Reaction: Is Lily Allen's video a feminist anthem?


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The Independent Online

Just as pop music seemed like it couldn't get any more exhaustively booty-licious, with Miley Cyrus gyrating in front of a dwarf dancer at the MTV awards, and the twerk pretty much hoovering up all the attention around on female bodies and their role in the music industry, along comes a new song and video from Lily Allen to shunt things in another direction.

The video for 'It's Hard out Here', released earlier this week, examines the pressures put on female performers, with Allen being shown how to fellate a banana by her elderly male producer in one scene. Robin Thicke comes in for some wonderful roasting too.

Here's what's being said around the web about the video and its significance today:

Feminism, loud and proud

"What is so encouraging about Allen's comeback video is just how many people are likely to watch it", writes Gillian Orr in The Independent.

"Forget twerking and nude thongs. When some of pop's biggest stars still refuse to identify themselves as feminists (Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Katy Perry have all stared at their feet at the mention of the 'f-word'), having a fully dressed mainstream female artist write a song featuring the phrase 'the glass ceiling' and sing 'We've never had it so good/ Yeah we're out of the woods/ And if you can't detect the sarcasm you've misunderstood' might just be the most radical statement a female artist today can make."

Not so progressive

Two The Atlantic writers, Nolan Feeney and Ashley Fetters, discuss a few of Allen's footfalls in a far-ranging piece:

"Do you feel weird about the racial aspect of this Lily Allen video?" asks Fetters.

"I feel not-so-vaguely icky about it. Most of these bodies getting ogled at and over-the-top objectified are black women’s bodies, and the woman rejecting that, presenting herself as the exception, is white."

Fetters adds:

"Maybe it's fair to say that this is proof that every music video director should consult with a team of sociologists and gender studies professors before proceeding with a shoot. Kidding—but what I would say is that the takeaway here is great intention, flawed execution."

Does Allen have to speak for everyone?

In The Guardian Ellie Mae O'Hagan criticises the racial characteristics of the video, saying "in that respect, it's difficult to see Allen's anthem as anything more than the same old same old, and it's probably why I ultimately feel she misses the mark".

O'Hagan adds, however: "Feminism is an extremely broad church, but I often think feminists are guilty of expecting every single prominent feminist to reflect their exact politics because there aren't enough opinions in the mainstream to choose from – and all too often the feminists that do make it big are white and middle class."

"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."

What's your reaction to the video, to the song, or to the culture Allen takes issue with? Let us know in the comments below...