EDITED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2013
This week, British pop sensation Lily Allen came out with a new single called "Hard Out Here." The song's music video, which is intended to be a satire of Robin Thicke's infamous "Blurred Lines" (check out 3:07 in Allen's video), has received a lot of backlash for what some people perceive to be an objectification of black women through the movements of its scantily clad black dancers.
What some people see as racism, I see as Allen poking fun at Miley Cyrus' controversial VMA performance in which she used black women as props. But looking beyond the images in the video, I personally think that the lyrics provide a great critique of the pressures that women feel to be thin (“You should probably lose some weight / Because we can’t see your bones”) and of the double-standard that exists in society's view of sexuality (“If I told you about my sex life you’d call me a slut / When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss”).
People are entitled to their own opinions, but I think that you need to trust the artist on this one. Allen clearly had a point to make in her video about the sexism and objectification of women that is all too present in the media, but she certainly did not intend to objectify black women in her critique.
Allen defended herself on TwitLonger with the following:
Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions
1. If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they're wrong.
2. 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.
3. The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.
4. 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. What I’m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day.
5. 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.
6. Ask the ladies yourselves @shalaeuroasia @monique_Lawz @ceodancers @TempleArtist @SelizaShowtime @melycrisp
Although Allen did not mean to come of as racist, it does not necessarily mean that her video is okay. Sometimes people can be unintentionally racist. Black feminist blogger Mia McKenzie brings up a great point in her recent post, explaining that just because the video is meant to be a satire does not make the content of the video acceptable by any means. She writes:
I like satire as much as the next person. I write a lot of satirical stuff myself. And you know what? Satire works best when you are flipping the script on the oppressor, on the system. When you are calling attention to the ways that the system is jacked by amplifying the absurdity of that system. Not caricaturing and otherwise disrespecting the people who are oppressed by that system...[Lily Allen], 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?
That's both sides of the issue, and I'm curious as to what you all think. Please feel free to watch the video and comment below!
On a lighter note, check out this adorable cat dancing to Sage the Gemini's "Gas Pedal." This cat would LOVE to be a backup dancer for Lily Allen someday!