December 7, 2022
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Girl power can’t look past racism

Lily Allen, a British recording artist and actress, released a new song called “Hard Out Here” on Nov. 17. This upbeat, sarcastic girl-power anthem reached No. 9 on the charts in the United Kingdom.

It’s pretty explicit, but she basically hits every issue on the list — rape culture, the glass ceiling, body image, media pressure, patriarchy, gender roles. This song didn’t leave anything out.

With hard-hitting lyrics, “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut,” her bold statement made waves in the U.S. as well as overseas. Her video amassed 2.2 million views within two days of being uploaded — but not all of the attention was positive.

Unfortunately, the way Allen decided to make a statement about pop culture in her music video was to appropriate culture and be racist by using women of color as props. She exaggerated everything to the point of making the video uncomfortable to watch because of the unexpected and unnecessary vulgarity through the dance and costumes. I loved the song, and I’m all for girl power, but the video did not cut it for me because her intent didn’t excuse her racism. I’ve already written about why Miley Cyrus is racist for treating women of color as props in her performances. What I don’t understand is why Allen thought it would be OK to mimic Cyrus, magnifying the vulgarity and discomfort a million times in the name of making a statement.

Allen is the only white woman in her video, and she is clothed and strutting around while her background dancers are scantily-clad, women of color. I don’t care if it was to make a point, she is guilty of racism. The video was sickening and problematic.

While I applaud Allen for her song and hitting all of these issues so concisely in a 3:31 time frame, I wish she had taken a different avenue with her video. The vulgarity of the display didn’t have much to do with the song. She could have taken notes from Beyonce by creating an empowering music video with positive vibes, like “Run the World (Girls).”

I thought the lyrics were really clever, forgiving the frequent use of b—-, which was actually used for reclamation purposes. She even managed to reference Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” lyrics at one point: “Have you thought about your butt?/ Who’s gonna tear it in two?” as a swipe at T.I.’s line: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

Bottom line, I love Lily Allen, and I love feminism and “Hard Out Here,” but she deserves criticism for her video. However noble her intentions were, her actions were far from blameless.

Ramya Vijayagopal can be reached at or via Twitter: @itsramyav