Lily Allen – Help or Hindrance?
by Emily Thorburn
Since she burst onto the music scene in 2006 Lily Allen has been nothing if not a little controversial. Known for making disparaging remarks about numerous other musicians such as The Kooks leading man, Luke Pritchard, Amy Winehouse , Katy Perry and Bob Geldof, dear old Lily has never exactly kept her opinions to herself. In 2007 she was accused of assaulting a photographer outside a London nightclub. It’s safe to say that Lily’s antics have been known to cause media attention – and that’s without even looking at her music.
Of late, her success has largely come in the form a John Lewis Christmas advert, which featured her cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, as its leading track. However, another recent hit ‘Hard Out Here’ has generated attention, not for its festive cheer, but rather for it’s so called feminist lyrics.
Any regular readers of Winterwind will (hopefully!) have read my previous article about Robin Thicke’s summer smash hit, ‘Blurred Lines’, in which, I argue that, by wanting females and males to have equal rights and opportunities I would class myself as a feminist. Given this, it would be easy to believe that I was bowled over by Allen’s latest hit, overjoyed that someone was finally speaking up for my rights as a woman. But this is not the case. Why? Because Allen’s new hit is a not something that will go down in feminist history. Rather, it’s a slightly misguided attempt at feminism. She tries, but she doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Let me explain my position – in the video, we start by seeing Lily lying on an operating table having her additional fat removed, while her agent alludes to her failing career, as TV host David Letterman refuses to interview her. When questioned on why she’s got so big ‘how does anyone let themselves get like this’, (she may have reached a fearful size 12, perhaps even a 14, how dare she?!), Lily pipes up to tell us that she has recently had two babies.
After a nearly 50 second introduction, the lyrics eventually kick in and Lily tells us that she doesn’t ‘need to shake my ass for you, cause I’ve got a brain’, and yet, that’s what she appears to do for a great deal of the video. Taking on the conventions of an R’n’B video, Lily grinds away in various different scenarios and various outfits.
Surely this undermines her own argument? We are told that she doesn’t need to behave like a typical female in a music video and then does just that. And it gets worse. Having explained to us that she has had children and is perhaps insecure about her figure, Lily wears relatively covered up, but still sexy outfits. However, her backing dancers, who are all so toned they look like they could be mistaken for some kind of Greek Goddess are scantily clad, revealing cleavage or more and dancing in a manner that I wouldn’t even describe as teasing or enticing, just downright sexual.
Taking the fact that all her dancers are either Black or Asian, leading to accusations of racism as a separate issue, Lily’s choice to remain covered up is again, in my opinion a typically un-feminist decision. The comparison of outfit choice between her and her dancers appears to imply that highly sexualised dancing is acceptable if you have the ideal body, but if you’re anything different to it, it’s simply unacceptable.
At the end of her track, Lily raps, ‘Inequality promises that it’s here to stay, Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away’. Again, any regular readers of Winterwind will be aware of my belief about the power of words, literature and music as a form of social change. And yet, what Lily is telling here is that we might as well give up because the injustices of society will not change, in fact we can trust them to stay the same. If this is the case, then what is the point of her track, why is she even attempting to make a difference?
Once again, dear old Lily undermines her own argument. I’m not in a position to know exactly what Lily Allen’s own views on feminism are and it could in fact be that she and I share similar feminist viewpoints. However, on this occasion, her track does not hit the mark. In my opinion, this song is nothing but a hindrance to any sort of feminist movements that may be occurring.
Note – This article was originally published on the old Winterwind Productions site in December, 2013, prior to our switch to WordPress in 2020.