The first thing I have to say is everything is going to be all right. It just might take a history lesson to convince you.
Feminists have worked themselves into a lather over the Era of the Asses - From Miley to Minaj to Kim "breaking the internet", all the way to the absolute nadir of modern pop music, Jason Derulo's rancid "Wiggle." Kim Kardashian was modelling everything but clothing in her cover story for Love Magazine's February 2015 issue. Prada sunglasses and a Miu Miu bag couldn't compete with the tits and slit in that stairwell photo, but I'm not worried.
I am, after all, a scholar of fashion, so I know that whenever women's rights take a step forward in the real world, fashion and pop culture icons tend to swing the other way, if only for a while. It's a trend that began in the 1920s after women got the right to vote. No, really. To us in the 21st century, the iconic "flapper" of the twenties looks like a glimpse of joyful rebellion - alongside the ramping up of first wave feminism, the skirts and hair for rebellious young women got shorter, who traded in their corsets for shapeless dresses that were easy to dance in.
Are they demanding equal pay for equal work? Nonsense, they just want to be your little baby doll.
Do I exaggerate?
Every major social achievement for women in the last hundred years has been marked by a regression in fashion. That's twiggy up there, premiere model of the nineteen sixties, a time when Gloria Steinem and the pill gave women a freedom they'd never enjoyed before. There were feminist sit ins at Newsweek and the Ladies Home Journal. Radicals threw maxipads into a trash can at the America pageant beneath a banner proclaiming "Women's Liberation". Mad Men fans know the fights they went through in the workplace, and anyone into fashion also remembers how short the skirts got toward the end of the decade, once they started winning.
High fashion and pop culture have never been a marker for the world we live in, but the world we wished we lived in - or rather, the world that specific tastemakers wished we lived in. While second wave feminism was scaring men and women alike, grown women were once again infantilized by clothing fit for a child. We have twiggy to thank for models who today are so thin they're practically invisible, because when some women started demanding equal work opportunities, the old guard no doubt wished they would disappear altogether.
But women bought those clothes! you might exclaim. That's because feminism scared women too. Having a voice, standing up to men you had always been taught to respect - even today most of us would rather crawl back into our daddy's arms than accuse our boss of sexual harassment, even if deep inside we knew it's our right. I never saw Gloria Steinem in a miniskirt, and in the end it was women like her who made the difference.
So maybe the age of the ass isn't as bad as we think.
Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, and the vastly out of her league Miley Cyrus are delivering a crass form of sexualisation, mistakenly labelled as feminist by people who don't know any better ("It's my body, I should be able to show it off how I like - and if 'how I like' is just a manifestation of ingrained patriarchy,--then screw you for using such big words!"), but in the real world where (most) people live and breathe, things are getting better.
Women still make less than 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, but it's something we're talking about more openly than ever before. The internet may have given a voice to both the best and worst in society, but cyber bullying and sexual abuse of young girls are now less likely to be swept under the rug, largely because of online activism. When Emma Watson made an empowering speech to the United Nations last year, some hackers may have threatened to release nude photos of the actress in retaliation, but the internet as a whole was overwhelmingly on her side. Last year, when Cee Lo Green tweeted, "women who have really been raped REMEMBER" it was met with the proper level of disgust and him being dropped from festival appearances. Twenty years ago, that would never have happened, and not just because there was no twitter - if you want proof of that, consider the decades it took the allegations against Bill Cosby to be taken seriously.
What this all means is that, by and large, women are growing their voices in the digital age, and the haters are becoming more and more of a minority. Knowing that, it was about time that our cultural icons regressed to reassure the masses who aren't quite sure about all this female empowerment going on. The popularity of the Kim Kardashian model of "fashion" - that is, less clothes more attention - is hopefully the last gasp of something ugly, rather than a marker for where society is headed. To the remaining men who live in fear of being called on their leering sexism (and the women who have yet to realize that such leering sexism is a problem), Kim's giant greased up ass, offered forth like a baboon who's presenting, is a symbol of a simpler time, of a femininity that doesn't think, doesn't demand answers, and might as well be made of porcelain, just like Twiggy and the flappers before her.
What, did you think she was a rebel?