The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

“Big Back,” the history behind the overused word

Writing can be exhausting sometimes, which is why I like to eat a “back-multiplying,” or, in other words, fattening meal before I start a new project or article. The meal in question? A sandwich, with maybe a pickle on the side. I know that this is a lot, but I know that other people on the internet eat just as much as me. 

A few months back, a trend emerged where TikTok users would post pictures of meals they ate using the slideshow feature, usually with the caption “my big back moments.” Typically, there would be a text overlay explaining the shame associated with eating the large sums of food. However, over time, most of the pictures showed relatively normal portions of food. What might normally be considered a filling meal was being branded as “back-multiplying.” Worse yet, every time a video like this appeared on my feed, the portions only grew smaller, and in the span of less than a month, the trend had gone from relatively well-meaning to insidious. The trend originated as a way to poke fun at one’s own large appetite and ended as a way to boast a small appetite. As trends often do on social media, this particular format of video has died out for the most part, having been replaced with a newer phenomenon of creators filming comedy videos of themselves with pillows stuffed in the backs of their shirts, to replicate the “big back” effect. All of these videos might cause you to wonder what the deal is with all of these backs— so what is it?

It has to do firstly with butt-cheeks, which might surprise you. Let us take a second to self-reflect. In this current social and political climate, people love girl butts. Many of us might even love butts, and it’s okay. That being said, butts have not always been cherished. In fact, many aspects of modern-day fatphobia can be drawn to slavery and hatred of the Black female body; specifically, her butt. Interestingly, with that hatred came a fascination as made evident by the case of a Khoikhoi woman, Saartje (Sarah) Baartman. The Saartje Baartman Centre explains that in 1810, Baartman was convinced to move to England with the prospect of money, but was exhibited in a “freak show” due to her large butt (which was an uncommon trait in Europe), and given the name “Venus Hottentot.” Only six years later, she died, but her figure became iconic throughout the continent.

For decades since big butts have been enjoyed, but mostly on Black women, and mostly as a sexual commodity. In the 2010s some things began to shift. Kim Kardashian had her butt augmented, Buzzfeed body positivity was going mainstream, and Meghan Trainor released “All About That Bass.” You’d think that that would be the end of the story. The Kardashians ended fatphobia with their Brazilian butt lift surgeries because “thickness” was in! Fatphobia doesn’t exist anymore because fat is sexy now, and not worthy of fear!

Not quite. While it is true that butts have really gained traction in the last decade, fatphobia has not left this social realm. Yes, fatness is much more readily accepted now, but only in a few forms. Fat girls can be respectable, sure, but only if her waist is small relative to her butt and breasts. Unfortunately, most bodies don’t have these proportions, fat or not, which is where big backs come in.

“Big back” was once a British slang term, referring to big butts. As slang does, it has evolved with Gen Z. After a few rounds on TikTok, “big back” has gone on to actually mean a large back. While a literal interpretation of the term makes sense, I believe that there’s another reason. It lends itself better to comedy. Fatphobic jokes about butts no longer work in a social climate that enjoys butts. A trend about big butts would not have taken off in the same way that the “big back” trend did. The term was only able to cement itself as a “meme phrase” because it mocks an “unappealing” facet of fatness.

I don’t think that this trend is the biggest obstacle in the fight for fat acceptance, but I would just like to challenge the idea that this fight has ended. Fatphobia is still perpetuated very casually. Style works in cycles, which causes me to wonder if the “big back” mockery is a sign of something to come. This trend might be a symptom of a problem rather than its own self-contained issue. No matter what happens, I hope we can remember the social implications of these videos.