As you may or may not have heard, there’s a new song out that shaking up the music world as we know it. Surely we’ve all seen a music video or two that’s caught our eye, not because of a catchy tune or a compelling storyline, but because of the people in the video itself- the dancers, the lead singer, etc. Unfortunately, multiple musical genres are guilty of objectifying women. Anyone who’s seen the video for “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke or Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” knows exactly what this kind of objectification looks like- scantily clad women provocatively dancing, often for the entertainment of men.
However, one female artist has decided to take a stand against the negative portrayal of women in music videos, along with the pressures the entertainment industry puts on females to remain thin, glamorous, and eternally virginal .
Lily Allen’s new song, “Hard Out Here” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0CazRHB0so) uses satire to exaggerate the objectification of women in the music industry to show her viewers how ridiculous the objectification really is. The song is confrontational, controversial, but most importantly fantastically feminist.
The video opens up with Allen laying on a surgical table getting liposuction, with what is presumably her agent hovering nearby informing her of the lack of interviews she has lined up. The agent, a preoccupied older white male then goes on to comment how he’s unclear on “how… somebody [can] let themselves get like this”. Allen simply replies, “But, I’ve had two babies…” as her agent replies that, essentially, having babies is terrible. Anyone watching the video can see that, by no stretch of the imagination, is Allen in poor shape and that the man is clearly being unreasonable.
The video then propels into full music video mode, ultimately leading the viewer into an entirely satirical video world fully equipped with those same scantily clad, provocative female dancers mentioned earlier.
Within about a minute from the start of the video, Allen has already addressed multiple issues that women face today. One of the most relevant points made in the song is when Allen looks directly at the viewer and says, “If I told you about my sex life, you’d call me a slut. When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss”. Allen draws attention to this double standard and I for one am glad. “Slut-shaming”, the idea of shaming a woman for being sexual, isn’t something that should even exist in our society, for one. If women choose to be sexually active, great. If not, that’s great too, but no one but the woman herself should have any commentary about the subject because it’s not exactly their business to police her. However, the fact that men are glorified for being sexual in the exact same manner is just plain ridiculous.
Another issue brought up in the video is the Cult of Domesticity, which is the idea that women should essentially be confined to the home. When Allen remarks, “You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen”, females around the internet likely rejoiced. It’s clear that women are no longer confined to the kitchen, but some people out there still think that the only place for a woman is in the home. This lyric is empowering to women and promotes independence, while furthering the idea that the Cult of Domesticity is something that should be left in the past.
One of the best pieces of the video is the mention of body image issues, something that most likely resonates with countless viewers. The lyrics “You’re not a size six, and you’re not good looking, well you better be rich, or be real good at cooking” say a mouthful. Telling women that they are of no value unless they meet society’s standards of beauty is absolutely unacceptable, but just as awful is the idea of telling women that if they’re not pretty they better be rich or fantastic housewives if they ever want to be a bride. Allen’s criticism of this notion is absolutely refreshing because most celebrities won’t talk about having body image issues and the real, dangerous messages beauty standards send.
Even though this video is extremely powerful and has received heaps of praise, it’s also faced quite a bit of backlash. Most of this anger stems from the shots of the dancers in the video. The video itself shows Allen accompanied by several female dancers, all of whom are dressed in skimpy outfits dancing provocatively while shaking various body parts for the camera. To some viewers this may be extremely offensive if they don’t catch the satire in the song and believe me when I say that there has been enough outrage over the video to last a lifetime. However, these women dancing proves the point of the song even more than critics can imagine. They show that, as the song’s title leads on, it is hard for women in this industry- especially when all you’re seemingly good for is shaking your body in front of the camera and using sex appeal to entice audiences. When women are objectified, meaning is lost. Allen’s continual use of the word “bitch” to describe herself and others also spoofs how commonplace the term has become. Starting as a derogatory term, “bitch” has now become a casual term, at times a twisted term of endearment, used to describe any female regardless of circumstances. Understanding the satire here is key to getting the full message and, in the words of Allen herself, “if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood”.
Regardless of the criticism, “Hard Out Here” is feminist gold and Lily Allen should be applauded for talking (or singing) frankly about issues that a lot of people either pretend aren’t issues or just plain ignore. The world needs more texts like this, especially ones that are blunt and to the point. Hopefully we will see the amount of texts like this increase and see a shift in the role of women in entertainment.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this blog and thank you for reading!
Lyrics source: credit www.azlyrics.com
Video source: credit Lily Allen