Blake Lively's "Oakland Booty" Is Demeaning to WoC

The actresses’ recent Instagram post two days ago has attracted a lot of criticism and rightly so. Lively’s caption: "L.A. face with an Oakland booty" accompanied two photos of herself side by side (one of her front, and the other of, well, her booty) at the 69th Annual Film Festival in Cannes last week. The same exact caption has been used by Khloe Kardashian and Katy Perry in previous years.

 

(Photo credit: Instagram)

Although probably playing on a Sir Mix-A-Lot lyric from the 90s hit "Baby Got Back", it can’t be ignored that this caption is problematic. The caption refers to the Bay Area city of Oakland, which has a "sizable POC (people of colour) population," and just as Jezebel has stated "it touts a diametrical opposition: that Los Angeles can be equated to elegance and/or beauty (read: whiteness), and that Oakland is its foil (read: blackness)."

Social media users have jumped to Lively’s defence commenting on the original Instagram post with statements such as "Nowadays everything is controversial… when are people going to stop over analysing everything" and "You’re beautiful! I still don’t understand how this caption is racist, people are too sensitive!". However, the backlash Lively has received is far from "over analysing," and claims that "people are too sensitive" are taking away from far bigger discussions on the appropriation and commodification of Women Of Colour (WOC) bodies.

One twitter user tweeted: "Another day, another rich white woman using WOC’s bodies as a punchline and commodity. As if Blake Lively wasn’t the worst already," and this reminds us that her problematic caption isn’t an isolated incident. It is easy to forget that the perfect couple Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds had their perfect wedding at the perfect location… an old slave plantation. In a similarly insensitive vein, in 2014 Blake Lively launched a lifestyle website, à la Gwyneth Paltrow, called "Preserve" in which Lively posted continuously about her longing for the Antebellum South, the inspiration behind her website. Ah yes, there is simply nothing more inspiring than those good old years in the American South abounding with Georgia peaches, sweet tea and the ownership of human beings as property… I get giddy just thinking about it. Lively's nostalgia for a Confederate South reflects a wider problem. As whites (and white men in particular) begin to feel their power threatened by increasingly urgent calls for equality, we see more and more instances of this kind of nostalgia. This is painfully evident in Donald Trump's slogan: "Make America Great Again." Maybe we should be looking at who America has been historically great for. 

(Photo credit: Jezebel)

Oh Blake… I so want to like you, but you just keep making it impossible.