So unless you live under a rock, you will have seen, heard of, or read something on Lily Allen’s latest single.
Rather than start a conversation with my niece (and by conversation I mean I rant and ask her if she’s got anything to add after a 20 minute monologue) I simply put the music video on and asked what she thought. Here it is:
“I think I get what she’s trying to say, but she kind of ruins it with the video, it’s not really feminism is it? She’s just doing what men do, how is that right? And I don’t want to be called a bitch. Why did she make that the chorus, that ruins the whole thing. I don’t think she even gets what she’s doing”
And my work here is done. 16 years old and more feminist intelligence than Lily Allen and her entire music industry team. Well, I’m not sure that says much, but my point is my niece is awesome.
See, Lily told us that her latest musical journey was all about empowerment. Cheers Lily, but I’ll be the judge of that. So let’s start.
Let’s just do a little analysis of the lyrics first:
I suppose I should tell you what this
bitch is thinking – No, last time i checked, I wasn’t keen on calling my gender something derogetory. Reclaiming bitch is not on my feminist agenda.
You’ll find me in the studio and not in the
kitchen – Women who are in the kitchen are not less than you, feminism is about real choice, Lily, if you like I can recommend some reading for you?
I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains
Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause
I’ve got a brain – So we’re now hating on other women? Way to push the cause, pal.
If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut – You’re fine here, I’m on board, well done.
When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss
There’s a glass ceiling to break, uh-huh, there’s money to make
And now it’s time to speed it up ’cause I can’t move at this pace – Rubbish Rhyming, nothing to do with feminism, it’s just pants.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to say
I’ll go ahead and say them anyway
balls and grow a pair of tit s
It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard out here for a
bitch – We’re WOMEN, Lily, WOMEN. It’s hard, for a bitch (for a bitch)
For a bitch, it’s hard
It’s hard out here for a bitch
It’s hard, for a bitch (for a bitch)
For a bitch, it’s hard
It’s hard out here
You’re not a size six, and you’re not good looking
Well, you better be rich, or be real good at cooking – Because patriarchy sucks, yep got it.
You should probably lose some weight
‘Cause we can’t see your bones
You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own
Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?
Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two? reference mocking Robin Thicke, loving your work, Lily.
We’ve never had it so good, uh-huh, we’re out of the woods - All fine, you’re on a winner, keep going pal.
And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood
So, looking at the lyrics, she got a fair bit wrong, but I’m willing to say that the bar for feminism in the music industry is so low, that I would maybe still applaud this. I’ll give it a 6/10
BUT HOLD THE PHONE. There’s a video, and here I lose faith in faith itself.
Lily decides to bring what she defines as “satire” to the stage. But the reality is, Lily brings confusion and objectification with a side of racism. In one very foul swoop she manages to drown any empowerment she was attempting to create.
The video begins with Lily being advised on surgery to get herself back in shape and a male manager, tell her to “cut more there” and that it’s “disgusting that women leave themselves like this”. This is the only scene that could remotely be related to satire. Because after this, the video resembles every music video on the telly. The difference being that Lily takes on the place of 50 cent, Snoop Dogg or Robin Thicke; Fully clothed whilst semi naked women writhe around and she gets to spank them. Satire? No. Confused objectification? Yes.
If Lily is trying to turn popular culture on it’s head, why not have men around her, or better yet, how about nobody gets demeaned and the video producers just try a little harder, I don’t know, maybe a mini film about inequality. Yeah, alright, maybe not.
But here’s the icing on the cake of this utter wreckage of empowerment; all the women around her are black. As if urban culture hasn’t done that enough, Lily takes black women and turns them into bits of sexualised bodies and props. Because hey, if we’ve learnt anything, it’s that what Lily is talking about, all that glass ceiling shizz, that’s for white women, black women, they’re still awesome at “shaking their arses without having brains”. Lily may have been impersonating the objectifying rappers and performers of today to show how ridiculous they are, but when has a point ever been made, by becoming all that you are trying to rid the world of? – Read more about Lily’s feminist racism in this excellent article.
There are many who are congratulating Lily’s bravery and edgy ways, but in truth, Lily has done with feminism what, ironically Rupert Murdoch does to women’s breasts. Use it as a means of selling. Here’s the reality check, whilst I would love to embrace a new feminism through the medium of popular culture, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s arrived. Feminism is a trendy bandwagon here that is all. Lily has jumped aboard and taken this route to create a comeback hit, in the same way Miley uses riding a wrecking ball naked. Some PR heroes have said “let’s use this feminism thing to be “different”, women will love you and you’ll be back in the charts.” That’s why I wouldn’t hold my breath for Lily to suddenly educate herself on what feminism actually is and be the kind of empowering we were all quietly hoping for. At least not whilst sexism still sells. This here, is “almost but no cigar” feminism, the bits that appeal, the bits that sell, and the bits that offend, but only as far as to get YouTube hits, not offend and change thinking.
There is yearning space in pop music culture for a feminist fight back and perhaps Lily was attempting it here, but she took too many steers wrong and ended up in a bit of a ditch; but Lily, you could still do it, I’m happy to become your PR team, give me a call.
It’s hard out here, for a feminist.