant way that they attempt to conflagrate masculine heterosexuality while insisting that this masculine desire is the epitome of “female sexuality, desire and empowerment. lol…seriously, the about page said the book is filled with a “diverse group of women…who EMBODY CULO. If this $#(% was not seriously offensive, it would be hilarious.

  3. sheridf January 23, 2012 at 12:33 PM #

    My heart is hurting after reading this post and particularly after watching the links. Thank you crunklife for raising these issues, I will most certainly be looking into the “pumping parties” further.

  4. Elle est noire January 31, 2012 at 4:52 PM #

    Yet another new way to dehumanize and mock Black women. And these women of other races, they really act like they have no damn sense signing up to go along with this garbage. I am not crying for them though. None of them care about Black women and they think they are better anyway thanks to the clowns responsible for garbage like this.

    • gloria February 2, 2012 at 12:43 AM #

      “fulfilling the twin feelings of lust and disgust regarding Black women.” That is god damned awful. For some reason that sentence made it “click” for me. Shameful.

  5. Carolyn February 10, 2012 at 11:13 AM #

    Wow, such an insightful piece. Thank you.

  6. Piet March 4, 2012 at 3:40 PM #

    I am of opinion that Baartman was called the “Hottentot Venus” in a reference to the beauty ideal present among African tribesmen. Given the current proliferation among those of African descent to focus on the “booty”, so to speak, I’d say that was a correct assessment.

    But this practice of injecting toxic chemicals is ridiculous. And part of me wonders, why don’t these girls just eat more pie and hamburgers? That’s the most reliable way to get a bigger ass. It’s been working a treat for me.


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