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Wednesday Watercooler


Tonight’s musical selection is “Polaroid Picture” by Frank Turner.

Lily Allen in concert

Did Allen aim for a feminist anthem but end up being racist instead?

Yesterday I shared Lily Allen’s video for Hard Out Here, which is being hailed in the media as an attack on misogyny in music culture. But Ayesha A. Siddiqi, writing in Vice’s Noisey, calls out the video saying it might be aiming for a feminist anthem but it ends up racist instead:

Allen’s first solo single since 2009 manages to scapegoat not just rappers but black women for all the insecurities she’s been grappling with over her career. The song begins with her scoffing at what is meant to look like a rap video complete with women of color body rolling in shorts. She then begins, ‘You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen/I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains.’ The elite prep school educated daughter of an actor and film producer finds such conspicuous consumption distasteful.

From Lorde to Macklemore, it’s a sentiment that’s galling for its popularity: white artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important ‘anti-consumerism.’ What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer.

Rap owns a unique history soundtracking the triumph of financial success in a country that long barred black Americans from that success. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for white artists to wax superior. Beyond poor taste, it’s the myopia of latent racism that’s more anxious about gold chains on a rapper than an Armani tie on a hedge fund analyst.

While Rihanna releases strip club anthems that prioritize the female gaze, and Nicki Minaj regularly eviscerates the double standards of sexism in the music industry, Allen’s petulant sermon is both anachronistic and racist.

What do you think?

What’s on your mind tonight? Got questions? The Watercooler is an open conversation.

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Photo by ads_b released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and