Disasters, wars and elections dominated the news in 2004, but there were cultural events to take note of, too, some serious and others not. Americans got bigger this year, and...

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Disasters, wars and elections dominated the news in 2004, but there were cultural events to take note of, too, some serious and others not.

Americans got bigger this year, and there were some indications that the fashion industry was moving away from equating thin with sexy. The industry isn’t embracing fat, but it is moving closer to accepting healthy women who have an actual figure.

There was this headline in the magazine DiversityInc: “Will Curvier Mannequins Bring Big Booty to the Fashion Industry?”

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The article was about the development during the past year or two of mannequins with curves. One mannequin is named the “J. Lo form,” because it is supposed to resemble Jennifer Lopez.

Some people are just naturally built with a butt — especially those of us who have some Africa in us.

Whenever I hear someone say they are disgusted by “big” butts, I have to wonder if they realize they are saying what they think of the appearance of whole groups of people. A lot of bad stuff happens when people are judged by their divergence from a power group’s standards.

It’s good to see things loosening up, thanks to Lopez, Beyoncé, and money.

Speaking of cultural influences, The Oxford English Dictionary added “thugged out,” along with a bunch of other words and phrases you might hear in a rap song.

My wife will not be glad to hear this. She gets irritated every time our son uses the word “pimp” in its new incarnation as a substitute for fix up in a blingish kind of way.

Women made a lot of strides in 2004.

Female sailors get to be a bit more stylish. They can choose their own purses now, and this year for the first time female sailors can choose if they want to wear skirts instead of pants, rather than being ordered to do so.

Black women had several firsts. Condoleezza Rice was picked to become secretary of state — somebody warn the world. Phylicia Rashad won a Tony for “A Raisin in The Sun,” the first black woman in a leading dramatic role to do so. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Price, the first black African woman to win any Nobel.

Maathai, a Kenyan, is an environmentalist, a feminist and a human-rights activist who has been beaten and jailed for her work.

She has created a movement responsible for the planting of 30 million trees so far.

Americans wrestled with religion this year more than usual. Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” put the topic out front early in the year. Howard Stern’s mouth and Janet Jackson’s right nipple, which was exposed during halftime of the Super Bowl, added to the conversation.

The issue of whether gay people should be allowed to marry brought cultural and religious arguments into the presidential campaign. The arguments were personal and painful for a lot of people who just want to be treated like people. That will happen eventually.

Bill Cosby said — out in the open where white folks could hear — things that black people have been discussing for years about personal responsibility. Actually his ideas hadn’t been all that well hidden. Black comedians, academics like Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr., and a host of other folks have talked about the same issues. But Cosby caught white folks’ ear.

Cos is still talking. Parents need to take responsibility for their children, children need to apply themselves in school and everyone ought to have a good command of standard English, regardless of what they might want to speak on their own time.

Barack Obama spoke standard English at the Democratic National Convention and was rewarded by Illinois voters who elected him to the U.S. Senate.

Well, maybe he has more going for him than his speaking ability. Heck, a person who mangles English can still be elected president.

Obama has smarts and some forward-looking ideas that appeal to voters. He’s a son of an immigrant from Kenya and a white American from Kansas; his vision is to take the best from each side of our various arguments and blend them into sensible solutions to our common challenges.

That’s something to look forward to.

Jerry Large: 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com