On Listening, Lily Allen, and Satire

I’ve been reading a lot about Lily Allen in the last few days, and I’m troubled to say the least.

In case you’re unaware, Lily Allen recently released a “feminist anthem” called “Hard Out Here.”  A friend posted it on Facebook with the question, “Is this clever feminist satire or just a recreation of the same racist commodification of the bodies of Women of Color?”  A rousing debate ensued.

Hard Out Here

Screenshot from Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here”

In this debate, as well as in a few others I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook in the last 24 hours, there was one thing that was pretty obvious: White people were FAR more likely to defend Lily Allen than people of Color, and there wasn’t a whole lot of listening going on from those of identity privilege.

And it’s not just my random White Facebook friends that are having trouble hearing the critiques.  Lily Allen herself responded to the criticism defensively, claiming it’s just a “lighthearted satirical video” that “has nothing to do with race, at all.”

When I hear her respond, though, I just want to scream, “Why do you get to decide if it’s not about race?!?”

And therein lies my point.  As people of privilege, it is our responsibility to listen and reflect when we are called out for the ways that our privilege impacts oppressed and marginalized people, even if we are oppressed and marginalized in other aspects of our identity.

In short, if we are striving to be “allies” or to fight for social justice, we need to step back and do a better job of listening.  In this case, White people – even White women – need to step back and listen to the myriad of voices of Color who are saying that if this video is “feminist,” then they want nothing to do with “feminism.”

So here are a few powerful voices.  There are all sorts of others out there, but these are a few criticisms/critiques that helped me to grow.  Hopefully they can do the same for you.

Easy Out There For A (White) Bitch: A Few Words On Lily Allen and the Continued Use of Black Women’s Bodies As Props

By Mia Mckenzie of Black Girl Dangerous

Lily Allen, Jezebel, etc…Why the fuck does your feminism look like this?? Why do you need the bodies of women of color as background for your points? Why do you think slapping the asses of black women on national stages makes you smart or edgy or anything but an asshole? Why do you feel like you are entitled to use our bodies in these ways?
And please don’t tell me that the black women in the video made their own choices and blah blah blah. “Choice” is a relative concept. Not everyone has as many choices as they would like. Many people do what they have to do to pay their bills and eat. And not everyone has an analysis of oppression that they can access when faced with these “choices”. Furthermore, even if each and every black woman in the video had all the choices in the world and all of the necessary analysis and still chose to be in that video, it does not erase Lily Allen’s culpability. It’s Lily Allen’s video. It’s Lily Allen’s artistic product.

Read the whole piece here.

Lily Allen’s Racist New Music Video, “Hard Out Here”

By BlackInAsia

You can say please all you want, but at the end of the day most white people honestly just don’t care. Despite widespread criticism of Miley Cyrus for her racist cultural appropriation and use of black women as props in her videos, despite criticism of the likes of Lorde for their flippant degradation of the consumer choices and desires of poor black people, Lily Allen arrives in grand racist fashion with her debut track from her upcoming third album.
The video is meant to be a critique and satire of popular culture and manages some deserved jabs at Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” videos among others, but in the end it just reduces itself down to elevating Lily Allen’s white female body and objectifying and utterly denigrating those of the black female dancers she deliberately surrounds herself with from start to finish.

Read the whole piece here.

Why Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” isn’t a feminist anthem

By Prachi Gupta

What’s more disappointing about this satire– and why it ultimately fails as satire — is that, while Allen at least appears to be making a choice about her participation in this white man’s fantasy, she’s also making the choice to objectify her mostly black back-up dancers.Jezebel’s Katie Dries, who overzealously called the song a “feminist pop anthem” disturbingly anticipates and then ignores the treatment of black women as ornaments, serving up the Thought Catalog defense of racism. “Allen’s video is bound to be criticized by for her own use of mostly black backup dancers twerking,” writes Dries, “but the key difference here is that this is satire, however difficult that can be to pull off.”

Here, I am reminded of Jezebel’s own Lindy West, and her excellent denunciation of the “But it’s a JOOOOOKE” defense of ironic racism: “Here’s the thing about jokes. They only work when they’re aiming up…People in positions of power simply cannot make jokes at the expense of the powerless.” In the context of Allen’s music video, where you have a famous female pop singer and anonymous dancers, the dancers are powerless, and are portrayed as such.

Read the whole piece here.

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One thought on “On Listening, Lily Allen, and Satire

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself, although I may still try and put up a post myself

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