THE BLOG
15/11/2013 10:02 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Sexism Vs Racism: Why Lily Allen's 'Hard Out Here' Video Is Playing With Fire

Earlier this week, Lily Allen released the video to her latest song Hard Out Here, branded as an ode to feminism. The video is aimed as a backlash to sexism and misogyny in pop culture, with multi-layered references to Robin Thicke's controversial video to Blurred Lines. In Lily's "version" she dances in front of a series of balloons that spell "Lily has a saggy pu**y" - in a sardonic imitation of Thicke's message: "Robin Thicke has a big d**k." The video also shows a group of dancers twerking - in a swipe at Miley Cyrus and the culture of over-sexualised young celebrities. While funny and fiesty, the video been slammed for using predominantly black dancers - in their underwear - to mock Miley's MTV escapade. The main question is, why on earth did Allen not see that thesewomen - who parade around while she sings about evil sexism fully-dressed - would spark criticism?

Lily has been quick to refute allegations that the dancers were requested specifically on ethnicity. In a post titled titled Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions, she stated: "The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all." So that's that, right? Not exactly. While it is completely possible that Lily chose the women at random - selecting them on their twerking abilities - it is difficult to understand why she thought that the video wouldn't receive negative feedback. It is also easy to see why it looks like Lily, as the leader of the pack, is singing an anti-sexism anthem that only represents the privileged white woman. While I am all for crushing the notion of women being presented as sexual commodities, it seems rather hypocritical that while Lily is singing "don't need to shake my ass for you, cause I've got a brain," various semi-naked black dancers are grinding in the background. Satire or not, it's what you see in a video that counts.

Perhaps - just perhaps - Lily used the women to try and represent every race being affected by the chauvinism of popular culture. But surely this would have been better reflected if there were a selection of women of all races. Or even better, if they had stripped Robin Thicke himself and shoved him on stage (nobody wants to see that, though, really). Journalist Musa Okwonga summed it up perfectly by writing that Lily should have "swapped the female dancers for a bunch of twerking middle-aged men." The song had the potential to bring female issues like body image, sexualisation, objectification, misogyny and sexism to the ever-bulging table of pop music - but stumbled on the video.

On the other hand, it could be said that we are focusing too much on colour, as opposed to the true intent of the song - as a feminist tune aimed to unite sisters against the aforementioned issues. But surely by ignoring the issue of race, which was most definitely introduced by using primarily black women dancers, we are prioritising one major issue over another? The dancers - Seliza Sebastian, Melissa Freire, Shala EuroAsia, Monique Lawrence, and Temple - have supported the singer, obviously. And that does give some value to Allen's defence. But we cannot forget how the video could be perceived to the viewer, and there is very little representation of different races.

Just because the song is a satire, it doesn't make this ok. At no point does feminism overtake racism in importance - and Lily has veered dangerously into the stereotype of the dictating, white, middle-class female. While feminists rally against women's bodies being used to draw viewers to videos, Lily has drawn in the punters by doing just that. There is a mild stench of hypocrisy here, not unlike Cameron's preaching of austerity, while gorging on a four-course meal from a gilded chair. Which is a shame, because I really liked the song - and it's quite catchy.