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 Everett True

Some conversations held in public around the new Lily Allen video

Some conversations held in public around the new Lily Allen video
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This might not surprise you, but I don’t follow mainstream columnists – not now that Charlie Brooker has fallen off the edge of my radar. I much prefer to come to my own conclusions.

Having said that, I spent the afternoon among the mainstream, delving into the London media hivemind (that some claim doesn’t exist) to research an article I was compiling for The Vine around the new Lily Allen video.

In the meantime, I’d like to reprint a few of the conversations a few Collapse Board writers have been having. It seems like their voices could be as valid as anyone else’s.

Here’s my article.

…it seems like this is going to be a cracking good return to form. Sarcastic, caustic, slightly self-delusional (we don’t hold that against our pop stars) – and with hooks to match. That is, until the main frame of the video reveals itself on the third line of the chorus – which is (a clothed) Allen surrounded by a coterie of scantily-clad black dancers, shaking their arses. And thus the video continues, right through to the already infamous shot of champagne being sprayed across a dancer’s arse. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be satirical, but as one journalist asked, “When was the last time someone *seriously* sprayed champagne over a dancer’s arse? 1999?” Appeal of the WRONG in Pop: Lily Allen ‘Hard Out Here’

And here’s a great Alex Macpherson article over at The Quietus.

The camera’s gaze is lascivious but disapproving: it lingers disgustedly on a black woman’s hand over her crotch, a black woman’s jiggling arse, a black women’s legs opening and closing, a black woman’s champagne-soaked breasts for just a few seconds more than it should. Presumably these exaggerated shots are to differentiate Allen’s satire from the quick, polished cuts of the “generic R&B video” stereotype she aims to send up (for there is little else to demonstrate this; Allen’s idea of “satire” seems mostly to be “imitation”). But it doesn’t challenge the male gaze, let alone the very real patriarchal conditions that exist for women in the music industry… Black Sky Thinking | Culturally Clueless: Race, Feminism & Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here Video

And here’s to a link to a video that I personally reckon does a better job of critiquing ‘Blurred Lines’.

OK. Facebook stuff (edited) begins now. A line break indicates a separate thread.

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Wallace Wylie It’s hard for Lily Allen dealing with sexism so she decides to get some black women to dance around in her video as if that was the problem.

Lucy Cage “Yeah but it’s IRONIC! Gawd!” *rolls eyes*

Lucy Cage Pissed me off too. I checked: there are white women among the backing dancers too but I think the general impression given by the video is not what she might presumably have set out to achieve. Like, is there really no other way of challenging sexism and racism in music videos accept by doing the EXACT SAME THING but with a knowing wink? Really?

Wallace Wylie You know, when Lady Gaga puts out an album with an image of herself naked, cupping her breasts, well we all know that Lady Gaga is super smart. Want to portray women as overly sexualised dupes dancing for money? Get some black women in there.

Lucy Cage http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rrk3og “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. “AGH! Boo, Lily, boo.

Wallace Wylie Yes, we weren’t supposed to notice the blackness of the women. Feminism is about when white affluent women feel marginalised. Bringing race into things is just divisive.

Lucy Cage Times like these I can understand why people want to ditch the F word…

Wallace Wylie Criticising Miley is slut-shaming. Mocking black cultural trends is light-hearted satire. Miley gets to be human. Black women get to remain props.

Lucy Cage And those of us criticising the critique are nitpickers and spoilsports… “Perhaps the most helpful response we feminists can have to Lily Allen’s video is not to tear it down because of its flaws (although they should be addressed), but to look at feminism itself and discuss how to realise its potential as a political movement.” The Guardian, unsurprisingly, today.

Wallace Wylie Ugh. Let’s silence already marginalised voices and see the bigger picture.

Lucy Cage How can the flaws even be addressed without criticism?! Someone is getting paid to be this dim.

Tom Dolan http://www.salon.com/2013/11/13/why_lily_allens_hard_out_here_isnt_a_feminist_anthem/ “Allen opted to just stuff some sexist shit into a box, wrap it in a bow that says, ‘The contents of this box are sexist, so fuck this box, but also, go ahead and open the box’.”

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Lucy Cage I was kinda almost ready to give Lily Allen the benefit of the doubt about her use of twerking black backing dancers in order to mock the Thickes of this world but then she said this: “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.” Warning bells whenever someone responds to criticism (esp by an oppressed group) by saying “But it has nothing to do with… !” Just fess up and get yourself educated.

I’d assumed she’d read this sort of commentary on the Miley Cyrus hoohah and was making a point about the objectification of black women in pop videos, albeit a point about the objectification of black women in pop videos that basically looks almost exactly like a typical objectify-video but with a knowing wink… Shame that wasn’t what was going on. http://groupthink.jezebel.com/solidarity-is-for-miley-cyrus-1203666732

Stephen Eastwood The white girl with the pink hair looks rather like she was filmed and added in at final edit stage, almost as though they pre-empted such criticism.

Lucy Cage Yeah, I wondered about that but her response is so cack-handed it makes me think she didn’t take it into consideration at all. I’m also boggling a bit at the “Those dancers OK to be in knickers but I have cellulite and nobody wants to see that…” thing. The whole video is about how women are represented in videos surely? Isn’t she totally playing by the rules she’s challenging?

Stephen Eastwood “I have cellulite and I don’t want to show that”.

Lucy Cage “I’m not going to apologise because I think that would imply that I’m guilty of something”. Agh. Again.

Everett True That Twitlonger response is appalling.

Lucy Cage Yeah it is.  And the video director’s response is awful too! “We’re all complicit in the culture so we can’t attack it, it’s just a bit of fun”?! Speak for yourself mate! Plus, did you see her twit-war with Azealia Banks? The last image she sent? Unbelievable. She gives me the impression of being a thoughtless, privileged brat, albeit one who can write a catchy pop sing and can be daring/cheeky/girl-empowered when it’s in her interests (and the interests of the industry she works for). There’s something of the Russell Brand about her. Anyone claiming this as empowerment for anyone or anything (other than LA’s bank balance) needs to get a grip. Shows how banal and blinkered mainstream white feminism has become that the Guardian runs articles cheering it on rather than pointing it how unhelpful and unsisterly it is.

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Lucy Cage shared a link… YUP. http://thehairpin.com/2013/11/hard-out-here-for-a-white-feminist “The point is, even by sexualizing women to make an ostensibly parodic commentary on how hip-hop sexualizes women, you are still sexualizing women. And even if your dancers are well-treated and knew what their job was beforehand, you’re still mocking those who dance for real in rap videos for potentially a myriad of reasons, and/ or assuming that they don’t know what they’re doing, or that they are victims. That is racially problematic at best.”

Lucy Cage “I won’t be braggin’ bout my cars, or talkin’ bout my chains, don’t need to shake my ass for you cause I’ve got a brain.” Nice that even if Lily Allen herself is above such things as shaking her ass half naked she can hire other (presumably brainless?!) women to do it for her. BOO.

Mia Taylor Interesting! So if the video had seen many different women in Allen’s ‘role’ interchanged with backing dancers, would that have made all the difference? The lyrics do strike me as being very.. “Hello, here I am, standard trying to be feminist-song-of-2013”-ish . If she’s going to ‘go there’ and have women twerking to make a point, why not do so to mock herself/own insecurities.. yes v double standards..

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Jodi Biddle I feel like the video and the song should be discussed separately. Because the video is ace and the song is terrible.

Everett True Wow. I feel the other way. Um, except the song being great bit.

Lucy Cage I agree: catchy song, terrible video. Staggering hubris that makes it OK for her to remain clothed and boast about having a brain rather than needing to shake her ass while paying black women to take their clothes off and, yes, shake their ass. She obviously thinks different rules apply to them. O_o

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Ian Wieczorek Hmmm… seems like whenever you start liking something for being anti- a particular -ism, here comes another -ism to beat you over the head.Or maybe just keep the ‘message’ safe, academic and ineffectual. At least the likes of Hard Out Here initiates dialogue and maybe, just maybe, generates a little smoke from the engine…

Hannah Golightly The thing I dislike about this whole uproar the most, is that yet a-fucking-gain the feminist message has been ignored and the feminist has been attacked. I don’t think the video is racist. I think it can be wilfully misunderstood as that by people without a brain. I think this ‘racism’ response is an excuse to berate Lily for her critique of sexism. I also think it suggests racism in the eye of the beholder if you perceive it as racist just because some of the dancers happen to be black. So many times you come across feminists being attacked on the basis that they haven’t addressed the position in society of black women or gay women or other groups of women… and somehow not doing so, invalidates their legitimate points that they are making. I call bullshit. Basically a feminist can never get it right and thus be allowed to make her legitimate argument. And if you are to criticise the patriarchy, you’d better be perfect… and no one is. And nothing changes. Fuck you.

*not saying fuck you to you ET.

Everett True I agree with the general sentiments of your comment, Hannah. Of course I do. I do however think the criticism is justified in the case of this Lily Allen video. When I first saw it, I wasn’t aware of any of the commentary around the video. I was excited! I like Lily Allen – and a Lily Allen song having a pop at Robin Thicke etc? That ticks ALL my boxes. It should be a no-brainer for me, surely? But as the operating theatre intro in the video faded away, and the scantily-clad black dancers strutted up beside her…. my heart sank. Bangs fuck, what was she thinking?

When does the satire become the object it’s satirising?

Lucy Cage Worth remembering that the women of colour calling Allen out for racism feel themselves excluded from mainstream white feminism, whose typical response to criticism is “don’t be divisive!” Similar things happen when women criticise working class movements (cf recent SWP furore): people’s experiences are erased, their voices silenced in the interests of the struggle. Well fuck that. My feminism will be intersectional or it can fuck off. Not interested in a feminism that won’t tolerate criticism of its flaws or that holds the expression of the experience of privileged white women as higher priority to that of their black sisters who are uncomfortable with how they are being used to further said white woman’s career.

Lucy Cage “Wilfully misunderstood by people without a brain” is JUST the kind of thing people lob at feminists challenging sexism. It’s staggeringly disrespectful. You’re telling black women it’s fine for them & their arses to be objectified but not Lily Allen & hers? That they’re pointing out how that makes them feel & how power structures work in pop culture wilfully?! Why would black women do that?!

Hannah Golightly I think that if the dancers were the only bit of satire in the video, you’d have to criticise it. But the whole thing is satire. So that’s why I feel it’s being wilfully misunderstood.

Herman G Neuname How about Lily’s racist tweet a few months ago? absolutely NSFW http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/ponpiri/50999837/186296/186296_original.jpg

Lucy Cage It being intended as satire doesn’t excuse the result wherein a white singer remains clothed and her near-naked backing singers get used as props; she’s replicating exactly the videos she’s supposed to be mocking and playing by the exact same conformist standards of female beauty you’d have thought she was challenging. That is hugely problematic. She’s not even claiming to be being satirical about the way black women are used and abused in videos since she’s denying hers has anything at all to do with race! Her satire has a very narrow range of fire.

And yes, that tweet! Astonishingly poor judgement at best; downright out and out racism at worst.

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Chris Roberts Has everyone stopped servicing the Lily Allen promo campaign yet? Can we get back to talking about me now?

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Video still courtesy of BlackinAsia.

As they put it, “One black female dancer in a bikini twerking and slapping her own ass as champagne is poured on it by another black female dancer in a bikini”.

5 Responses to Some conversations held in public around the new Lily Allen video

  1. James Flint November 15, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Another extension of Poe’s Law? – ‘Without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or even impossible to tell the difference between a sincere expression of extremism and a parody of extremism.’

  2. Golightly November 15, 2013 at 8:56 am

    @James- I would say that Lily made it abundantly clear what she was doing, from the very beginning of the video and you’d have to be slightly dim not to understand that, so I don’t think it’s a good example of Poe’s Law.

    @Erika- I totally agree.

  3. James Flint November 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    @Golightly – Maybe you would have to be a bit dim, or maybe you just aren’t very good at spotting subtext. This is anecdotal, but I know a lot of intelligent people who can’t spot even the most obvious subtext, some of which are so useless at it they’d think you were talking about faeries. Many people read the Mail for instance.

    I always thought that with this kind of satire (see Gervais) you get to play both sides of the fence: those who get the irony get the inside joke and maybe the larger intellectual point, the satirist wins and maybe something negative is brought out in the open and sent up for the ridiculousness that it is; on the other hand, those who don’t see or understand subtext (and that is a massive number of people I’m afraid) enjoy the satire as if it were the real thing, and the satirist wins.

    I don’t know if I explained that very well, but think of an ironic joke on racism or disability, the intellectuals get it and snigger at the stupid people who ACTUALLY like those jokes, shake their head at the terribleness of it and it’s expression. Meanwhile, the people that love a good laugh at disability are sitting two seats down laughing right along with you. Either way, it’s bums on seats and cash in the pocket of the satirist.

    Political satire seems to suffer this kind of thing less, because, well, if we thought it was an actual politician, many of us would just change the channel. Spitting Image worked for the general UK public in the 80’s, but it’s satire was obviously like a fucking sledgehammer.

  4. James Flint November 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Looking back over this again stream, others have said as much much more succinctly.

  5. Antwan Moran November 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Well, yeah, this was kicked out almost two years ago, but glad it’s still worth reading.I was focusing on a specific question that came up when listening to the song. However, of course, the people responsible must act. Those people would be us, black women.A lot of us are walking stereotypes and, honestly, that’s fine. The problem is when that’s how the world sees all of us. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I’ve grown tired of shock and awe in reaction to who I am. Meaning what’s STILL so shocking about a black woman who is educated and supports herself? What’s so shocking about a black woman who has chosen NOT to have children before marriage. What’s so shocking about a black woman who isn’t a gold digger, but who can and has traveled on her own dime?Like everyone else, we’re varied and diverse. There are many trifling and gold diggin’ black women. However, there are also many hard working, educated and beautiful black women who avoid drama. What hits me is we’re laded with negative stereotypes where, in contrast, white or even Asian women are laden with positive ones. It’s common sense that you’ll have the bad with the good. It’s just from stereotypes, music and videos created by our own men, we’re nothing more than whores. You’re definitely right that we have to take control back. I think it starts with supporting positive aspects of hip-hop and leaving the negative alone no matter how tight the beats are.

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