Caroline Wozniacki stuffed towels down her skirt and bra at an exhibition match in Brazil over the weekend, later saying in a press conference that it was an impression of her black colleague Serena Williams. Oof. Was it in good taste? Obviously, no. But was it racist?
Some say no, because Wozniacki and Williams are friends, bad impersonations are exhibition-match staples, and Williams tweets jokes about her butt all the time. But on the other hand, only Williams is allowed to make fun of Williams’s body. As Feministing put it, “Given the history and current-day context of racialized standards of beauty and the hypersexualization of people of color, when a white woman makes fun of a black woman’s body, especially in a way that hypersexualizes her and draws on the stereotype of black women’s big butts, it’s racist.” Unwittingly racist, perhaps? For a primer, Wozniacki could read the Wikipedia entry on Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman whose large butt doomed her to be kidnapped, enslaved, and carted around nineteenth-century England as the “Hottentot Venus” traveling freak show. Her remains were on display in a museum until the seventies. For us, that’s still “too soon.”