The underbutt effect
Our society has maybe gone too far
I wake up with the sounds of the dump truck beeping below my open window, cooling air fluttering the leaves of my dying white orchid. A pack of athletes follow the dump truck’s departure, a silent morning compared to the floor-stomping pregame last night that I heard while decoding Chaucer. Instead of writing, I sit, procrastinate and peruse Facebook, stalking those more involved, more social, less strained.
As I roll out of my bed, clothes scattered in piles on the floor and perfume bottles mixed with textbooks on my desk, I reach for a pair of high-waisted denim shorts to prepare for sticky heat. Passing by the mirror when I leave for class, I ask myself about whether my butt hanging out will be a distraction for me or others, per my high school dress code. I leave the door open as I rush to Bodo’s to meet a waiting friend.
Underbutt is the exposed midriff of our generation.
Am I vaguely concerned with the fact that 50 percent of girls going to class are constantly pulling down the lack of material on their backside in a desperate effort to ease the numbing effect of large amounts of denim being shoved in places it shouldn’t be? Am I concerned with the social implications of the sexualization of young girls as they try to follow the trends seen on the VMAs and in middle school hallways?
Maybe I should be concerned, but I am too busy yanking down my own shorts to think about anything else.
I lived in Moshi, Tanzania, a miserable 12-hour bus ride from the former capital Dar Es Salaam, for three months between high school and college. Whenever I left my house there, I was expected to cover my knees and shoulders — and pants were frowned upon. Though many would argue that this is a suppression of women, an anti-feminist idea that reinforced the idea that harassment it a girl’s punishment for dressing provocatively, I actually think it was the opposite.
Has our culture veered so far away from modesty that we instead can walk around a historic campus with little dignity?
Critics have recently turned to Miley Cyrus and her infamous VMAs performance, using the incident to talk about a downfall of class and decency. And while I realize I have yet to see a girl in latex underwear twerking herself from class to class, I’m sure we will see more than one shorthaired foam-fingered Halloween costume this year.
I don’t mean to sound stodgy or out of touch — my own wardrobe is evidence that I’m not advocating for a disposal of all skin-tight, short or revealing items of clothing. Rather, I think we need to examine the the culture of U.Va., and ask ourselves if we want to cultivate an atmosphere where we can wave our underbutts at the Rotunda at 10:30 a.m. while walking to chemistry lecture.
Is this how we are preparing for the next stages of our lives?
I sit down in class, my butt actually touching the wooden chair below, for lack of a better covering. I squirm, while furiously copying down the PowerPoint slide, and look to the row next to me; a small brunette yanks her shorts down while scrolling through a cluttered newsfeed. At least I’m not alone.
Grace’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached at email@example.com.