YES YOU CAN: Twerk and Have a Brain

15 Nov

LILY ALLEN2“It’s hard out here for a bitch,” says British so-called feminist singer Lily Allen in her latest song, “It’s Hard Out Here.” The video is satirical and supposed to critique the music industry’s expectations of women. Yet in the process, Allen upholds oppressive views of black sexuality.

Allen sings, “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay.”

Yes it does, Lily Allen, because you’re promoting it.

So welcome to this week’s episode of “How Not to be a Feminist,” starring Lily Allen.

She sings about how women in the industry are objectified—and then she turns right around and objectifies the backup dancers, who are mostly black women.

The message is clear: It’s not okay to objectify women, unless they’re women of color.

In the video, Allen is fully clothed doing a few dance moves here and there (but mostly just standing around), surrounded by half-naked black women twerking as if their lives depended on it. Allen stands out from the dancing women in her clothes and minimal dance moves as if she I somehow better than them. These scenes all happen right after she says, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you cause I’ve got a brain.”

Allen would like us all to know that she has a brain—and the women shaking their asses for her video…well… I guess they don’t get to decide if they’re intelligent or not because Lily Allen did it for them.

When did shaking your ass become synonymous with being unintelligent? There are plenty of smart women who dance provocatively when they want to and then study their asses off or go to their meaningful careers the next day.

One person tweeted in response, “I shake my ass in front of my degree every morning. Then I shake my ass at my desk at work–senior front-end developer, thanks.”

When I find myself at a party, club, or in front of a mirror when no one’s looking, I’ll shake my ass too. Hey Lily, look…I have a brain too.

The video is a classic case of satire gone very wrong. Instead of correcting the industry, Allen added herself to the list of white woman artists that dehumanize black women. It was as if Miley Cyrus (swear I won’t use her name any more) dressed up as a feminist for Halloween—but underneath the costume is the same ignorance and oppression.

If anything, Allen’s video proved one thing—it’s harder out here for some women than others (something women of color have proved time and time again). Allen and her white singer counterparts aren’t demonized for their sexuality in the same way black women are. It’s assumed that Lily is a person, while the dancers aren’t even considered to be fully human. As Mia McKenzie from Black Girl Dangerous explains it, the video cuts away at the bodies of black women as if they are parts and pieces, instead of full human beings. The video lifts up women of a certain complexion while oppresses those of another. That’s the same kind of privileged fake feminism I talked about in last week’s post.

Lesson learned: Check you’re feminism, or others surely will.

Welp, guess it’s back to listening to Janelle Monae.

Related Posts: Feminism Gets a Bad Facelift

Top Women Rappers You NEED on Your Playlist

3 Responses to “YES YOU CAN: Twerk and Have a Brain”


  1. Your Top Posts of 2013…Did You Miss Any? | A Womyn's Worth - December 30, 2013

    […] YES YOU CAN: Twerk and Have a Brain “Welcome to this week’s episode of ‘How Not to be a Feminist,’ starring Lily Allen. […]


  2. 9 Totally Appropriate Responses to “You Don’t Act/Sound Black” | A Womyn's Worth - December 13, 2013

    […] Related Posts: Am I Black Enough? Wanting to be a Big Booty Hoe Yes You Can: Twerk and Have a Brain […]


  3. This Week’s Most Offensive Internet Meme | A Womyn's Worth - December 6, 2013

    […] I discussed in a recent post, women can twerk, get advanced degrees, and have successful careers all at the same time. We are […]


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