Lily Allen argues against ‘objectification,’ but is her message muddled?

Lily Allen

These are photos of Lily Allen out in London on Friday evening. In her own way Lily has become the queen of controversy with her new music video, and she did it all without getting naked. In this day and age, that’s quite an accomplishment in pop music.

People are calling out Lily’s video as racist, and Lily tried to defend herself against these accusations on Twitter: “If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they’re wrong.” Lily also stated how she herself would have twerked along with her backup dancers, but she tried to perfect the move for two weeks and could not master it. She also mentioned her “chronic cellulite” as another reason that her dancers were dancing lustily, but she was not. Hmm.

I find those words interesting, and while I do like Lily as a pop icon, I’ll confess to never buying any of her music. Nothing against her at all, but her voice just isn’t my bag. I appreciate that she’s trying to say things that women are told they shouldn’t say, and now Lily is speaking out in a Guardian interview. The article begins with an anecdote about how (after having her first child) postpartum Lily went for a consultation at a plastic surgeon’s office a year ago. She was all scheduled for liposuction, and then four days before the procedure, she learned she was pregnant again. Naturally she did not have the surgery — she wrote a song instead. That song just happens to be “Hard Out Here.” Let’s do this:

She loves the word “bitch”: “Dolly Parton is a bitch. Adele’s a bitch. Angela Merkel is a bitch…” She’s sitting in the make-up chair listing bitches, of which she proudly counts herself one. “Rihanna’s an inspiring bitch, my mum, Miley’s a bitch, rising. She’s my hero. Kate Middleton is NOT a bitch.”

On her rep: “I’ve always been called ‘mouthy,’ when, in fact, I’m just talking. In the music industry, women have always been controlled by male execs, told to do the Kate Moss thing. Keep your mouth shut, or people will laugh at you. They’ve been talking about us like this for years, basically.”

She lives in the country with her family: “It’s nice, but it’s weird. I’m totally out of touch. When I first started, in terms of girls it was just me and Amy [Winehouse]. Now, ‘reentering the marketplace,’ it’s all girls.”

Things are so different now: “Nobody says anything real today. Most of those girls have their songs written by other people. It annoys me, because ‘eh oh eh oh ahh’ is not a chorus — that’s not a point where I feel ‘we’re connecting’, you know? I need a narrative.”

She’s changed too: “I want to sing about different things now,” she smokes. “Before I was married, my songs were directed at significant others. Now I couldn’t be happier, so it’s opened me up to write about more general stuff. There are a couple of songs to Sam, including one sexy one, about coming to terms with becoming sexual again after just being a baby-making vessel. But mainly they’re funnier and happier — less lethargic, less teenage.”

Her new music: “I’m not moaning at the world any more. Before, I was struggling. Coming out of adolescence and not knowing where I was in the world — now it’s about ownership and empowerment.” And objectification. “I’d like to think that my children’s generation won’t feel like this. Like I do. I want them to realise that not everyone can be f—ing ‘hot.’ Rather than attractiveness being the end prize, it should be as rewarding to be clever or funny, or, you know, have your, your ‘thing’.” She takes a sip of champagne through a straw before taking her place on a mirrored dance floor. It’s 11am.

Getting older is scary: “I don’t think I’m going to suit being old. That thing of – I always used to be the youngest bitch. Little Lily. Now I’m not. That scares me a bit. But that’s a product of today’s media, isn’t it? The world makes you feel like your life is over.”

The dark side of the internet: “I read it. I read it all, and they’re 90% horrible. Is that because everybody hates me? Or is it just an easy way for them to make themselves feel good, by saying something bad about someone else? And sometimes it can be really hurtful. Like when I lost my baby.”

The gossip cycle: Minutes after she gave birth to her first child, before she had told her mum, she says, the Daily Mail was on the phone. “The placenta was still IN me. The Mail Online is like carbs — you know you shouldn’t but you do. Probably two or three times a day. I hate them — it’s an atrocity, really. But I still go on it. It’s my homepage. These lyrics are a message to them, in part. We keep going back,” she takes a long pull on her cigarette, “we keep going back, because they’ve made us feel so sh-t that we have to compare ourselves, to say ‘haha she’s fat too’, in order to feel better.”

What if she’d gone through the surgery? “Now I know what the female body is capable of I have a lot more respect for it. My wide hips are for squeezing babies out of.”

[From The Guardian]

That last part confuses me. Lily rails against “objectification” (the word even appears in “Hard Out Here”), but she almost went under the knife a year ago for cosmetic reasons. As stated above, Lily said she would have dressed scantily in her video if she could dance the right way and didn’t have “cellulite.” Maybe I should just appreciate that she recognizes her own contradictions. Lily is at least trying to make a point instead of just being “hot,” right?

Lily Allen

Lily Allen

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet & WENN

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23 Responses to “Lily Allen argues against ‘objectification,’ but is her message muddled?”

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  1. aims says:

    I’m not a huge fan of hers, and know very little about her. I thought it was tragic when she lost her baby. I like that she uses bitch as a form of power. But I’m indifferent towards her.

    • Spooks says:

      I don’t listen to much pop music, but I really love her. And this isn’t the first time she discussed the hypocrisy of show business. And she writes her own songs, which is rare in pop these days. I’ll take her over vanilla singers ala Gomez any day.

  2. Hannah says:

    I don’t understand what’s confusing about it? She almost had lipsuction because she felt insecure. She says her insecurity stems from the way the media (in particular the Mail Online) “reports” on women, i.e. always focusing on their appearance. In other words, the way women are objectified.

    Also, I still don’t see the racism in the video. I’ve read what others have written about it and some of it is well argued but I really don’t think it’s racist.

  3. feebee says:

    I get where she’s coming from even if it sounds a little contradictory. The twerking thing is the thing to be doing apparently, like it or loath it. So I can see why she may have wanted to be doing in from a participating point of view for her video. However I understand that if she felt she looked foolish doing it, then it’s better to leave it to the professionals, no?

    Just because she chose to get liposuction doesn’t mean the sole reason was to conform for objectivity sake. It could have just been that post-preggy belly, or the cellulite she may have hated for ages. Recognising the obvious (about her industry) but making a decision that cosmetic surgery is right for her is not necessarily being hypocritical.

    FTR I don’t know any of her songs and not much about her but just commenting from a general pov.

  4. Leila In Wunderland says:

    I don’t see her video as racist at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for the use of different groups of people as mocking props, or being used as tools to dehumanize people based on race or anything else. But I don’t think it makes sense or is even fair to call it racist every single time there are back-up dancers that are non-white.

    I know almost nothing about Lily Allen- other than some obscure rumors I’ve heard about her being rude and having been to rehab, (unless I’m just confusing her with some other brunette singer) but based on this interview she seems ok/likeable, I like her perspective. I like the fact that she talks about how music execs talk to their singers. I wonder if all of them get this treatment, or if it’s just the ones who don’t have big names and diva personalities. (I can’t imagine them talking to Mariah, J.Lo, Christina, Beyoncé, or Pink that way!)

    • Miffy says:

      It’s off your original point but I can very much see Beyoncé being spoken to like that, her whole career has been dominated by significant male, whether it was her dad or her husband. She definitely got a bit more feisty when she ditched her dad as manager but the underlying male dominance is there and always has been.

  5. smee says:

    I too have never purchased her music, but I did watch her new video. I thought the beginning of it made the biggest statement – her having lipo while a white-man-in-a-suit looks on in disgust while she says “But I just had two babies”.

    The way I interpreted it, the rap-video-dancers were just part of her making the kind of video “The Man” was expecting her to make – and if she doesn’t have the body to do it, then the dancers will provide the T&A

    The whole “bitch” thing reminds me of another word that people need to use in order to “own” it. I’m not a huge fan of this, but I get it.

    Maybe it wasn’t a razor-sharp message, but I think I like what she’s saying. At least she’s trying to say something other than “look at my reproductive organs!”

  6. Isabella says:

    She makes sense. It IS hard out there. She’s been tempted to fit in but circumstances always lead her elsewhere. Glad she like her body- it is wonderfully and fearfully made!

  7. juicylucy says:

    Honestly, if the video comes across as racist, I don’t think it was intentional.
    Regardless, I love the song to bits. Its really nice to have a great running song that isn’t all about sex, molly, and men.

  8. yeahright says:

    I think she’s saying “I feel pressured to look and act a certain way and I don’t like it” but she’s not really going the whole “I love myself” way because she’s being honest. I can say that I love myself the way I am but if I could improve on it in a way that would equate to less pressure I think anyone would do it. We all just have different lines and different places where we draw them.

    She’s a little self righteous and a little immature but who cares. She’s harmless.

  9. MaiGirl says:

    You know, I want to accept her explanation, I really do, but I can’t. I simply don’t believe that out of all the dancers that must have auditioned, only the black ones made the cut. That’s preposterous! If she had just said she was mocking Miley, then I would have been okay with it, but she literally did the same thing Miley did without any sort of twist that showed she was mocking this trope, other than some of the lyrics of her song. And now, she’s saying that Miley is a “bitch” she admires? Wow. She can’t seem to come up with any consistent message, which makes her more of a provocateur than anything, and I’m tired of provocateurs who don’t have much to back up their loud mouths.

  10. Anna says:

    Her whole video/song is hugely hypocritical, I used to really like her, but after this new song I have to say that has changed

  11. lambchops says:

    Her message has always been muddled. At least that part is consistent.

  12. Miffy says:

    Her explanation of her muddled message just muddles things further. The song just irks me, the line ‘forget your balls and grow a pair of tits’ was just so clumsy I didn’t even notice the video really. She’s made better statement songs than this, ‘The Fear’ was a clear concise message, cleverly written. This is just her trying to be overtly edgy now that she’s a happily married country mum and it doesn’t work. Maybe she should have come out with a generic dance song about molly and parties…

  13. Megan says:

    Sorry, but I think people are making way too big a deal about the music video. Just because some people want to call it racist, doesn’t mean it really is. I don’t see what the big deal is. All the dancers were twerking and such. I’ve seen Rihanna and Kesha do worse in their videos.

    I’m no Lily Allen fan, pretty indifferent actually, but I don’t think she’s a racist.

  14. Prim says:

    I love that she’s honest about being confused. I don’t think it’s easy to find your way and being frank about it is wonderful. I really feel for the girl that she loathes the daily mail but it’s her homepage. I admire that level of candour. Of course, it could be a strategy to expose that level of vulnerability, but so what if that’s the case. Knowing how vulnerability comes across to your audience doesn’t negate the truth of it.

  15. Lauraq says:

    Lilly has in the past admitted to thinking about lipo out of insecurity. I think it’s more honest than a certain someone’s ‘I eat a lot and don’t work out and love my body!!!’.