Stop Using Black Women's Bodies to Make Your "Feminist" Statements

Inside Amy Schumer, a Comedy Central original TV Show, is starting its third season. To announce the return, the channel released a creative teaser in the form of a music video, starring Amy. Unlike typical sneak peeks, Amy's teaser exposes a wild world of short shorts, bathroom stalls, and booties with a parody rap video for a fictional song, “Milk, Milk, Lemonade.” 

The song fights the notion that big booties are sexy by calling booties what they are: passageways for human waste. The chorus, “Milk, milk, lemonade, ‘round the corner fudge is made” humorously refers to what comes out of a woman's breasts, vagina, and booty, respectively.

Unfortunately, the song’s satirical attempt to challenge the sexualization of women’s bodies is hard to admire as it marches up, down, and all over a thin line of exploitation. The video serves an an avenue for Amy to reinforce the problematic use of black women's bodies for comedic entertainment.

As a hip-hop music video, Amy perpetuates the stereotype of the black woman video vixen by including a group of women twerkers, most of whom are black. The lack of racial diversity in this group of dancers prove that the video's creators have a very racially focused idea of where "booty-obsessed" culture comes from.

It may be true that rap anthems like “Baby Got Back” can almost be deemed the founders of big booty adulation, but let’s not ignore the very real force of cultural diffusion; big booty culture is now, arguably, American culture.

We can look to Meghan Trainor's “All About that Bass,” Miley’s twerking phase (we pray it's over), and even Cosmopolitan articles like “7 Ways to Make Your Booty Look More Bangin’” as contemporary examples of how big booty culture is shifting into focus for other racial communities.

Even if it weren't so widespread today, the sexualization of black women's bodies began as violence at the hands of white oppressors. We cannot forget Sarah Baartman and countless other black women who have historically faced exploitation from their shapely bodies way before hip-hop was founded.

So with the culturally wide spread discussion of big booties and the very exploitative nature of US history, the blame of women exploitation can't be thrown onto hip-hop or the black community alone.
Just like the choice to use rap, the decision to mostly include black women dancers in "Milk, Milk, Lemondae" highlights the fact that this video has a targeted understanding of who is to blame for the “stupidity” of big booty culture.
The physical arrangement of the majority black women dancers in "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" video is equally telling. For the most part, the twerkers perform behind Amy. The background placement of black women is symbolic of a racial hierarchy in which the white woman dominates the narrative, a very ironic dynamic since as a white woman in a hip-hop video, Amy is the true outsider.

Ultimately, the black women are mere accessories for Amy to use in order to drive her satire home. Just like any prop, placing black women in the backdrop serves to properly set the video's scene, a setting centered on hip-hop culture. Once that setting is cultivated, the racialized message on booty culture can be delivered.

Amy's controversial use of black women backup dancers should give you déjà vu; it conjures the distasteful image of Taylor Swift dressed in stereotypically urban clothing, crawling under a line of twerking black women in her video for “Shake it Off”. Like Swift, Amy’s establishes a visual hierarchy where the featured white woman dominates the majority black scene unfolding behind her.

Amy’s video is also reminiscent of Lilly Allen’s controversial music video for "Hard Out Here". Similar to "Milk, Milk, Lemonade", Lilly's song is meant to draw attention to the unfair societal standards placed on women but misses the mark with the use of black women bodies as props.

In Lily's video, black women twerk in revealing clothing, on cars, on Lily, and with champaign being poured on them. At one point, Lily stuffs cash in a dancer's bra, conjuring an image of ownership. The close terminology of "it's hard out here for a bitch" (the song's chorus) to Three 6 Mafia's "it's hard out here for a pimp" further racializes the video's narrative, making it seem like the "bitch[es]" Lily is referring to are the ones dancing for her.

But unlike "Hard Out Here", Amy's video attempts to justify its use of black bodies by featuring Amber Rose, a leading woman icon in black popular culture. Her presence in the video could work as a way to convince viewers that Amy's use of black women's bodies is okay because a top black woman celebrity has virtually endorsed it by participating.

But the celebrity icon tactic doesn't detract attention from the dynamics of vocality in this video. Despite the abundance of black women present in the video, only Amber Rose is given an opportunity to speak through song. Since Amy is delving into the world of hip-hop and standards of beauty within that industry, it's even more problematic that the black women aren't able to vocally contribute to that narrative.

The video takes away black women's right to speak and gives Amy the power to speak for black woman. This transposition into the character of a black woman is evident with Amy's wearing of braids in one scene of the video. It's an obvious example of racial mockery and a close cousin of a black face performance.

Ironically, by mocking the exploitation of black women's bodies, Amy misses her opportunity to perform great satire. The song is not desexualizing women's bodies but actually reinforcing it by maintaining a power structure where the black woman remains a silenced sexualized servant in the background.
Black women's silence and Amy's use of mockery and manipulation make "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" a humor failure. Unfortunately, comedy is held to an extremely low standard of tolerance. We're expected to accept insensitive jokes. We're expected to believe that comedians are aware of their joke's absurdity and therefore, "know better" than to believe such absurdity when offstage. But despite comedians' harmless intent, black women's exploitation in the name of comedy or satire can’t be tolerated.

Check out the video below and watch the new season of Inside Amy Schumer…or maybe not.

Photo: Stereogum

Courtney Taylor is a senior English-Creative Writing major at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA. She is an editorial intern at For Harriet. Follow her on Twitter @thecourtcase or reach her by email:

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