“Lily Allen’s Anti-Black Feminism”

I’m posting this in conversation with an earlier post, not because I necessarily find fault with it, but because I think the author here has a very interesting point to make about the potential limitations about Lily Allen’s expression.

The end of Allen’s four-year hiatus is marked by a new single and matching video that meditates on Allen’s image issues only to project them onto men and women of color. Naturally it’s being hailed as a “scathing critique of misogyny.”…Allen’s first solo single since 2009 manages to scapegoat not just rappers but black women for all the insecurities she’s been grappling with over her career. The song begins with her scoffing at what is meant to look like a rap video complete with women of color body rolling in shorts. She then begins, “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.” The elite prep school educated daughter of an actor and film producer finds such conspicuous consumption distasteful…Hard Out Here” is the opposite of Mileywave. Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. 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.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity.

So what do you all think? Is the author accurate, and if so does that limit the power of Allen’s message?

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4 thoughts on ““Lily Allen’s Anti-Black Feminism”

  1. I saw multiple white girls in this video, shaking their asses and licking their fingers. Lily has expressed insecurities about her body, and it was her choice not to show it off. Okay so she can’t twerk???? Neither can I, but I’ve got a body like the rest of the girls. And about the rap video, I don’t think she meant to diss the girls in it. I mean, do you see many white girls in your typical rap video? She was trying to be realistic, and did a pretty good job. I love her, and I love this song, and I’m standing behind her.

    • What does it even mean to be “realistic”? Everybody’s version of reality is tempered by their personal history, place in society, privileges, etc. Lily Allen’s version of “reality”, as she portrays in that video, is one where she simultaneously makes herself a victim of popular culture that demands she have to conform to sexualized imagery of women, while *blaming* others for being not ‘smart’ enough to rise above it. All this does is shift the insecurity around: she attempts to to critique cultural contempt for women’s bodies by distancing herself from her back-up dancers who are scantily clad and shaking their asses, while she gets to proclaim her moral and intellectual superiority — visually and lyrically. At the end of the day she is still using women’s bodies as a prop, a site of meaning, and an object by which to subjectify herself. That’s the exact same process by which women are objectified in pop culture.

    • From looking through the dancer’s twitter profiles (of which Allen posted), the majority of the dancers are all women of color, primarily Black british women.

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