November 14

Gilding the Lily: pop, race and plastic feminists

So Lily Allen has a new song out. It’s Hard out Here apparently. It certainly is. You know, being an upper middle-class daughter of two successful multi-millionaire parents, wearing your Hermes bags and residing in your country pile with your husband and beautiful children. Damn it’s hard.

Apparently Lily is sticking it to the misogynistic music man . Apparently. Only she isn’t is she. What I can see is a non-threatening young woman with coy smiles and sweet coy nods to slight rebellion. Also it’s great that feminism is now a marketing tool for products including music. It’s a lazy attempt at satire, and does little to subvert the original.

I rather liked Lily’s Everyone’s at It, and I quoted The Fear in a consumption essay “And I am a weapon of massive consumption, and it’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function. Take that for some sociology meets cultural studies. In fact I think Allen’s 22 asked far more important feminist questions.

But here we are in 2013, where the first verse nicely rounded off with some casual misogyny and whorephobia, not of the satirical variety. Pink’s Stupid Girls updated for 2013. Because you can’t be intelligent and take your clothes off for a living. The language nicely Others the dancers, and places Lily at a smug privileged distance.

“I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking
You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen
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”

(Lily Allen, Hard out Here, 2013).

As with Miley, and Thicke, there are many critics who say Hard out Here is racist. Twitter has been awash with debate, does Lily’s video have racial undertones?

I am not one to retweet a Moore article (her clear hatred of sex workers and Trans women is enough to stop me doing that) because my cynical and critical brain knows there is a lot more to her motives.

I am worried that this is a new way for radical feminism and plastic feminism to regulate women. My recent paper was called Slut-Shaming: The Anxiety of Excess and I fear certain feminists will jump on these race debates add to their arsenal of ammunition about why videos/ visual culture/ sex work/ porn is bad.

This is where common-sense discourse is more common than common-sense, people take articles and campaigns at face value. Remember the Stop the Traffik campaign?? -the critique of which is here Or even Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign by Uk Feminsta and Object, which announce the mags are harmful. Most people signing don’t critically engage, they just believe. So they picket lap-dancing clubs believing the alleged (and unproven) causal relationship between rape and the existence of lap-dancing clubs, and objectification is used as a defence for every campaign going.

Take this piece by Ikamara Larasi who works for Imakaan who are part of Object under the Rewind and Reframe campaign.

I don’t support videos people consider to be racist, but nor do I want women of colour to have their bodies used collectively as a site for battle of something else entirely. This happens often with human sex trafficking panics, and operates due to the fear people hold of borders being invading, of the contagious Other who represents danger, sexual or otherwise. I absolutely do not want to add to the xenophobic propaganda under the guise of caring feminism. The non-white or not-quite-woman has long been demonised for being hyper-sexual, I worry that certain prominent white feminists will now use ‘racism’ where they once used sexualisation or just disgust.

My main problem is that Lily seems to be appropriating ‘black culture’ with misogyny contagion and decay, bitches cars and chains. David Starkey “the whites have become black” speech echoed through my head.

It will be interesting to see developments in the debate. As always, comments are welcomed. Thank you for reading.

Great posts on this issue are here:
Alex Macpherson