In November, I wrote a post about Lily Allen’s controversial song and video “Hard Out Here.” Although I tried to participate in the Internet’s discussion on whether or not the video displayed racism and internalized misogyny, I became frustrated by the arguments on both sides. So, as I always do in my angrier moments, I took to my Tumblr to vent. My venting actually became one of my most well-received posts on Tumblr, which actually restored my faith in the Internet a little, tiny, speck of a bit. It’s also shorter than my original post on this website, and since people seem to respond to closer-to-bite-sized pieces on the Internet, I thought I’d publish it here too:
I’ve always thought that the Internet is an opportunity to democratize critical thought and theory rather than confine it to higher education.
But more often than not, the discussion that I find on the Internet is more discouraging than inspiring. People talk about issues such as race and sexism, but it’s in such generally in such a shallow, self-righteous way, and I have such trouble finding any serious analysis.
Take Lily Allen’s new video for “Hard Out Here.” Depending on who you talk to, it’s either a feminist anthem, or Lily’s a racist pig who’s using black women as props in her attempt to satirize other pop stars using racist women as props. The responses I see bouncing back and forth are “it’s perpetuating racism” or “it’s satire so the racism doesn’t count!”
In reality, what Lily is doing is much more complex either of these accounts. By showing the elderly white producer instruct the women how to twerk (which is such an absurd image based on what we are conditioned to expect), Lily illustrates that this representation of women’s bodies in popular culture is a conscious manipulation created by people in corporations who know that these images will produce a certain kind of impact. It’s intentional. And it’s systemic. (I broke it down in a lot greater detail here.) On the Internet, I rarely see any real attempts at transforming the system, though, as everyone is too caught up in regurgitating the same old words without any substance behind them.
Cultural appropriation is undeniably an important issue that needs to be discussed—and changed. This is why it’s disappointing to see people take it in such a one-dimensional fashion. I see people dismiss Lily’s video with a holier-than-thou complex and mimicking the words “cultural appropriation” on such a hollow level. “Her satire is perpetuating the same thing she’s attempting to criticize.” Please, take a look at the mechanics of her satire before you parrot a tired, stereotypical argument. Then we can discuss whether or not she is successful in her satire.
Plus, a whole lot of these people who are talking about cultural appropriation seem to share a suspiciously similar rhetoric with the vocabulary of White Savior syndrome.
Racism exists as a finite, economic structure in our society. Stop squabbling over the same, worn arguments and calling each other names, because this ultimately distracts from a system that needs to be changed materially (not through ThoughtCatalog).