This week, quite a number of folks – both within and outside the feminist community – have been raving about Amy Schumer’s comedy single Milk Milk Lemonade. However, there is something about two white women poking fun at the booty aesthetic that makes my entire white body cringe.
To be clear, I am not by any means a spokesperson for women of color, for what they find offensive, or what they deem permissible. What I am though, is an ally advising other white women why they need (for the love of goddess!) to think twice before producing a music video like Schumer’s.
Other white women (*cough* Amy Schumer *cough*), please, let me explain something to you. The “booty” aesthetic is something that has been championed by black icons. It is not ours. From Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bootylicious’, to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, we have heard black women artists reclaim ownership and reinstate pride of their derrieres.
This pride does not belong to us.
This reclamation comes after years of racist stereotypes serving to ridicule people of colour’s bodies, primarily that of women of colour.
Do you see how this history of oppression is not ours? And it not ours to repeat. Nor is ours to criticise how black women respond to it.
It is because of this historic mockery that women of colour reclaiming their bodies as beautiful, particularly their butts, is fundamentally important. You know what else is fundamentally important? White women LEAVING IT THE HELL ALONE!
What makes ‘Milk, Milk, Lemonade’ insidious is that it is not just mocking black women’s bodies; it is poking fun at the black uprising against this mockery. It is ridiculing the “booty positivity” movement where black women admirably stood up and said, “You know what? Screw this – my body is beautiful and my butt is deserving of worship!”
Admittedly, white women with gorgeous big bottoms can say this too. However, this video is rife with racial implications, from the use of black women as props, the appropriation of black hairstyles, and the channelling of hip-hop culture. For a mock video. That’s not OK.
What’s more, the ridicule of black derrieres in the context of juvenile toilet humour is nothing new. Demeaning black bodies and butts by associating them with poop has also been done before.
So, I am sorry, Amy, but racists last century got there way before you.
And race aside, we all KNOW that butts poop. We are adults; this is nothing new.
Also, let’s not gloss over the term “fudge-machine,” which is uncomfortably close to the homophobic slur “fudge-packer” and to be honest, I have a hard time believing this wasn’t thought of during the video’s production.
But then again, this is a cisgender white woman’s comedy. Its homophobic undertones match the racist ones.
The bottom lines (excuse the pun)? Butts can be sexy, and there’s never a need to slut-shame those who have ‘em and flaunt ‘em. Secondly, know your history: butts are something that black women have had to reclaim, and this reclamation doesn’t need white women shitting (again, no pun intended) all over it.
You are not a feminist if your feminism is not intersectional. So please, white women (*cough* Amy Schumer *cough*), stop and think, god damn it.
You are doing too much and reading way too much into a comedy skit. Your writings and energy should be focused on more important issues that relate to your cause; if indeed your cause is important to you. Not everybody will find your cause important. Get it together!
The video’s humor relies on the fact that butts ARE beautiful. It’s broad and absurdist, about the strange contradictions in human bodies and human beauty – it wouldn’t work if there wasn’t real beauty in it. Just because it’s not trying to be satirical or make a social statement doesn’t excuse it if a majority of viewers took a misogynistic reading of it, but I haven’t seen anyone earnestly do that. This is new criticism foisting a meaning onto it, and I’m sure that on a conscious level it wasn’t an attempt to protect your ego in the face of status anxieties about your relationship to the progress of people of color as a white feminist, but in effect it reads pretty clearly as just that. I don’t make an accusation like that lightly, I make it as someone who made WAY too many (earnestly well intentioned at the time) arguments which ultimately boiled down to that same motivation back in college. I love your other articles, and I look up to the bravery of more than one of them. I know intersectionality often isn’t easy to navigate and is easy to oversimplify. But I can’t shut up when I see a piece of art produced by women, both white and of color, being exploited to serve the glorification of your own ego.
But I’m a gay and predominantly cis hispanic man, so my community is far from done defeating its own demons of misogyny. Fuck me, right?
In my opinion, the style of the video (“hip hop” style and dance moves, hair styles, etc.) was definitely racist, but also in my opinion I didn’t see the video as body shaming so much as showing how ridiculous men’s over-sexualisation and objectification of women’s bodies is, showing how women’s bodies have been so fetishized when they are really just bodies that still do gross things like poop. That’s what I took from it any way.
It is body shaming. There’s nothing wrong with having an ass. In fact, I think it is highly superior to being born without one. Notice that they don’t waste any time making fun of large breasted women. So it is about heterosexual men (who like multiple body parts) or about the women with ass?
Hi there, I’m a guy who takes a stand for civil rights and women’s rights are included on my agenda. Since men denied women those rights in the first place, it seems only fair that we should be a part of their recognition and granting.
Katebyard, your position in this matter is identical to that of feminists of colour, and to me, it makes sense and is fair.
Amy Schumer wants to crush that dream. And rightly so. Disney got it wrong, everyone.
Why the hell must all feminism be intersectional these days?? And intersectional to whom? Only people of African and Latino descent? (So says America). How about you leave Amy Schumer alone because her satire is relevant to ME and I sure as hell found it refreshing. I’m sorry, but it’s not only minority women who are under constant pressure to present their behind as a sexual commodity and organ. I really don’t think you got the sentiment.
That’s fine, but then only use white women in the video.
Do you know how racist you sound saying having a big ass is a black women thing ? And by the way get a sense of humor, women and women of color have alot bigger issues than a silly video on comedy central
Thanks for flagging this up. I will clarify; that assertion was not mine. I was referring to the widely recognisable, historical, and racist stereotype of a black women’s body, which was perpetuated throughout mainsteam media in images such as this and this
This was not my observation. I historicise everything in evaluations and perhaps this should have been made more clear. This approach was originally stated in the first draft, along with several images to demonstrate the chronic hyper-sexualisation of black women throughout history and how we need to be careful with modern media and portrayals. However, it was agreed with the Editor that we did not want to perpetuate the racism in the images and they were removed from the article.
I completely agree with you that “saying having a big ass is a black women thing” is racist. Absolutely. This is why my concern for the video was the sole use of black women as backing dancers (would I have found this less concerning if there were also white backing dancers? Perhaps..but there wasn’t) and the appropriation of box braids, given this derogatory history and the context of the lyrics.
Some of the back up dancers were white, a bit less than half.
If the assertion wasn’t yours, respectfully I don’t understand why are you writing about it. Especially since you didn’t include or mention those other mainstream media images.
I enjoy edgy comedy and satire that promotes spirited discussion, but I think we can all lighten up and remember it’s a comedy sketch.
However, I do look forward to your next article slamming renowned racist Carol Burnett for her Mrs. Wiggins character.
Because it’s an assertion which should not be propagated and my concern was that it was.The decision to not include the images, as mentioned, was largely an editorial decision which I did not have much control over. However, considering your feedback, perhaps it would have actually helped. Will definitely keep it in mind!
I have to say I didn’t realise Miss Wiggins was meant to portray a women of colour! But then, I haven’t seen much of Carol Burnett. I tend to write about current affairs but we are always happy to look over guest posts if you’d like to send in something!
Great article, thx
Sorry, I checked and she identifies as biracial. But she does not identify as White which is what I think you called her.
She’s referring to Amy throughout this article. Not Amber..
Actually, the last sentence of the first paragraph starts “However, there is something about two white women poking fun…”
Just an fyi… Amber Rose, the other “White” woman in the video, is a Black woman. And she’s pretty in charge of herself. I don’t know if you care, but since you said it’s important to get things right, you should know who she is before mislabeling her. Does that change anything for you since you don’t want to speak for Black women?
As a black woman, I appreciate your candor in discussing this issue. Both Lily Allen (sp?) and Amy have done a horrible job at advancing women. Putting down black women, as a way of propping up white women, is super toxic and is harmful to all women.