The hypocrisy of Lily Allen’s Feminism

Not so lighthearted: Lily Allen in the video for Hard Out Here.

A few weeks back, the Andrew Marr show linked up to Lily’s set at Latitude festival but managed to fit in a quick interview before she played. The last question Marr fired at her was; “Now, Lily, you’ve famously had a real go at female pop-stars exploiting their bodies with twerking and all of that, and now I read you are going on tour with Miley Cyrus – Queen of the Twerk – what is going on?”

What is going on? Following Lily on Instagram, where she somewhat announced her plans of joining Miley on the infamous Bangerz tour, even I was a bit WTF?  My ears definitely perked up when Andrew asked that question.

And her reply? “Well, I’m not actually working with Miley Cyrus I’m going on tour with her across America and I think I’m doing about 7 dates, over 12 days? So, that’s what that’s about. She is very good at twerking, I’m not so good, but I’ve given it my best shot and failed miserably [laughs].”

Poor answer, you could’ve have done better than that Lily.. Why am I so bothered? Well, we all know Lily and her story, we’re all fans of her music, her distinctly British sound and sarcasm and a few years ago when she declared her retirement many of us were left disappointed.

Walking down the aisle and two babies later, she made a bit of a comeback – her first single? ‘Hard Out Here’, an apparent ‘feminist’ anthem aiming the spotlight on the pressures forced upon women in the media/music/film industry, with lyrics aiming to sting, like;

Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain


If you’re not a size six, then you’re not good looking
Well, you better be rich, or be real good at cooking
You should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones
You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own

It doesn’t take your regular Quantum Physicist to notice the over-sexualisation and got-to-be-thin ethos of women today, especially in a profession where Lily has firmly stamped her mark on, but I can forgive her for being not all that original with her comeback song, because after all, she could just be the perfect lady to prove the ridiculousness of it.

In an interview with the guardian before the release of her Sheezus album, she explained; “I’d like to think that my children’s generation won’t feel like this. Like I do. I want them to realise that not everyone can be fucking ‘hot’. Rather than attractiveness being the end prize, it should be as rewarding to be clever or funny, or, you know, have your, your ‘thing’.

To some critics Lily has taken the predictable popstar-turned-mum route, but reflecting on other singers such as Beyoncé, whom I love as much as the next girl, after having a baby girl she reversed full speed in the opposite direction with her songs and videos glaringly more sexual, surely leaving any pre-adolescent female confused on what attractiveness is and what it means. (Clue: doesn’t mean getting naked.)

Whereas Lily seemed to push things forward in this particular single, for instance; she’s not super thin in the ‘Hard Out Here’ video, but she doesn’t care (why should she?), she doesn’t reveal much of her body in it either or stand around in revealing lingerie, groping her body, bending over and this is exactly my point – she writes her own songs and is extremely talented, shes doesn’t (usually) fall back on “sex sells” and that’s what I love most about her and her sharp witticism that no other male or female single holds or has the guts hold and be open with it like she does, all whilst delivering it in her signature accent.

My problem with seeing Lily as bit of a hypocrite is when it’s clear she buckles under the same pressures she slags off to conform to them. For example, her point of having to be thin when she’s clearly slimmed down, which may sound a low dig from me but it’s not intended that way.  I know this was probably her own choice, yet I feel not giving a shit whether you’re a size 6 or size 16 and making it work – making it ‘your thing’ – would be more effective when promoting that message.

Touring with Miley was the biggest hypercriticism for me, if that hasn’t been obvious in the start of my post. Miley, despite already maintaining a good-earning level of fame from a famous father, a Disney show and even a few albums under her belt, decided that wasn’t enough and wanted that super stardom and knowing there was one way to get it, which was to get controversial and basically get naked – go figure, so she went for it. (BIG QUESTION MARK around exploiting your body Miley, something Lily doesn’t agree with.)


Of course, this isn’t entirely Miley’s fault – it’s the way the industry works and perhaps it shouldn’t be like, like what Lily  originally complained about in Hard Out Here and other various interviews, but when I saw Lily onstage with Miley, arguably an artist who embodies all that is wrong with that sexist industry, and is showering her in copious dollar bills whilst she bends over and twerks into oblivion – that’s when I questioned Lily’s rants of inequality and feminism.  Was all of this just a bit contrived, or was she just taking the piss?

Does Lily’s feminism believe she doesn’t need to shake her ass because she’s ‘got a brain‘, or being a woman is flipping inequality on it side, if your body can get you where you want to be then fuck it, use it to your advantage…?

All of which becomes murkier still with my next point, although I’m a bit uncomfortable making it, but has some of this feminist/inequality confusion leaked into some of Lily’s songs? Before now her quirky hits stood strong and unscathed, because ultimately the recognition Lily has received (and still gets now) hasn’t solely came from her being an attractive female (she writes damn good music too.) However, when I heard ‘As Long As I Got You’ and more precisely the lyrics:

I had that awful feeling, that I needed help
My life had lost this feeling, but you saved me from myself

Clearly a lovely song dedicated to her husband that openly admits she is dependent on her husband to keep her in control, but hold on when was Lily ever truly out of control? She’s talked about her partying ways and admitted to drug-use, but let’s be realistic – who at that age hasn’t delved into some hedonistic ways?  Or, more importantly, who at that age managed to have a ‘good time’ but still managed to carve a well-respected music career for themselves?  (Not many.)

I’m not saying feminists can’t fall in love and refuse to have children, if anything women should have the right to feel the full spectrum of being a woman and all the roles that it brings like being a wife, going through pregnancy, birth and being a mother.  I’m happy for Lily, for her relationship with her husband and creating a family, she’s worked hard but it’s almost disappointing to throw all of this down, all of her own efforts, to a person other than herself (because it was all down to her, only her, to how far she has come.)

Falling to pressures you’ve set up to burn is like extinguishing your own fire – for someone like Lily, who made it here through talent alone and not through her latest raunchy music video, and who we all adore, despite her weight having its ups and downs because a tiny waist wasn’t what drew us to her in the first place – by sticking to your guns Lily, you won’t miss your target.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s