In an interview with Vogue published today, actress and model Blake Lively revealed that she will be deleting her lifestyle site Preserve on October 9. The site has been decried again and again for celebrating antebellum fashion and decor, and it seems like the criticism has pushed her to shuttering the site just a year after its launch.
Lively’s announcement has already spurred an article with this gleeful headline from Gawker (emphasis added): “Blake Lively Finally Deletes Her Antebellum-Obsessed Lifestyle Site Preserve.” Gawker‘s triumphant tone on the news of Preserve‘s demise follows a year-long string of stories skewering Lively for — gasp — praising Southern culture.
Last fall, Lively’s site featured a fall fashion photo spread called “Allure of Antebellum.” Naturally, there was a social media firestorm, saying that the site glorified slavery and oppression.
Alongside photos of a woman dressed in clothes available for purchase on the site ran the following text:
“The term Southern Belle came to fruition during the Antebellum period (prior to the Civil War), acknowledging women with an inherent social distinction who set the standards for style and appearance. These women epitomized Southern hospitality with a cultivation of beauty and grace, but even more with a captivating and magnetic sensibility… While at times depicted as coy, these belles of the ball, in actuality could command attention with the ease of a hummingbird relishing a pastoral bloom.”
While glossing over the horrific aspects of the antebellum south (like slavery and the Civil War) isn’t the most intellectually honest thing in the world, keep in mind that the purpose of her site was to sell clothes and feature recipes, not to bring back the slave trade. Future generations aren’t dependent upon an actress’s lifestyle site to preserve a perfect picture of history. We can let Lively praise genteel femininity if she wants to without treating her like a pariah for failing to sufficiently decry slavery more than 150 years after its prohibition.
Lively isn’t the only target of this kind of hate. It seems that modern culture is terrified of the Southern belle. In March, the University of Georgia banned hoop skirts from all campus events after it had already banned Confederate uniforms. Ironically though, hoop skirts aren’t a symbol of white oppression or slaveowner sensibilities, rather they were a great equalizer of the time. As Denise McAllister explained:
The hoop skirt was worn by all social classes and all racial groups. That’s right… The hoop skirt is a symbol of inclusion, not exclusion! […] The white Southern woman “with her attire, manners, and demeanor” … has an identity that is beyond racism. It is an identity rooted in faith, family, individualism, quiet determination, social struggle, and freedom.
As McAllister writes, there’s nothing wrong with finding the good in the Southern belle.
Unfortunately, it seems that Lively has succumbed to all the hate, but as she explained to Vogue, she’s up for launching a new project in the future:
I know what it’ll look like, what I’m facing publicly, that people are just going to have a heyday with this. But it’s so much worse to continue to put something out there—to ask my team to put something out there—that isn’t the best we can do. I’m going to take this hit, and the only way I can prove all the negative reactions wrong is to come back with a plan that will rock people. And I have that plan. And I’m so excited about it, and that’s what gave me the courage to do this, to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to give myself one more shot at this, and I really have to do it as well as I can do it this time.’
Hopefully this initial experience will give Lively what she needs to respond to all the hate she will inevitably get next time around. I, for one, hope she continues to feature Southern culture as she pleases. In the meantime, the award-winning country music group Lady Antebellum might want to watch its back. It’s hard to know which witch Gawker will decide to burn next.