Monday, July 30, 2007

Baby got back

Here’s a picture to stop you in your tracks, huh?

Today’s word is: steatopygia.

The photo comes from an old anthropology book, “The Living Races of Man,” by old-school anthropologist Carleton S. Coon.

FYI, this bootylicious Madonna and Child are not African; they’re Andamanese (from the Andaman archipelago near India).

The image was scanned and uploaded to the intertubes by a British-born conservative opinion writer named John Derbyshire. Mr. Derbyshire loves this book.

“We had a copy of Coon’s book lying round the house when I was a teenager,” he wrote in 2002, “and the photographs in it impressed themselves on my youthful memory.” (No shit? I wonder why.)

Derbyshire didn’t upload this picture because he’s an ass freak. (At least, not that he has acknowledged.) He had a political purpose.

Derbyshire, after all, once described himself as “a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one,” in a 2003 online interview.

(He later clarified this in an email: “All I mean there is that I believe that race is real, and important. Nowadays, that makes you a ‘racist.’ Again, I consider myself mild and tolerant here -- I don’t believe in any discrimination by public authorities... [but] I can imagine circumstances where I would certainly practice private discrimination.”)

So what does the photo above have to do with race politics? Well, Carleton Coon’s brand of “physical anthropology” – focusing on the anatomical differences between human populations – is tied to old-fashioned ideas about racial development. Coon actually argued that there are five sub-races of homo sapiens which evolved along separate tracks, with whites and Asians being the most advanced.

That notion is rejected by the “Boasian school” of anthropology, which argues that race differences are a sociocultural construct.

In describing Coon’s “Living Races of Man” as a “splendid classic,” John Derbyshire wrote at National Review Online: “It is true that physical anthropology is now a ‘dangerous’ subject, like history in a communist country; but that is not my fault, or Coon's.... It is just part of the general idiocy of our age.”

Leave it to a white man to look at that picture and ponder his own genetic superiority. Whereas the average brother is likely to look at it and think, “The Creator has a master plan.”

14 comments:

Invisible Woman said...

Just what exactly is a "mild and tolerant" racist? The fact that you practice it in private makes it more mild? Isn't that what most racists do these days? I respect all points of view, but delusional doesn't even begin to describe this dude.

Jay Wilson said...

Dude has the name Coon and is a racist. That's f'n rich.

jena6 said...

I actually know that word! I learned it indirectly because one of my favorite words is callipyian (man, we just don't use this word enough!) which means: "Having beautifully proportioned buttocks." (Okay. So it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "bootylicious".) I first came across it in an old article about Donna Summer. I think it was a photographer who used it to describe her shapely derriere.

Anyway, when I first saw the picture, I thought of Saarjite Baartman a.k.a. the
Hottentot Venus. She was so bootylicious that "Her physique, particularly her steatopygic appendage, became the object of popular fascination when Baartman was exhibited naked in a cage at Piccadilly, England."

Wonder what Coon or Derbyshire would have to say about Buffie the Body?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Donna Summer? I never knew that about her.

susie said...

Mild and tolerant racist - isn't that kind of an oxymoron... or just a moron?

I know the focus of this picture is supposed to be her derriere but I can't stop looking at what I hope is some kind of skirt down there in the front.

Rottin' in Denmark said...

As much as I'm looking forward to Derbyshire's curmudgeonly generation to die out so we can make real steps forward in racism and homophobia, I also wish more racists could be of the mild and tolerant kind.

I'm not defending Derbyshire, who comes off like a brand-name asshole in just about everything he writes, but at least he doesn't see his racism or homophobia as some sort of all-consuming political ideology that trumps social justice or hard facts. There's a certain honesty in admitting 'Look, I've had bad experiences with black people and homosexuals, so I avoid them personally and places where they gather. It doesn't make sense, though, for the government to do the same thing.'

That's, of course, assuming he's being honest about not favoring institutional discrimination. I wonder how he'd feel if his kids had a half-black, half-Mexican transsexual for a third-grade teacher.

Anyway, I think the 'mild vs strong' dimension is a very important one, and doesn't get talked about much. I think we all have dozens of mild prejudices that we just sort of live with (lawyers, bureaucrats, tourists, rednecks, etc), but whenever race or sexual orientation are involved, they tend to pull people into ultimatum territory. At least Derbyshire's capable of being a dick at a reasonably low volume.

Rottin' in Denmark said...

As much as I'm looking forward to Derbyshire's curmudgeonly generation to die out so we can make real steps forward in racism and homophobia, I also wish more racists could be of the mild and tolerant kind.

I'm not defending Derbyshire, who comes off like a brand-name asshole in just about everything he writes, but at least he doesn't see his racism or homophobia as some sort of all-consuming political ideology that trumps social justice or hard facts. There's a certain honesty in admitting 'Look, I've had bad experiences with black people and homosexuals, so I avoid them personally and places where they gather. It doesn't make sense, though, for the government to do the same thing.'

That's, of course, assuming he's being honest about not favoring institutional discrimination. I wonder how he'd feel if his kids had a half-black, half-Mexican transsexual for a third-grade teacher.

Anyway, I think the 'mild vs strong' dimension is a very important one, and doesn't get talked about much. I think we all have dozens of mild prejudices that we just sort of live with (lawyers, bureaucrats, tourists, rednecks, etc), but whenever race or sexual orientation are involved, they tend to pull people into ultimatum territory. At least Derbyshire's capable of being a dick at a reasonably low volume.

Thordaddy said...

rottin' in denmark says,

As much as I'm looking forward to Derbyshire's curmudgeonly generation to die out so we can make real steps forward in racism and homophobia, I also wish more racists could be of the mild and tolerant kind.

Again, we can read the inherent flaws in liberal thinking. A liberal thinks racism and homophobia as bad, but only because he doesn't know what they really are. This is why he is frustrated by his lack of success in snuffing out racism and homophobia. Of course, he couldn't be further from the truth. Racism and homophobia have never been a more minor obstacle to blacks, Hispanics and gays as now.

I'm not defending Derbyshire, who comes off like a brand-name asshole in just about everything he writes, but at least he doesn't see his racism or homophobia as some sort of all-consuming political ideology that trumps social justice or hard facts. There's a certain honesty in admitting 'Look, I've had bad experiences with black people and homosexuals, so I avoid them personally and places where they gather. It doesn't make sense, though, for the government to do the same thing.'

Again, because you mistake racism and homophobia for kinship and heterosexuality, it's no wonder you cling to such a frustrated and bleak view.

That's, of course, assuming he's being honest about not favoring institutional discrimination. I wonder how he'd feel if his kids had a half-black, half-Mexican transsexual for a third-grade teacher.

Isn't "instituational discrimination" redundant? All institutions are discriminatory. And those "institutions" who claim not are really just those entities vying for supranational political power.

Anyway, I think the 'mild vs strong' dimension is a very important one, and doesn't get talked about much. I think we all have dozens of mild prejudices that we just sort of live with (lawyers, bureaucrats, tourists, rednecks, etc), but whenever race or sexual orientation are involved, they tend to pull people into ultimatum territory. At least Derbyshire's capable of being a dick at a reasonably low volume.

Yes... The battle is between those that think biology means something and those that give it no meaning.

Dougfp said...

Yes, I'm sure Matthew Shepard found homophobia a "minor obstacle".

Undercover Black Man said...

Oh, and Jena6... good looking out on Buffie.

AirBourne said...

I have so longed to lay out that word in Scrabble, LOL!

Jena6? Yup, bootylicious much better than callipyian, LMAO!

UBM, this article is so significant I have linked to it in a Barbadian poetry slam recently in my own News-Blog, since the bro was referring to STEATOPYGIA indirectly...

Anonymous said...

Derbyshire's brand of "mild and tolerant" racism is common, even if people don't admit it, even to themselves. (The mildness of D's racism is also reflected in the fact that his wife and mother of his children is Chinese American.)

Also, the word is callipyGian.

Lola Gets said...

I have a bit of an issue with that Wikipedia entry. I dont believe that this condition comes with elongated labia. The sources Ive read about the Khoikhoi people said that they elongated the labia themselves, through pulling and stretching over an extended period of time.

The Kohikhoi also removed one testicle from males as an maturation ritual, but thats another story altogether, lol.
L

Undercover Black Man said...

Thanks for the labial lowdown, Lola.

Anon: As to Derbyshire's wife, I think I read that in an AmRen comment. From a Coonian anthropological perspective, not a problem for John, though... as Chinese are on top of the civilizational food chain along with Europeans.