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Grrrl Talk: “Hard Out Here” New Feminist Pop Anthem

This past week, Lily Allen released “Hard Out Here,” a pretty incredible feminist pop anthem that addresses the absurd expectations of women in pop culture. Some are calling it “scathing” as Allen clearly addresses and makes examples of those [Ahem! Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke] who are feeding into the prevalent sexism within the music industry. And, well, it’s awesome.

The music video starts out with Lily Allen on an operating table receiving liposuction, and as you can probably imagine, it’s kind of gross. But you know what’s also gross? The fact that we pressure women to fit society’s beauty standards so much that they are willing to pay thousands of dollars to get fat sucked out of them.

It’s no secret that Allen has been continuously persecuted for weight fluctuations throughout her career, and the criticisms show throughout her lyrics. In the music video, Lily Allen’s manager expresses the popular, fat-shaming criticism, “How can anybody let themselves get like this?” And Allen reasonably responds that she’s had two babies. The video does a pretty great job in confronting the ridiculousness that is post-baby bod criticism or any body criticism for that matter: “You should probably lose some weight 'cause we can't see your bones/You should probably fix your face, or you'll end up on your own.” Because if you’re not a size 6 or aren’t in a relationship, you must be doing something wrong, right?

Alongside fat-shaming, Lily Allen then addresses [and totally smashes] a whole slew of other sexist misfortunes women face through some on-point satire talkin’ ‘bout double standards, the objectification of women, the glass ceiling, and all that good stuff. But probably most prominent is her criticism of the aforementioned artists and the hypersexualization of women, especially of women of color, in the music industry.

There’s a couple reasons why people are going to take issue with this: No. 1 one being women are not props, and No. 2, women of color are also not props. Miley Cyrus’ music video “We Can’t Stop” isn’t the first time we’ve seen artists use women of color as background players. The problem isn’t the use of women of color in music videos; it’s the context in which they are being used. In this case, Miley Cyrus, a wealthy, white woman basically “plays” at being a minority to play up her new “edgy” image.

There is also no shortage in the booty-poppin’ department in Lily Allen’s “Hard out Here” music video, but the difference, whether you think it works well or not, is satire. In the music video, Allen’s manager tries to exaggeratedly teach her and her backup dancers to shake their rears, and what that does instead is point out the ridiculous measures taken to sexualize women and make money off of them or to make other people look cool. This is a perfect segway to the topic of “Blurred Lines”!

I’m pretty sure my favorite lines in “Hard Out Here” are the ones that most expertly reference T.I.’s verses in “Blurred Lines”: "Don't you want to have somebody who objectifies you?/Have you thought about your butt, who's gonna tear it in two? Because isn’t that what all the ladies long for? And no, Lily Allen doesn’t just stop there! In the music video, there’s a moment where she mockingly references a scene in the “Blurred Lines” video where big, shiny silver balloons spell out: “Robin Thicke has a big d***.” As you’re probably aware of by now, Lily Allen has absolutely no shame, which pairs perfectly with her lack of patience when it comes to body shaming. In her music video, the same silvery balloons spell out “Lily Allen has a baggy p****” because, well, Lily Allen is a queen, and she has no time for oppressive, sexist doodoo.

Lesson learned: Be critical of what you listen to; pop culture is rife with all sorts of signs of sexist negligence, and it’s your job as an active listener to be able to identify and analyze stuff that’s problematic. Also, inequality may promise that it is here to stay, but, hey, you’re fabulous and can rise above it. Also, Lily Allen is back, and you’re going to love it.

Hello! My name is Sarah and I am currently a sophomore studying Public Relations at the beautiful University of Florida. I am a feminist, a lover of cupcakes, an admirer of the arts, and a life-long student. My goal in life is to always learn and love and to help others, as well as myself, surround themselves with good vibes.
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