ARTS ISSUE: Lily Allen brings feminism to forefront of pop musicPosted on December 5, 2013 | by Mackenzie Brady
In the 1990s, teenage girls were owning their feminism. Riot grrrl subculture fascinated America. The opposite of everything a teenage girl was supposed to be, the riot grrrl aesthetic promoted loud, brash and unapologetic behavior. The movement encouraged women to pick up an instrument and start a band to reclaim a place for themselves in the music industry.
But eventually, teenage girls shed their thrift shop plaid and Dr. Martens for mini skirts and track suits, as girl groups like Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls exploded into pop culture with their gimmick of female camaraderie, sexy girl power and a watered down version of feminism intended for mass consumption.
Today, pop music is dominated by women, with superstars Adele and Taylor Swift holding the top two spots for the best selling albums of 2012. At a time when women are more visible than ever in the music business, many of them dismiss the label of “feminist,” explaining that they do not believe in hating men.
In her return to music, Lily Allen’s newest single, “Hard Out Here, ”and its accompanying video thrive on the controversy her peers try to avoid. A direct response to an industry that feeds on the objectification of women, “Hard Out Here” calls out body image standards and classic gender roles while her manager — a middle aged white man — shows her how to be provocative. Allen satirizes pop culture’s obsession with luxury by exaggerating through hyperbole — having her backup dancers pop champagne bottles and dance in front of a Rolls Royce. She demonizes the tendency in pop music videos to see female bodies as nothing more than flashy objects to be possessed by the viewer.
Although Swift, Gaga and Katy Perry rejecting any association with the word “feminism” because of their need to justify how much they appreciate men, at least Allen is clearly demonstrating how skewed the music industry is when dealing with gender standards. The music industry has established places for country crooners and eccentric pop stars to succeed — and now the outspoken feminist is joining their ranks.
Mackenzie Brady is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.