I don’t tend to stay too caught up on music news. In fact, I only yesterday watched the music video for “What Does The Fox Say” (all I can say is that those men seem very serious about their animal sounds). I also caught the new music video for Lily Allen’s song, “Hard Out Here”. Obviously, as it has an intention of sending a feminist message to the audience, it has made its rounds well on tumblr. But the first time I saw it on tumblr, someone described it as being “inclusive”. Yet in the video, I see Lily Allen using women of colour as props as they twerk around her and she occasionally slaps their ass or pours alcohol onto their bodies. Feminist tumblr users tell me this is the image of inclusitivity, but I’m not feeling it.
Lily Allen denied accusations that her video is racist in any way, explaining that the dancers enjoyed what they did, that they apparently didn’t specifically choose women of colour, and that it was satire. But it’s not surprising that the dancers would give positive reviews of the video, as they were paid to be in it, presumably paid very well. It’s not surprising that all of the women are women of colour, as they specifically looked for women who could “twerk” in auditions. Allen may not be aware of the racial profiling that went on, but I’m pretty sure it existed whether she likes to admit it or not. She also admitted that she was going to be twerking in the video herself, but she just couldn’t get it down after practicing for two weeks. Lastly, “satirical” racism and sexism are still racism and sexism - remember Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was all just one big joke to those involved, one big experiment to see what objectifying women would be like. Whether satire, joke, or dangerous attention-garnering behaviour, the message that “we were just playing around” doesn’t itself permit racist and sexist behaviour.
At the beginning of the video, Allen is lying on an operating table (what I believe is a reference to fatshaming against popular singer Adele in popular media) and is supposedly criticizing the music industry for such body-policing behaviour. But Lily Allen also said in her response to accusations of racism “ I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see.” I don’t really think she took her own message to heart, as she still thinks that women in the music industry ought to look a certain way.
Last, and one of the lesser explicit concerns with the music video and song, it focuses - as much of celebrity feminism seems to do - on making ridiculous amounts of money and “breaking the glass ceiling”. The lyrics: “There’s a glass ceiling to break, uh-huh, there’s money to make / And now it’s time to speed it up ‘cause I can’t move at this pace”. This seems to be sending the message that feminism is intrinsically linked with capitalism, and that female success should align with how much money she makes. While wage inequality is a problem, I don’t think the answer is to focus on telling women that success is money. Unfortunately, I see a lot of feminism that focuses on the glass ceiling espousing a strongly consumerist ideology instead of pointing out the practical reasons for wage equivalence, such as women’s health and safety security.
If this music video is a strong feminist critique as some tumblr users say, I guess “feminism” means “white women making ridiculous amounts of money, using women of colour as accessories to look tough, and being body positive - unless it’s your own body, then ew, hide that cellulite”.