Posted by: jadavis16 | January 29, 2015

Lily Allen says it’s “Hard Out Here” and she’s right!

***Warning some graphic and controversial content***

In 2013 Lily Allen produced her first single since 2009 titled “Hard Out Here.” Her aim with this song was to make a statement in the industry and boy did she. To start off, Lily Allen’s choice of title directly references to the song released in 2005 by Three 6 Mafia titled “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp.” Winning an Oscar in 2006, Three 6 Mafia experienced huge criticism for their negative portrayal and representation of the black community. In addition Lily Allen’s song directly aims at the most controversial topics in modern pop music such as liposuction, body image, twerking, objectification of women’s bodies, double standards, societal pressures and particularly Robin Thicke’s music video for his song “Blurred Lines.”

When I was first introduced to this song last year I thought it was sheer genius. I greatly enjoyed how she took issues that she cared about and threw it into a straightforward but catchy song that people would pay attention to. I applauded her use of satire to express how women were feeling in the industry. This song made me feel bad-ass. It became my number one pump up song for a long time. Then one day one of my guy friends asked me what I was jamming out to at the gym and he snickered………….. Excuse me? What’s up with the snicker? He told me straight up that he, “Didn’t expect me to be one of those crazy feminist types.”

What is that even supposed to mean?

So I decided to look into the backlash that Lily Allen got for producing a song like this and the responses were astounding. The criticism started out really positive! PolicyMic headlined that the video will “make feminists proud.” The Washington Post gave Lily Allen accolades for “righteously targeting the patriarchal double standards of the 21st-century celebrity culture.” Yahoo! even wrote that, “this is the song the world needs right now.” I was pumped! How cool is that? People were listening! But then came the negative criticism…

But the negative criticism wasn’t about discrimination against women it was about racism. In the music video most of Lily Allen’s back up dancers are extremely beautiful black women. Critics tore apart Lily Allen’s music video saying that, “the women in her video are actually being used as props the way women of color often are non-satirically, and objectified even as the singer laments objectification.” This just bothered me. In a response article Lily Allen explains that all the dancers in her video were chosen because of their dancing abilities and because they were all on board with the message that she was trying to send.

My question is that, will battles like this ever be won? A brave woman stands up in front of a crowd, whether it be a singer, philanthropist, educator, or politician and she is judged by everything else than the message she is trying to portray. Do you think that we could ever live in a society where this “feminist” argument will no longer be considered an argument and be free of criticism that uses race and background as a loophole to keep it as an argument?


  1. I think that the battles women face will eventually be “won”. It is going to take time though. If you think about it, gender discrimination against women has been taking place for many, many years. Women didn’t get fundamental rights such as voting until the 1960s. With this being said, it is going to take a lot more brave women to take a stand for gender equality along with persistence. A problem with deep roots such as this, cannot simply disappear in a matter of a few years. It is going to take many years of hard work until we start seeing noticeable change in the way women are treated.

    I leave with this lasting word: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates

    Perhaps we need to focus on building a new view of women instead of criticizing the old view in order to see rapid change on how women are treated.

  2. I had never seen this video or heard this song before until you posted it, but I think it has a strangely empowering message. I appreciate the use of satire in her portrayal of female backup dancers in music videos today, but at the same time it feels like objectification regardless. Women, particularly in the media, are seen as one of two things: either the “responsible mom” or as “sexy vixens” known for their partying ways. Beyonce is a perfect example of this because while she also tries to send messages of empowerment, she is often critiqued of her “risque” choices of dance moves and innuendos because she is now a mother. I think Lily Allen creates a credibility for herself by highlighting the struggles that all women go through each day and my favorite line representing this is in the beginning when she refers to the “Glass Ceiling” that we’ve been talking about in class.

    I agree with Hannah in that instead of trying to fight the old stereotypes we should work towards developing a new and better understanding of what it means to be a “woman.” I think that it’s just gotten to the point that the only way we will make significant headway is if we work towards leaving the old understanding of what it means to be a “woman” and her role in society and pave the way for a modern and more universal definition.

  3. I think it’s so interesting that you said people were still trying to criticize her for objectifying black women in this music video because that’s one of the issues that she was trying to shed some light on. I almost feel like she was using the dancers as an example of objectification of women for the purpose of her argument, so I think it’s strange that people took it seriously and criticized her for that. I agree that women in leadership positions are put under much more scrutiny than men in similar positions. I think that, as a woman who currently holds leadership positions and plans to hold more in the future, this could pose a serious obstacle for me. Women are expected to be absolutely perfect in leadership roles, and any mistakes they make are attributed to their natural flaw of being a woman. I hope I can challenge that barrier in my own field and prove to the men and other women I work with that I am just as capable of great work as anyone else.

  4. Like others, I had never heard this song before you posted it, however I agree that it is empowering. In response to the criticism, there are always going to be those people who choose to shine a negative light on those working towards progress. It is impossible to change everyone and there are always going to be those who oppose change. What matter is that Lily Allen voiced her opinion and reached the hearts of many women as a result. Even getting people thinking about the issues is progress. Change takes time, but everyone who stands up and voices their opinions is getting us one step closer to change.

  5. I think that this battle will eventually will be ‘won’ and I think that women who make that first push to create an equal environment always ends up having a negative backlash. Without these pushes, things that we consider that we consider normal today would not have occurred. Think about the first woman who decided to wear pants, she mostly like didn’t receive positive feedback but now pants are part of women everyday life.

  6. I do not think that the “feminist” argument will cease until there is some other way of identifying what women want when it comes to being equal. As we talked about many classes ago about how “feminism” has such a negative connotation to it that women and men do not want to be associated with the movement. I believe that until there can be another way to characterize what is wanted, then the “feminist’ argue will not subside.

    The video made me think of the double bind that women face. They need to walk a fine line on how they act and think in order to be taken seriously, but I feel like no one completely knows where this line falls. In the video she made fun of the way that women have to act in order to get attention or how the way they act can draw negative attention. I also found it interesting that the man in the video that was portraying her manager was trying to show her how some things needed to be done. It made me think about how women are seen as incompetent, but it also made me think of how women don’t have a say in how they may be perceived. I guess this is just true in human nature to judge what we see so quickly on how someone acts or looks.

  7. I had never heard this song and I both liked it and disliked it. I really liked how instead of trying to get rid of the word “bitch” she re-branded it a bit in the song to mean a powerful woman who is the leader of her own life despite the stereotypes and expectations of society. I like the ideas of breaking the glass ceiling. I like the message but some of the lyrics like “forget your balls and grow a pair of tits” kind of seem counter-intuitive. This comment insinuates that women are on a higher, more strong level than men. I think it would’ve been better if she had used the song to place men and women at an equal level. So I’m glad the song encourages change, but I wish there were a few small changes and it would have been cool for the song to take on women in leadership as well.

  8. I don’t think people will ever stop putting feminism under such a hard lens because of it’s connotation. Some people still see feminism as bra burning and man hating instead of fighting for equality. Also, it feels as though women can never win. Lilly Allen comes out with a song with a great message and everyone ignores it to point out problems with her video choices. It remind me of the video of the senators we watched, the male anchor was quick to point out the cuteness on capital hill instead of addressing these women as powerful senators. When it comes to women; people are quick to point out bad outfit choices, mistakes, or bad qualities before they notice the good they are doing. Women are looked at harder and especially applied to leadership they are scrutinized. Lilly Allen made a great message and it was ignored for another issue because people are still looking for reasons to scrutinize and bring down feminists. I think it’ll take something very monumental to happen for people to see feminism isn’t the enemy and women in leadership aren’t the enemy either.

  9. I’ve never seen this video before this, but in the past Lily Allen has made some profound messages in regards to feminist, and unfortunately, has given her a negative reputation to some parts of society. However, I found this video to be a smart display of her message and more complex than the surface reveals. Regardless of the argument of her purposely adding only black women to the video (although it isn’t), the visual of having women acting in a ‘provocative’ manner with ‘risky’ clothing revealed the irony of the situation. The irony perpetuates that with women being judged for their individual choices regarding their body and actions isn’t right, and instead, women should embrace their choice to be who they desire. Although the message is intense, it’s definitely needed in order to gain people’s attention, for good or bad. It’s those kind of messages, that focus on empowering women to be who they are, in different terminology from the video, to attract people’s attention and make a change. Instead of putting the focus on men shaming, Lily focuses on how society as a whole make it hard for a ‘bitch’ and the role of the media has on the perception of women.

    In regards to there being a loophole for people to discuss race or age as an issue in regards to feminism, I somewhat agree. It’s frustrating to think that if it’s not one thing to complain about, it’s another. It’s as if people try to justifying not having equality in for gender by focusing on misshaping feminists arguments in other terms of inequality, such as in race. By focusing on other ‘flaw’s of a feminist’s argument, it makes the opposition feel more credible in their own argument.

    In terms of leadership that this reflects, I think that Lily is a unique version of a woman in leadership. She is a leader not only in the music industry, but of a new generation of acceptance. Although her expression of opinion is more extreme than the norm, her desire to gain society’s attention is smart, and to an extent, inspiring. She understands that her music can gain the younger generation’s attention and hopefully change the perception of women in a more accepting mindset.

  10. To begin, the song “It’s hard Out Here,” and Lily Allen’s music in general, is incredible; not only does she not shy away from controversial topics, like feminism and gay marriage, but she presents them in a way that forces individuals to pay attention through catchy music and controversial and explicit lyrics. The criticism regarding racism in “It’s Hard out Here” draws attention from central motivation of the song and instead focuses on an issue that, although extremely contentious, is easier to discuss than feminism. Despite the controversy that surrounds racism, it was brought to the forefront of the American consciousness more than fifty years ago and is now readily discussed within American society. The idea of inequality between the sexes is more uncomfortable to talk about than racism because the admission that it exists will force societal change.
    Despite this, there have been major advancements in the movement towards gender equality, but these advancements have tackled blatant inequities, like voting rights, rather than attempting to correct everyday differences in the treatment of men and women. Society will likely continue to use other issues to mask gender inequality, rather than approaching the problem directly. This will continue, at least, until there is a shift in the perception of the issue. Further, the term feminism will have to be “rebranded” so that it carries a more positive connotation, and can be easily applied in a greater variety of contexts. Until that, there is little hope that issues associated will be solved, or even brought into the American conversation.

  11. I’m so glad someone posted this music video! I feel like the message is somewhat similar to my Colbie Caillet’s music video, Try. The two have completely different styles, but are geared towards the same issue, feminism.

    Through Colbie Caillet’s soft and mellow tone, she encourages women to be themselves. To not only challenge but perhaps break the Social Role Theory, “you do you” and “don’t do what others tell you”.

    Lilly Allen on the other hand challenges the Social Role Theory through a catchy modern song with her explicit lyrics. I think not only her music video, but her word choice is what really makes her point. She brings up gender roles, the social role theory, how women should come in “perfect packages” with “expected looks and actions”, and even “racial issues and inequality.

    Of course there will always be negative criticism, because someone doesn’t appreciate the music, it’s message, or believes they are objectifying women. But I think that is what Lilly is trying to point out. Women are objectified and have a harder time than men. It’s like the double bind; if you are too feminine or sexy you’re considered a “slut”, or if you aren’t sexy and feminine enough you are considered prude or to be “lesbian”.

    Women in positions of power are put under more scrutiny than men, that is why it’s “hard out here for a bitch”. I also find it interesting that Lily chose to describe or classify women as a “bitch”. I’m not sure why, but perhaps she is referring to the women who hold leadership roles and powerful positions who work their hardest everyday to stay where they are.

    The comment on Lily’s back up dancers is extremely irritating. So what!? She chose to have black women as her back up dancers. I think it further strengthens her message through an ironical representation. Having women act provocative and dancing in little clothing is representative of how the music industry expects women artists to act. Would people feel the same way if it were white women dancing provocatively?

    Feminism will always be discussed, but I hope one day it will not be criticized so harshly. If popular artists continue making catchy music and videos that challenge this issue and bring it to the surface, I think there is hope for change (especially if a male artist came out with a song with the same or similar message). If we continue educating the public, especially the youth, I think we can end the mass negative and crude remarks.

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