Is it still Hard Out Here?

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Lily Allen’s recent music video for her new song “Hard Out Here” has made newspaper headlines for its blunt tackling of the blatant objectification of women in the music industry.

It’s truly refreshing for someone to finally sum up what I’ve been thinking for a long time in a concise four minutes and 23 seconds. Her appraisal of the situation even included a satirical nod to Robin Thicke’s interesting declaration on the size of his genitalia by dancing in front of balloons that proclaimed the qualities Allen’s equally commendable nether-regions, reading ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’.

Some critics of the mother-of-two have criticised the singular presence of black backup dancers in the video, citing possible racist connotations. I think that this was merely a an oversight on the part of the director, however, and is moreover besides the point. Others have suggested that we shouldn’t rely on our pop stars to point out the gender inequality and pigeon-holing in the music industry and society in general.

I staunchly disagree: musicians have access to a particular demographic of people who do not routinely concern themselves with feminism, and can therefore serve as both informants and possible role models (both good and bad).

This comment also neglects the work of many high profile journalists and public figures who have been discussing modern feminism. Caitlin Moran, a columnist at the Times, has been my hero for a while now – her novel, tongue-in-cheek approach to feminist issues is captivating! Her recent tweet – “Just changed a tampon in the men’s toilets. Take THAT the patriarchy” – would not fail to make even the most die-hard sexist laugh. She is ninth on the list of most influential UK tweeters (which is impressive, considering the top five places are taken by the members of One Direction).

In addition, successful campaigns to get Jane Austen on the £10 notes and relegate exploitive pornographic ‘lads mags’ to the top shelves have brought gender equality to the fore – even if these campaigns have attracted abuse and derision in equal measure from a minority of misogynists.

For years, ‘feminism’ has been a dirty word, to the extent that women like Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna have all disowned the word and refuse to admit they’re feminists in so many words, because, as Carrie Underwood bluntly put it: “that can come off as a negative connotation.” The actress Ellen Page provided the perfect rebuttal to this argument: “How could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?”

To me, though, it doesn’t feel weird to be a feminist. We’re gradually ridding ourselves of the hugely misrepresentative “feminist” stereotype, consisting of hippie, radically left-wing lesbians with a close-cropped do and armpit hair – not that there is anything wrong, unattractive or vaguely ‘unfeminine’ about women who fit that description – and we’re thus more able to attack issues that affect women on a day-to-day basis head on.

All I can hope for is that young girls begin to choose Lily Allen, Hilary Clinton and Beyonce (who described herself as a modern-day feminist) over women who worry how feminism will damage their public relations image or continue to appear to support industries that regularly degrade women.

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