Lily Allen is right to aim at misogyny in the music industry - but her video doesn't quite hit the target

Let’s not copy men’s moves for a cheap laugh. Parody is no longer enough

Related Topics

I never thought I’d see the words “Lily Allen Has A Baggy Pussy” spelled out in balloons on a mainstream music video. It’s shocking. It’s eye-catching. And, yes, it is making a point: women are too often treated like sex objects in the music industry, present only to gratify the male gaze and fulfil their sexual desires. In Allen’s own words: “It’s hard out here for a bitch.”

You see, I understand exactly what Allen is trying to do. Her comeback single, ‘“Hard Out Here,” is a 4 minute 23 second parody of the music industry. For some, it’s a “feminist tour-de-force.” As a nod to the increasingly sexualised depiction of women in mainstream pop videos, Allen is encouraged to fellate a banana and slap her background singer’s “twerking” derriere – parodying Miley Cyrus and simultaneously presenting the move as offensive and cheap.

Like any good satire, the aforementioned balloons also parody Robin Thicke’s chart-topping single “Blurred-Lines”, which controversially described one woman as an “animal” who “wants it.”

But, parody aside, I can’t help wondering what exactly Allen’s video achieves? At the start of the week I wrote about Rewind&Reframe, a new online campaign which is calling on the music industry and David Cameron to address the issue of sexism and racism in music videos, as well as introduce age rankings.

The coalition of women’s groups behind it was very clear. Their campaign isn’t another paternalistic judgement of women who choose to take their clothes off, an organiser insisted. It is about enabling women to share their experiences and highlight how things could be done differently. 

This is where Allen’s attempt becomes unstuck. She ridicules the objectification of women by dancing around provocatively. She satirises Cyrus’s racially-charged “twerking” by slapping a black dancer’s bottom. While her lyrics remind women that “somebody objectifies you,” her backing dancers shake their crotches and twist their half-naked bodies around cars.

“Something strange happened between the concept of Lily Allen's new song and its execution,” tweeted the End Violence Against Women coalition, who are involved in the new campaign. Their timeline today consists of angry retweets. “So Lily Allen did funny spoof. But has no one else notice that she is fully clothed while black women do the semi-naked twerking?” pointed out one. Forget the satire, said another, “all I see is a group of black women being exploited AGAIN.”

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to knock Allen’s intentions. I just think she got it wrong. She has responded to critics, saying the reason she doesn’t appear in a bikini (while her dancer’s do) is a result of her own insecurity, not an attempt to distance herself from them. She said that her video is “meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture.” She added: “It has nothing to do with race, at all.”

But you can’t eliminate race from the picture, and nor should you.  We have heard that women, and particularly black and minority ethnic (BME) women in the UK, are frustrated with their over-sexualised images appearing again and again in music videos. So, shouldn’t we offer them more than just another video showcasing a black woman pouring champagne over her chest?

Allen has ignited a debate and that’s great. But women, we can do better. Let’s not copy men’s moves for a cheap laugh. We know more than anyone that parody is no longer enough. We know that the best campaigners must offer something new.  I’m looking forward to the first YouTube re-make of “Hard Out Here”. Hopefully, it won’t require an age-ranking.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most