November 14, 2013

Feminism/racism in the Lily Allen comeback video "Hard Out Here."

I don't care about this kind of music and dance, and I've never paid any attention to this lady who — I see — went away and has come back, but I've been interested in the ins and outs of the discourse of feminism since before Ms. was a magazine. And I've been observing American racial politics at least since I was 10 years old, when Life magazine featured photographs like these. Everyone read Life, but not every 10 year old had, set out next to Life on the family coffee table, the latest issue of Playboy.

So indulge me while I take a look at the race trouble that's befallen Ms. Allen and inquire into soundness of her "I'm protesting the objectification of women" story. Here's the video that went up 2 days ago and has over 2 million views.

(I have no idea whether that viewership represents actual hunger for more from an artist who'd been away for a while or virality over this race-and-sex controversy to which I'm contributing.)

The video begins with the singer submitting to the violent intrusions of the liposuction wand while a mean old white businessman type guy harangues her about her body. The lyrics bitch about all the pressure to "lose some weight 'cause we can't see your bones" and "fix your face or you'll end up on your own/Don't you want to have somebody who objectifies you?" The chorus is "It's hard out here for a bitch/It's hard, for a bitch."

So, you see, it's pretty basic, mainstream, contemporary, young-person feminism: complaining about the way other people make her obsess about her body all the time. Of course, she proceeds to show off her body and the bodies of many other females, dancing in the manner that she's supposedly so outraged about those terrible other people causing to happen. Let's leave to the side the hypocrisy and lameness of feminism like that, because Allen's in trouble about race.

Here's Ayesha A. Siddiqi writing in Vice.
In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.”....

It is not feminist to mock talented dancers of color for exercising skills Allen doesn’t possess. It is not feminist to claim that women who cook and dance provocatively are as damaging as a manager barking at her to lose weight. It is not feminist to remain blissfully colorblind in a world that functions along race.

As long as white womens’ empowerment requires lowering everyone else their “feminism” is just rebranded white supremacy.

25 comments:

Steve said...

But, apparently, it is feminist to use the trappings of sexuality to gain a commercial advantage while decrying that those trappings are necessary. Ms Allen gets dancers in her video twerking and simulating oral sex, and I don't even have a phrase for the ejaculatory champagne bottles. All while keeping her 'feminist' credentials.

pduggie said...

Twerk and you're racist for appropriating black culture.

Refuse to twerk and you're racist for disrespecting black culture.

Clyde said...

Gak!! It opens with a Michelle Obama ad!

And I hate autotune with a passion. It's a crutch for people who can't actually sing.

Clyde said...

And I wonder if Ayesha would like a little cheese with that whine.

David said...

The link to Life is interesting. I distinctly remember that spread.

If you were casting a look-alike for a Barack Obama character in a film, Malcolm X would be a very good choice.

I wonder what Joe Biden would say about that. Malcolm was, among other things, very clean and articulate.

Ann Althouse said...

"The link to Life is interesting. I distinctly remember that spread."

Yeah, click through the whole series. Great pics. Really made an impression. These are things that half a century later are still in your head. It's hard for younger people to understand how much the photographs in Life meant to Americans. There's so much photography out there now and people don't fixate, simultaneously, on a select group, laid out on large pages, so concrete.

A web slide show, viewed now, only begins to convey how it felt to us then.

Henry said...

women who cook ... provocatively

Did I read that right? I can't say I care enough to go to the link. But those kind of women are awesome.

rehajm said...

When I drive by the car wreck between pompous righteousness and smug indignation I can't drive by without staring.

SGT Ted said...

Just more leftist ideological policing.

I rather like that line about "I don't have to shake my ass for you, I've got a brain." I have long thought that pop ingénues rely far too much on slick dance choreography and over-production and less on singing talent. it isn't anti-woman to point that out. The idea that it is racist doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Anglelyne said...

Another day, another dust-up among the righteous raving roach-brained resenters of the world. Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy me some schadenfreude.

Paul said...

It's amusing to watch feminists denounce "objectification" while, if they possess pulchritudinous physical attributes, exploit them to increase their SMV.

The hard reality is that a woman's greatest asset is her looks...beautiful women are desired and homely women, no matter how brainy, are left behind.

It has always been and will always be.

All the shrieking in the world of feminist shrikes will not change that immutable fact one bit.

Eva said...

She is specifically sending up videos by Rihanna, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. If you don't have that context, then the video's humor will be lost on you.

pduggie said...

Why is there an "American Nazi" sitting next to the 2 Nation of Islam folks (picture 9 of 15)?

Ann Althouse said...

"She is specifically sending up videos by Rihanna, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. If you don't have that context, then the video's humor will be lost on you."

That's all talked about in the linked article. I understand the context, and so will anyone who reads what I linked.

Ann Althouse said...

The race problem isn't overcome by getting that mockery is intended. It's exacerbated.

TMink said...

Who is this Lily Allen?

Trey

Mary Beth said...

Lily Allen is Alfie Allen's (Theon Greyjoy in HBO's Game of Thrones) older sister.

The video is satire. I think it's funny but I like 22 better.

She did a song about her brother too. - Alfie

Sigivald said...

"It is not feminist to remain blissfully colorblind in a world that functions along race."

Feminism requires one to be obsessed with race, because feminism [her sort, at least] asserts that race is how the world functions?

Self-fulfilling prophecy, eh?

The only way race stops mattering is when people stop treating it like it matters.

(Not the same as pretending there aren't racists or bigotry, but also not using their existence as an excuse to obsess over race all the time.

"Is it not written, 'It won't get better if you pick it'?" - Lu Tze)

Michael said...

Toynbee noted that when the underclasses and their mores are adopted by the rest the end is near. Obviously.

n.n said...

Lowered expectations. That's an undeniable aspect of social justice.

Objectifying women. That's not quite right. Objectifying human life or treating it as property. That's where it starts. That's a progressive morality and it is a minority choice which has majority consequences.

Somehow they get it but they don't quite get it. That's a paradox which must naturally arise from forming coalitions from groups of people with diametrically opposed agendas.

mccullough said...

The no-true-Scotsman charge is a common tactic of all ideologies.

William said...

Some care was taken to make sure that none of the back up dancers were prettier than Ms. Allen.

Sam L. said...

Sorry, no, can't be bothered.

RazorSharpSundries said...

Although there is probably a very good interesting reason why there's a Nazi hanging out w/ Nation of Islam folks it is maddeningly unexplained for perhaps painfully obvious purposes.

EMD said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.



Groups.