Am I using hotel wifi to maybe bang out a post on pop music? You betcha.
While I was tiredly idling on my laptop last night, someone in a feminist thread that I maintain on a private forum linked the newest Lily Allen video. He was excited because it was really good, apparently, so I watched it as I’ve been a fan of Allen’s older stuff.
What followed was all the rap video shenanigans and pop-py satire that the song seems to evoke. If I had just listened to the lyrics, I could have gotten behind the message of the song, but the video wrecks it entirely. (Upon closer listening to the lyrics, I notice there’s some really gross positioning of women who are skinny vs. fat, shake their ass vs. being smart which is just giant NO! all around. Same goes for the cissexism with the whole “Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits”)
It doesn’t take much of a hard look to be completely disgusted by what’s going on in the video – it’s Lily Allen surrounded by twerking and objectified women of color, particularly black women. Whether it’s a send up of “rap video girls” or some sort of demented Miley Cyrus satire (hey, white ladies, you can’t satirize from a position of power), it is still just using black women’s bodies as props and riding them as “different” from pure White Feminism and Sexist Critique.
The reason that this is so problematic is due to racial politics – white people, including white women, have been using black cool and bodies to launch their own careers and success while simultaneously denigrating it. When we talk sideways about rap videos being misogynistic, we tend to still trample over black women’s voices discussing how this misogyny actually affects them and we fail, as white women, to note how white dude music across the ages has done a very spectacular job at putting its glam boot on our necks. Our music is not different from black music except for that fact that it’s lauded, praised, held up as the standard and frequently steals from black musicians and their culture. We love to go to town on Lil’ Wayne but seem to even forget about Eminem. It falls back heavily on the idea that black people are stupid, especially when they mimic the wealth, power and dynamics of white musicians, without reflecting upon our own pop culture misdeeds.
So in short, Lily Allen’s video is once again stepping on the shoulders of black women, their work, and people are saying she’s a feminist giant. Like the song if you’d like, but don’t you dare not look at it with the same amount of criticism that you’d toss at anyone else. If it was me, I could have done a treatment of that video that was a montage of every drippy emo rock band or champagne-spraying hair metal group. The fact that this wasn’t the first choice here shows that we are still not looking at the right people.
Your move, guys.