Lily Allen’s Satire: Who’s Misunderstood?

by November 18, 2013
filed under Entertainment
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To “go ahead and say the words anyway” seems a little heedless in retrospect right?

The video for Hard Out Here isn’t a week old, and there are many feminists detailing exactly what is echoing white supremacy in Lily Allen’s attempted parody of the objectification of women. A quick synopsis being: She targets black consumerism, juxtaposes herself among objectified black backup dancers and uses choice words to elevate her worthiness for not participating in said ratchetness. Totally racist right? Totally.

What is interesting to me is that many women are coming forward in the discussion to proclaim that the criticism is unfounded. They reiterate Lily, saying the video is satirical and just makes fun of pop culture. You’re right, it was intended to be a scathing societal critique, but the hard thing to swallow is that it just doesn’t matter. Lily can wish leaps of progression for the western black community, but as soon as she pokes fun at their cray-cray rims, twerking and hoes, she has become an active part of their oppression.

Allen immediately jumps on the defense on Twitter, saying, “it has nothing to do with race, at all.” How precious. Imagine living in a world where the colour of your skin has nothing to do with your social standing, your ability to get jobs and promotions, your accessibility to education. I jest, but the fact that Lily cannot recognize the racial implications of her song pleads colour blindness, and we’re all more mature than that. I compare this not guilty plea to the dozens of vine accounts dedicated to How White and Black People Be Like – a subtitle in each profile reading, “we’re not racist, just having fun!” It doesn’t matter. Sit down, Lily. The day of the shoot, dancers walk in, being black and scantily clad, and you look down at yourself, modestly white. (Not just your run-of-the-mill white either – daughter of a comedian and film producer.) It doesn’t occur to you just once that you may be alienating yourself from the team you say you support? No thought process such as, “hmm, these black gurls are putting every effort into shaking their asses for the camera, and I’m standing back like an amused princess. Could this possibly be detrimental for black culture?” You must take the responsibility for the creative action you took. It’s a humbling gesture, but one that will leave you on the right side of history: An apology.

But Lily doesn’t wish to give an apology. This is a smack in the face to the women of colour that gave thoughtful critique to her video, which is still a piece of pop culture by the way. No one is exempt from scrutiny in the media, even when your intention was to be ironic. I find it very alarming that Lily decided to dismiss these concerns, some coming from African backgrounds themselves. White feminists desperately need to become intersectional if they want to truly fight for gender equality. Talking over your ethnic counterparts and telling them nope, they’re wrong, is completely oppressing them. You have a privilege that you’re taking advantage of. Think of the last time you cried patriarchy and had a man silence you and explain to you all the ways you don’t understand. Even when a male feminist dominates the conversation, it does exactly the opposite of its intent. See how your white privilege plays into the power dynamic? If they’re taking offense to something, it’s time for us to really listen. Just because someone’s brand of feminism benefits white women doesn’t make it right for equality.

Of course, Lily could have made her point on women in pop culture without throwing black women under the bus. Little golden nuggets in Hard Out Here such as balloon letters “LILY ALLEN HAS A BAGGY PUSSY” could have been extended for the entire video – that is, Allen only mocking herself, within the context of her own experience. Something that comes closer to this is P!nk’s Stupid Girls music video. Not that it isn’t harsh to call women that subscribe to western conventional beauty standards “stupid,” but at least in P!nk’s critique she’s embodying the persona she sets out to destroy – she’s the one dancing next to 50 Cent, she’s the one getting an orange spray tan, she’s the one washing the car in a miniskirt. When P!nk plays her own character in the video, she feels the pressure to become thinner and sexier, and shows herself abandoning her kick-ass ‘tude to appease the surrounding men. This demonstrates that even though she has her own core morals, she’s no better than the “bimbos” she detests, and is equally susceptible to influence in the media. Even better, P!nk sticks to her own societal standing – white women – not here to make fun of those with less advantages in life.

One of the (few) difficult moments in a white person’s life is the naïve discovery that they hold the most power in our unequal world. Once you learn the truth, are you going to sit there stammering that you’re right or admit to the fallacy?

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

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