ColumnLily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” video blurs the lines between satire and racism.
Much like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’ live twerk debacle, both of which Lily Allen openly mocks in her video, “Hard Out Here,” there’s nothing subtle about the message in her new song.
The difference is, rather than supporting rape culture and sexism, Allen’s video suggests that being a woman in the entertainment business is really hard. And being a woman of color? Well. There’s a special spot in the twerk line just for you.
From the opening shot of Lily Allen getting liposuction while her manager stands by, all the way through to the glimpse of (I think) Rebel Wilson toward the end, this video is solid commentary on the objectification of women’s bodies and the unreal beauty standards we’re all expected to live up to.
Between the lipo and Rebel is where it gets messy. We see women being slapped on the ass, phallic banana eating, crotch grabbing, a lurking old white guy manager and Lily Allen in front of balloons spelling out: “Lily Allen has a baggy pussy”—a direct reference to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” hahstag about his big dick. All of that sits just fine with me.
Where Allen blurs the lines is with her treatment of women of color.
What bothers many people is that Lily Allen is a white woman objectifying black women in the name of feminism. This is nothing new. White women and women of color have often been at odds about whether the feminist movement is really open to all women. An important debate but, I think, one that sometimes ends hard conversations before they start and divides us further.
Lily Allen’s response to critics pointing out the racist overtones of “Hard Out Here” isn’t good either. This video is Allen and she has accepted the accolades for it being a smart, feminist response to a summer of sexist hits. She can’t pull a Miley and hope people assume someone else was at the helm.
She should defend her choices, and explain why she thinks this video is satire as social commentary and not racism. She might be wrong, but the conversation would be more productive than her non-apology apology. And, if she ends up thinking, “Shit. I really messed up,” she should say so.
Instead, she writes (in part): “Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.”
There are two problems with her response. First, I don’t believe her. She is too smart to claim race didn’t affect casting of the dancers; and her comment that if she was a better twerker she’d have her “arse” out there come across as flip and insulting. This video isn’t lighthearted—nor should it be.
Second, I want her to own the fact that she made a choice, as a white feminist, to comment on racial objectification. If people disagree that she has the right to do so, and they will, so be it.
Lily Allen should have the tits, as she herself would say, to have the conversation.
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Image: Lily Allen via YouTube