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Investigating your Shame with Heather Radke

Heather Radke (@hradke) writes essays, criticism, and reported pieces on subjects including the gender politics of ponies, the utopian possibilities of jumpsuits, the early days of public radio, the dark history of eugenics and the cultural history of the female butt.


Today's advice comes out of a project the writer Heather Radke has been working on. It's a forthcoming book about... The cultural history of the female butt and people always ask me why I'm writing this book which is like, fair enough, that's a good question! But, I think the most straight-forward answer is I have a big butt. I grew up in a place and at a time where that was a thing to be, sort of, ashamed of or at the very least it was not considered beautiful or sexy or good. And so, I felt a certain amount of shame about it and I feel like the project is sort of an investigation of that shame and I guess my advice is actually to investigate your shame because I feel like that as an artists as a writer, its been a very fruitful part of my practice. I've done it in a number of different ways and I also just feel like as a person when you start to really get curious about why you're ashamed of something, you end of finding out so much more than you could have ever expected and in this case, you know, and I think in a lot of cases, you end up finding really interesting political material, you know? That the shame around a certain kind of body is a shame around race and gender and gendered ideas of bodies and racialized ideas of bodies that we kind of hold in ourselves without ever knowing it. Because the nature of shame is that almost don't want to bring it into your consciousness fully, so, that means that there's a lot you kind of don't understand about it and you don't experience...unless you really think about it and you really try to unpack it then you don't fully understand what's creating the shame in the first place.

ZAK: What do you think is on the other side of taking your shame seriously and investigating it?

HEATHER: I was thinking about this just this morning because I think that the answer that you want to be the answer to that question is that your shame goes away. But I don't think that's true. It's almost like lancing a boil or something. There's still a scar there. It's not gone but there's some weight or kind of...there's something that's diminished by taking it seriously and getting interested in it.

ZAK: Yeah. And I wonder how much of the, the investigating of shame for people, like what percentage will come back to race and capitalism.

HEATHER: I mean, well you know I think 100 percent is answer! hahahah. And that's a joke I have about this book. It's like come for the butts, stay for the critical race theory, you know?

ZAK: Totally.

HEATHER: But I also think it's a good just in the storytelling mode, it's a good...

ZAK: Oh, my God, it's literally a back door!

HEATHER: Hahahaha. There ya go. Also, full of puns.

ZAK: Heather Radke's book about butts is coming soon. But if you want to hear more in the meantime, she did this amazing story on Radiolab called Man Against Horse. I've linked to it in the show notes. And then there's another episode from this show with the writer and pleasure activist with adrienne maree brown called, Exorcising the Icky, which I think goes well with today's episode. The thing I know for sure is if I share it with someone, some of the ickyness goes away. You've been listening to The Best Advice Show and I want to hear your best advice. Give me call on the hotline. I'm always here for you. 844-935-BEST. That's 844-935-BEST. Talk to you soon.

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