By now, many of you have probably seen Lily Allen’s music video for her latest single, “Hard Out Here.” The song is a wonderfully sassy response to the media’s obsession with an ideal female body and the very personal grasp this obsession holds over her and many others in the entertainment industry. As she resists the idea that her talents and personality are not enough to warrant success, her lyrics unfold in a liberating feminist mantra. However, her message became the subject of much controversy when she released the accompanying music video.
Though the song expresses disgust with the sexualization of women in the entertainment industry, her backup dancers are scantily clad and definitely sexualized. Their body parts are zoomed in on, their sexual antics are degrading, and their sarcasm is not obvious despite Lily Allen’s assertion, “If you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.” In short, if you couldn’t hear the lyrics, this song would be nearly as disgusting as Robin Thicke’s music video, which Lily Allen’s video attempts to parody. Unfortunately, you can’t challenge a message by imitating it.
Her message is muddled even further through the contrast of a predominantly black cast as backup dancers. This allows for the assumption that although she does not feel she should be objectified, she is fine with objectifying black women as if equality is only for white women. This can be argued based on the fact that the only cuts to body parts are of black women, the white women are more covered by wearing jackets, and the black women perform the most degrading stunts.
Personally, I believe her when she says she did not intend any racial message and that this song is for all women. However, I still think this situation has a very important message: If someone is offended by your actions, then you are, without question, being offensive. The victim, not the perpetrator, decides if a crime has been committed. Of course, when the victim is an entire “category” of people, there will be some disagreement over whether it was offensive or not. However, it is still important to listen to the voices of those offended to help inform any future decisions.
When Robin Thicke released his video and many cited it as sexist, he immediately refused to listen and therefore refused to grow. As a feminist looking for change, Lily Allen should do better. She should understand the need to listen to other perspectives. Otherwise, how would society progress at all?