I think by now everyone has seen Lily Allen’s new video “Hard Out Here.” In it, Allen is her typical badass, socially progressive self, with empowering lyrics like:
“If you’re not a size 6, then you’re not good looking/Well you better be rich or be real good at cooking/You should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones/You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own/Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?/Have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?/We’ve never had it so good, uh huh, we’re out of the woods/And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.”
I love that she takes the pop industry to task for their unreasonable standards and blatant objectification of women. While I LOVE the song, the video is problematic, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong. There are some downright hilarious parts, and plenty of the call-outs are not only funny but absolutely on point. But along with the good, there is a whole heap of bad.
Seriously. Take a long, hard look at the video. There are two white dancers with Allen, but the majority of dancers are black and the black women are wearing significantly less clothing than Allen and her non-black backup crew. The video is purposely sexually explicit, and we’re shown images of scantily clad black women shooting champagne at each other’s asses and shaking their tail feathers, while Allen sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you, cause I’ve got a brain.” How are we, the viewers, supposed to see these black women?
I get that Allen was trying to make a statement about the cultural appropriation and sexual appropriation of black women in pop culture, specifically making a dig at Miley Cyrus’ twerk-gate with Robin Thicke. But here’s an interesting concept! You can make these statements without objectifying black women yourself! According to blogger Cate from BattyMamzelle:
“To me, this is the equivalent of putting a television character in blackface in order to “show that blackface is bad.” It’s great that that’s the message you want to send, but you don’t combat the racist act by participating in it. First of all, talk about mixed messages. And secondly, how can you presume to call out someone on their racist behaviour while engaging in the same behaviour? Satire must be done well in order to be of any consequence.”
As expected, Allen released a statement today about the controversy. I would call it an apology, but she specifically says she’s not going to apologize, so it’s more of an “I’m sorry/not sorry,” kind of deal. In it she offers gems like:
“If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they’re wrong.”
“If anyone thinks that after asking the girls to audition, I was going to send any of them away because of the colour of their skin, they’re wrong”.
YES! Because women of color have always had a fair shot in these auditions and are ALWAYS chosen based on merit and not skin color. RIGHT.
She then goes on to say:
“If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see.”
Then why not have all the dancers cover up a bit more. Don’t you think that having fully clothed dancers acting the video vixen part would have had more impact? Or perhaps some dudes up there twerking it up a ’la this spoof of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines?
Before leaving us with an invitation to ask the dancers themselves how they felt (because I’m sure they would all be TOTES comfortable calling their last employer racist…it’s not like women of color have trouble finding work in the entertainment industry or anything), she gave us the coup de grace of non-apologies:
“I’m not going to apologise because I think that would imply that I’m guilty of something, but I promise you this, in no way do I feel superior to anyone, except paedophiles, rapists murderers etc., and I would not only be surprised but deeply saddened if I thought anyone came away from that video feeling taken advantage of, or compromised in any way.”
Now, I love me some satire. I truly do. Especially when it’s well done, which I don’t think this is. I know there are some people who think that you can do no wrong as long as whatever you’re saying is put under the guise of satire, but I say bullshit to that. If The Onion can be raked over the coals for taking satire too far, then anyone can. I think it’s time that feminists and especially white feminists (I’m looking at you, Jezebel) start taking Lily Allen to task for what she has done here.