Lily Allen’s New Feminist Song

It’s really hard to do songs that advocate a moral or political point of view without generating unlistenable lyrics. But Lily Allen pulls it off really well here.

On Edit: I should be more careful… After only listening to the song but not watching the video while I was surfing around doing other things, I went off the lyrics to the song and its musical merits in recommending it. Had I seen it with my eyes, I would have been able to guess there would be racial questions raised about the video as there were with Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance. I’m sorry for not actually watching the video first. Here are some popular critical analyses of the video’s use of black dancers. The second link contains Allen’s reply to criticism as well:

Lily Allen’s Joke of a Response to the Criticism
Culturally Clueless: Race, Feminism & Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here Video
Easy Out There For A (White) Bitch: A Few Words On Lily Allen and the Continued Use of Black Women’s Bodies As Props

Thanks to Julian Francisco for alerting me on Twitter that there was an issue.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Katie Graham

    I think you’ve missed the point! The dance scenes are being directed by the white guy. The point is that these girls and the dance scenes are being dictated by the white guy! This is all things you expect to see in a pop video run by an old white guy!!!

    • oolon

      Yes and blackface is fine as long as it’s done ironically by white people! Sorry Katie but her putting racist tropes into her video to “satirise” them is still using racist tropes. Reversing it or actually putting some work in to deconstruct the racism would be ok. But she stated herself this was not about race or racism, she was colour blind, and that’s the problem. I have no idea what a good video/song would look like, way beyond my ability. I’d like to see some one with talent like Lily Allen give it a go though rather than lines about how she doesn’t have to shake her ass as she has a brain. While smacking a twerking black woman on the ass.

    • Katie Graham

      You are the dumbest person I’ve ever encountered on the internet, James. How do you expect her to show the ridiculousness of these tropes and cliches without showing them in the video? How many of your horde of white internet warriors would have been flipping out if there had been no black people in her video?

      Her PR person said the girls were picked for their talent above everything, but that in order to take down the cliches in a satirical fashion, they had to show them. That’s pretty reasonable to me. At this point, you either just don’t get it or you’re being willfully belligerent to stir up drama. Knowing you, it’s probably the latter.

      Why you follow me around the internet when I told you I’m currently in a relationship is beyond me, James. Stop trying to get with me. Geesh.

    • oolon

      Wow, somewhat desperate for validation there Katie. I think the last time I responded to you was back in May on Twitter, and you are blocked now … If that’s indicative of someone fancying you then I feel sorry for your partner, they must be kept busy. :D

      Anyway I wouldn’t expect you to understand as you follow the same colour blind ideology as Lily seems to be now espousing. Although in her case I hope it’s just a useful way of deflecting the current criticism and when she thinks about it she’ll realise her mistake. You don’t send up tropes by just repeating them. She wasn’t satirising the black women tropes anyway, just sexist tropes. Her use of black women was completely unconscious racism, not an attempt to satirise, by her own admission. I like your totally unskeptical acceptance of what her *PR* person says, LMAO at that one!

      BTW you really shouldn’t call people “dumb” in general. Definitely not on Dan Fincke’s blog, have a read of his series on why calling people “idiot”, “stupid” and “dumb” is wrong.

    • Katie Graham

      “Anyway I wouldn’t expect you to understand as you follow the same colour blind ideology as Lily seems to be now espousing.” There you go talking right out of your ass again. None of this has anything to do with “colorblindness,” just your inability to grasp certain concepts without going into a rage fit.

      No, our last encounter was in September as I desperately pleaded with you to stop trying to flirt with me on twitter. Gosh, James, you really ought to give it up already.

    • oolon

      What is it with the pitters projecting rage everywhere O_o? Twitter for some reason didn’t index your flirt-troll tweets hence I forgot about them. I knew there was a reason I blocked you, such z-grade trolling is worthy of ignoring!

      So none of it is to do with colour blindness when she said herself she just chose the dancers with no thought about colour? Someone casting a play/tv show/movie and they, just by coincidence, cast all the criminals as PoC and all the police as white. No way of knowing if unconscious racism was part of the decision, let’s assume it wasn’t. Just being “colour blind” perpetuates racist stereotypes in this case, still racist regardless of intent. We are not in a post-racial society so “colour blind”, even with good intent, can and does end up as racist.

      Although given racism exists and is an unconscious bias we all have I wouldn’t extend Lily that benefit of the doubt. All the PoC writing about it don’t, partly due to her history of racism. However even if she was “whiter than white” in regard to previous racism, I doubt they would give her any leeway as the result is the same.

    • SkepticismFirst

      “Although given racism exists and is an unconscious bias we all have I wouldn’t extend Lily that benefit of the doubt. ”

      Really, you’re still trying to claim that everyone is racist? Speak for yourself.

    • Katie Graham

      I’m not arguing for colorblindness, first of all, so you’re wasting your breath. Second of all, it is possible to simultaneously choose talent above all else while also directing the video in such a way that it shows the cliches. The entire video is satire. It’s completely different from anything she’s done before. It’s a huge stab at the ridiculous standards of the record industry.

      You’re like the assholes who complained about Seth MacFarlane’s “I saw your boobs” song. You’re more angry at the comedic portrayal of tropes than those that keep perpetuating them. Lilly Allen is not your enemy. You wouldn’t know that, though, since you and your block bot folks do nothing but divide people on your arbitrary line of whether you like them or not and label anyone on your bad side as evil harassers.

      What would you be saying right now if there were NO black women in that video? You are absolutely ridiculous. Stop it, because you’re ruining it for people who actually understand these complex issues.

      Edit: James’ attempt at multiculturalism:

    • SkepticismFirst

      “You a stupid hoe, you a, you a stupid hoe” -Nicki Minaj

      Feel free to make a post about how sexist Nicki Minaj is.

      “it’s time to rob and mob and break the white man off something lovely” -Dr. Dre

      Going to add him to the block bot like you added Eminem?

  • UWIR

    From the “Easy Out There” article:

    “Why do you feel like you are entitled to use our bodies in these ways?”

    Oh, I see. They’re “our” bodies. Women aren’t the collective property of all of society. Instead, black women are the collective property of black society (and presumably, white women are the collective property of white society). How progressive.

    “Many people do what they have to do to pay their bills and eat. And not everyone has an analysis of oppression that they can access when faced with these “choices”.”

    Right. You, as an enlightened black woman, know what’s good for other black women, and if any black woman makes another choice, well, they’re being coerced, or simply not properly enlightened. And of course this is totally different from men getting to make decisions for women.

  • SkepticismFirst

    “Songs allow a person to put their own imagination, experiences, and dreams into the lyrics. People can interpret it in many ways. Ms. Gore was looking for sadomasochism and bondage, and she found it. Someone looking for surgical references would have found that as well.”

    -Dee Snider

    The current outcry against movies/music/etc. closely resembles the outcry from the PMRC in the 80s. Everyone is just looking for the tiniest things to be offended about.

  • Spectrall

    I have no idea what the supposedly racist element here is. Have black dancers? Racist! Have white dancers doing a “black dance”? Racist! I don’t think there’s any possible way to please a certain subset of people short of a completely milquetoast display.

    • ThisIsTheEnd

      The racist element is that the bodies are being used as props which is no different then the hip hop videos which Lily criticizes. Lily contrasts her empowerment with those of the black backing singers; she leaves the stage, they stay on it. It’s clumsy

  • Anton

    I have to admit that in the USA, where racism takes the form of keeping poor people out of the ballot box and denying underprivileged women access to abortion, this brouhaha over a pop video scores very low on my give-a-shit meter.