On “Hard Out Here” by Lily Allen


I’m obligated to talk about Lily’s Allen’s new song, “Hard Out Here,” which purposefully takes a feminist stand, but has been met with mixed feelings by feminist bloggers and scholars. If you haven’t heard the song, or more importantly seen the video, you should definitely check it out.

I want to start out by saying it’s ridiculous that feminists would condemn this song. The same people that are so militant about solidarity are the ones saying Allen hasn’t done a good enough job speaking out about it being “hard out here for a bitch.” She’s achieving the most important thing for the movement: awareness of the fact that there is a problem.

The feminist critique has targeted the meta-ness of the work. It’s quite tricky to pinpoint how much the ass-shaking background dancers are satirical or not. There is certainly a level of sarcasm involved, as she’s singing about the pressures women face about body image and not being respected for our minds. However, was the fact that all the background dancers were black satirical? That’s generally the way it goes in the pop scene, but she makes no specific note of that in the song. So, did she fall victim to the gender and race stereotypes that she was supposedly speaking out against? It’s hard to tell.

There’s also the fact that, whatever she is singing about, there are still half-naked butts, dripping with champagne that, to be blunt, looks an awful lot like semen. Perhaps some of her words are lost somewhere in the depths of those ass cracks. That goes against everything she’s talking about in the song. It could very well be that it’s all completely satirical; the shaking asses are wholly sarcastic. They are there to demonstrate what society pressures us women to do. But, does that change the fact that they’re still doing it?

The most likely reason that she utilized these images wasn’t for the sarcasm, though she was probably aware of it. It was most likely because that’s what sells right now. The reason her voice is heard and being talked about all over the Internet, and not the thousands of other women rights activists’, is because she’s playing the game of our capitalist market. Consumerism is feminisms worst enemy, but it’s widely known that sometimes we have to think like the enemy to defeat it. So, is it wrong?

I don’t really know the answers to these questions, as I don’t know Allen’s true intent and I don’t know how the effects of the video will play out. But, her message is still heard loud and clear. People are talking and that’s the best thing for a social movement. You also have to admit the song’s catchy.


2 thoughts on “On “Hard Out Here” by Lily Allen

  1. I heard an interview with Allen where she said that the fact that the dancers all happened to be women of color was because when she held auditions for background dancers, all of the best dancers happened to be of color– and she chose them for their dancing abilities regardless of the color of their skin. I think that she is probably utilizing the shock value for both reasons: because it sells and because it causes us to ask why this sells and thus why women feel objectified. We can’t help but ignore the irony of the fact that she is playing the role of a man in this video whereas most videos with women acting the way they are in this one feature misogynistic male “artists.” I think she had to keep the template of such music videos to help make her point that she looks very out of place among them.

    • Yeah for sure, I agree. I really had nothing against the video and I think it ultimately got the message across, whether she got credit for doing it or got deemed racist. She got people talking and asking questions about that typical music video format.

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