On Callipygy

I have done my best to ignore, nay, to feign ignorance of, Kim Kardashian’s outrageous, shameless display of her steatopygic assets that has inundated popular consciousness this week, but after even the NPR news quiz ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ deigned to address the spectacle, I had a somewhat nostalgic thought: does anyone else remember when Vikki Dougan shocked America’s tender ’50s sensibilities? For those who are too young or can’t remember that far back, so to speak, here’s a teaser pic of her backless dress:

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The times, they are a changin’…

With that musical reference, I add another memory teaser: here’s the delightful song that the Limelighters, one of a number of singing groups who popularized folk music in the ’50s, released in honor of Ms Dougan’s “callipygian cleft”:

Not surprisingly, there is a Classical Greek sculpture (surviving in a Roman copy) which provides a view of a much more relaxed attitude than was common during our uptight ’50s, and a far more artistic portrayal than has been foisted upon us by the in-your-face Ms K: the statue known as The Venus Callipyge, the Aphrodite Kallipygos (Greek: Ἀφροδίτη Καλλίπυγος) or the Callipygian Venus, all literally meaning “Venus (or Aphrodite) of the beautiful buttocks,” engaged in the act of anásyrma (Ancient Greek: ἀνάσυρμα – literally “the exposing of the genitals,” a form of exhibitionism found in religion or artwork, rather than a display for arousal, and it refers always to the act of a woman exposing herself – see more at the article on Anásyrma in Wikipedia), wearing her bottomless peplos:

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I have to give Ms K one thing – her much ballyhooed latest photographic exhibition must be the most blatant, unabashed display of steatopygy since the pictorial record on the wall of Hatshepsut’s Deir al-Bahri temple of the remarkable lady pharaoh’s mighty 1493 BCE expedition to the Land of Punt included this unflatteringly accurate portrayal of Aty, the wife of Parehu, chief of Punt, which I previously referenced in the first of my posts on archaeology in Eritrea.

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