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It’s Hard Out Here for a Feminist

A still from Lily Allen's video has giant balloons spelling out the phrase "lily allen has a baggy pussy"

Until this week, I was only peripherally aware of Lily Allen. Sure, I’d downloaded “Fuck You” and “Smile,” her funny pop confections with a bracing dash of intelligence. But I never qualified as a Lily Allen fan, and in fact had kind of forgotten she was a thing until the Internet blew up with a heated debated about the video for her new song “Hard Out Here.”

The song itself is a pretty straightforward send-up of sexism in the music industry. The problem lies in the video, also a parody, but one that adds the visual element of race. Allen, fully clothed, is flanked by mostly black backup dancers clad in bathing suits who are twerking, fondling themselves, pouring champagne down their chests—a cornucopia of clichéd sexist imagery offered up with a sly smirk. The difficult element is Allen’s whiteness. As a member of the dominant culture can she manage parody here, or is she actually reinscribing racist tropes, serving up more exploitative power dynamics for her audience to unthinkingly consume?

Is it parody or a racist reinforcement? If you were ever a certain kind of student (humanities) viewing culture through a certain kind of lens (postmodern, poststructural, postcolonial, really any of the “posts”) this was a question you probably asked yourself a lot. Sometime in the 1970s, parody (and its more polite French cousin pastiche) spread from the fine arts into mass culture and changed Western pop consciousness forever. Suddenly, to be cool you had to be self-referential, not just creating art but also commenting on it. Over the years this has presented some problems, first and foremost for artists, because parody is damned tricky and not everyone can pull it off.

But our taste for the meta has also caused problems for consumers of culture, because you can’t always tell on a first viewing whether a given cultural product is a parody of something you want to condemn or the condemnable thing itself. So, as a pro-feminist, anti-racist student sitting in your humanities seminar you’d ask yourself, before you weighed in on the self-referential postcolonial short film or whatever, whether it was a successful skewering of values you reject (parody) or if it reinforced those values by merely trotting them out for your entertainment (reinscription). In asking that question you were also asking something about yourself: am I a self-aware consumer of parody, or the racist ass who’s getting duped? Is this intentionally bad or just plain bad? Am I allowed to like this or not?

A still from Lily Allen's video shows her in the middle of a group of black dancers

This week, a lot of us former humanities students are asking ourselves if we’re allowed to like Allen’s video. For the record I do like it, but that seems almost beside the point at this stage, because we’re no longer talking about the video on the merits, we’re talking about power and representation in general. I’m not surprised the video’s controversial. The images are challenging, by design, and I understand why many feminists of color find them hard to stomach. But I have been surprised at the tone of some of the criticism leveled at Allen—who is, after all, a pop star using her platform to talk about sexism, which you’d expect feminists would applaud, even if they don’t think “Hard Out Here” is 100 percent successful as parody. Many critics have taken her task, running the gamut from angry and vociferous to snide with some offering more supportive critique.

Allen didn’t help matters when she piped up to respond, saying the video was about sexism and not about race “at all.” This set off another round of criticism, which in my view was more on-point than the original complaints. I’m willing to believe that Allen’s intent was not to critique race, but when she cast black dancers to do that particular choreography, race became a factor. To believe otherwise is naive at best, and tellingly unaware. The meaning of creative works is built collaboratively by the artist and her audience. If the women of color in Allen’s audience find a meaning she wasn’t aware of, she would be wise to accommodate or at least try to understand it.  Personally, I’m optimistic that Allen will come around, because I think she’s feminist and anti-racist, and I see her as an ally. But there are plenty of others who don’t see her that way, and they’re making their displeasure known.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad news for Allen this week. Lots of people are on her side, though it’s hard not to notice that many of the writers leading the pro-Allen charge are white, while women of color are expressing the most discomfort.

Lily Allen is 28 years old. When I was 28 I knew all about feminism and intersectionality because I’d chosen to pursue a doctorate in cultural studies, a decision I’d soon regret (I dropped out in my third year). Allen has, wisely, chosen a different path, so she maybe hasn’t gotten around to reading bell hooks. Does that make her our adversary? Does her failure to achieve total self-awareness and conscious intersectionality mean we should tell her the new video is racist crap? Too often in social change movements we take what could be opportunities for education and turn them into occasions for censure, and I think that’s a shame. How many potential allies do you think we’ve alienated this way over the years? Thousands? Tens of thousands? At any rate, more than a mass movement can afford to spare.

Look, I get it. The impulse to make note of how terrible everything is can be hard one to curb once you’ve started. Viewed in a certain light, everything is pretty terrible, especially when it comes to race and gender. Women of color, and black women in particular, are told we’re unacceptable in every conceivable way. We’re desexualized, then hypersexualized, told on the one hand that we’re ugly, only to be displayed as sex props in someone’s exoticized fantasy. It frankly sucks, and I’m as tired of it as anyone. But you just aren’t going to get many perfectly feminist, racially correct mainstream hit songs or movies produced in our racist, sexist society. So if you want to engage culture where it’s happening, to examine it and inhabit it and formulate an opinion, you’ll eventually have to allow yourself to like some stuff that’s less than perfect. Call it cultural criticism for a fallen world. A degree of complicity is just the price of doing business, of being alive and feminist in America. Nobody said it would be easy, but maybe we could all work together on making it a little less hard. 

Camille Hayes is a domestic violence advocate, newspaper columnist, author and blogger, covering politics and women’s issues at her blog Lady Troubles. She’s a contributing author for two essay anthologies, and her writing has been featured online on The Good Men Project, the Huffington Post, and the Ms. Magazine blog.


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Comments

32 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Brilliantly stated.

Brilliantly stated.

Yeah, I think it'd be easier

Yeah, I think it'd be easier to like Lily Allens' work if she didn't follow it up by insisting she's not racist, couldn't possibly be racist, and didn't fall back on the same cliqued insistence that 'the color of [the dancer's] skin' didn't factor into things. She's exhibiting the same problematic response to criticism that other racists do. She is not taking the take to accept the critism, understand what is being said on more than a knee-jerk level, and I think she should remove the video. The song is great. Wanting to critique sexism in the industry is great. However, art and critism is not made in a vaccum. It is received by people, and that has to be considered. If Lily Allen is as sincere in her desire to make a 'light hearted satirical' video, then it's important to apologize for making it harmful to women of color, accept her failure, fix it, and move on. Not hide behind the same bullshit intentions that white girls are always hiding behind, with their white women tears and their feels.

But It's Easy Out There for White Feminists

Camille Hayes, I appreciate your article first and foremost, and I also appreciate your willingness to unpack your ideas in a way that addresses many of the issues and concerns surrounding the feedback both in support of and in critique of Lily Allen's new video. However, my one place of contention is where you tell the reader, "So if you want to engage culture where it’s happening, to examine it and inhabit it and formulate an opinion, you’ll eventually have to allow yourself to like some stuff that’s less than perfect."

I disagree that in order to engage culture and form an opinion about it, one must be willing to like things that are offensive, degrading, and really problematic. To tell people, especially feminists who identify as women of color, that if something is less than perfect, we have to like it anyway because it is at least a step in the right direction. I personally, think that is settling for less. Of course "perfection" is objectively unattainable since every individual has her/his own notion of what is perfect, but in my personal point of view, I think that respect is universal. Lily Allen showed no respect to feminists of color when she so brilliantly addressed sexism in our industry while at the same time perpetuated negative stereotypes of African-American women. And to make matters worse, she went on to claim that the video was not about race at all, but only about sexism. This also presents a larger issue within feminism in this country particularly. As a woman of color on a pre-dominantly white college campus, I do not feel comfortable attending the feminist club meetings because I am usually one of the very few women of color there. To me feminism is not just about addressing sexism, but it is also very much about race since there are people of color who identify as women and who in turn identify as feminists.

To say that Lily Allen and those who support this video are feminists because they are fighting sexism while she is also supporting and propagating the very images that keep women of color oppressed in this society is truly anti-feminist, because you can't tell women of color that at least women are having a voice when the other part of us that also oppresses us is being misrepresented in a way that is ultimately harmful. In essence, I am unwilling to "like" Lilly Allen's new video (although the lyrics are brilliant in that they address issues of sexism today) because as a feminist of color, I am unwilling to settle for less than the whole picture, the whole message that empowers me wholly.

All in all, very provocative article. I thought it was very well written, and if I may have misunderstood what Hayes meant, please feel free to clarify. However, this is how I interpreted the article, and I just wanted to provide my two cents for what it is worth.

Saydra, I completely agree.

Saydra, I completely agree. Well said, and thank you for doing so.

I did so much editing on this...

Since you're asking, I watched the video and think her video is all parody, with intentional bad. She wants you to be mad, because its a depiction of the things she hates in the music industry. As opposed to Cyrus's use of Blacks As Props where its focused on celebrating, well, Cyrus.

As a white girl (who is doing her best to participate in finding solutions but acknowledges the awkward privilege she is given and that she will never experience what people of color experience), I can say white people have a really really really hard time depicting black problems without looking stupid or even just less informed than blacks wish we were. It's a really tender topic that can easily hurt someone. Much of the time we have not done it "right". Allen tried to mix it up a bit, there were a few white girl dancers, and I think an Asian girl (but I didn't get a great look in the video, all the movement) but the black girls are at the forefront and definitely the main focus for most of the video. I assume she did this because they are the most exploited, and it's an attempt to draw attention to this. Bless her heart, she tried. And she did get other things right on the money with the lipo, and the cheesy white manager/producer/CorporateClicheGuy is an attempt to say that she is saying there are a lot of white people to blame for this, so she's not trying to dodge that at least.

"Sometimes it's hard to find the words to say
I'll go ahead and say them anyway"

It's hard to find the right imagery, too. But I think its better she said something at all rather than not speak up, not make the attempt to start a conversation. As the writer points out, Allen doesn't have a degree in cultural studies, but I don't think that means she's not allowed to say "Hey, this is fucked up, look at this." I think she was more successful when it came to the lipo or the wonderful balloon letters.

Questions to ponder...

Would the scenes with all the black dancers would have been helped by a guest artist? If a talented black female musician that has had a hard time getting into the business had a chance to speak up for herself and her fellow artists of color? (I think so. I think it would have reduced the feeling of Let The White Girl Fix This For You.)

If Allen wasn't washing rims in the kitchen? (Wasn't the point that she sucks at cooking? Couldn't that have been more specific? Making over the top cupcakes? Or anything other than rims, really.)

If there was some more balance in the racial diversity of her dancers, or would that have watered down the message she was attempting to make? I wonder if they were white, would people just be saying "Oh she's making it a white girl problem, but women of color have it worse!"

If anything, does it at least get the message out to her white listeners that may not be paying attention, to whom it needed to be pointed out? Perhaps her generation of listeners will be more aware and more discerning in what they listen to for it? I hope it at least does that. It's nothing that's news to Bitch readers, but maybe some MTV reality show zombies will pay attention now. Hopefully.

Just my thoughts. Awkward white girl signing off.

Too Much Credit?

Another white girl feminist here. I think you may be giving Lily Allen too much credit. She said she didn't even consider race when she cast the dancers, so how on earth can she be deliberately making a point about race? I don't think Lily Allen is an intentional racist who set out to upset women of color, but that doesn't matter. She did upset women of color (and hopefully any and all women), and as the article points out, part of the viewing experience takes place in the viewer, and how the viewers responds to the message is just as important as intent. I think redoing the video would be a good thing to do, but I honestly don't think Allen has that much self-awareness to understand what she did and how it's wrong and hurtful.

I thought that she was making

I thought that she was making a comment on Miley Cyrus using black women as props until she started defending herself in the typical white woman way. "I'm not a racist! The color of the skin of the dancers made no difference!"

As a fellow awkward white girl, I know that I've definitely been racist in my time. The answer is not to vehemently deny it and feel persecuted, the answer is to consider WHY you were called racist and try to change that.

She probably didn't mean to offend black women, but at this point she should accept that she made a mistake and move on.

Agreed.

Agreed.

...

"As a white girl (who is doing her best to participate in finding solutions but acknowledges the awkward privilege she is given and that she will never experience what people of color experience), I can say white people have a really really really hard time depicting black problems without looking stupid or even just less informed than blacks wish we were."

Then maybe just stop? It's not a white woman's place to depict what WOC go through. All we ask if that you LISTEN.

Not just black girls

Am I the only one who saw more than just black girls dancing around her??? Seriously, watch the video again. It's NOT ABOUT RACE. This video is about feminism. Period. Lily Allen is an ally.

Let me ask you something:

Are you a WOC? If not, you don't get to say who is an ally of ours or not. Lily is not. She's compared Azealia Banks to an image of a PENIS in BLACKFACE. She absolutely is NOT an ally.

I'm going to start off by

I'm going to start off by saying that I have previously considered myself a fan of Lily Allen and I think I have all her albums to date. That being said this song and especially the literally horrifying video fall way, way short of successful parody.

And, sorry but this article is just so obviously written (and commented on) by white women and is the reason why the hashtag #solitaryisforwhitewomen even exists.

If any of the white commenters on here would actually like to try and inform themselves as to why WoC have a problem with this from THEIR OWN PERSPECTIVE please visit the following links:

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/11/13/easy-white-bitch-words-lily...
http://www.blackfeminists.org/2013/11/13/lily-allen-hard-out-here-video/
http://blackinasia.tumblr.com/post/66815998717/lily-allens-racist-new-mu...
http://noisey.vice.com/blog/lily-allen-hard-out-here-ayesha-a-siddiqi

As the author notes, you will often find, (especially the ones that are more white spaces like Vice, that you will see a lot of white commenters explaining intellectual or not as to why this video shouldn't be considered racist. Being articulate in your reasoning as to why something isn't racist doesn't make you right. - See ww.sott.net/article/264917-Smart-enough-to-know-better-Intelligence-is-not-a-remedy-for-racism

It is not to say that there isn't anything worthwhile in this article but the shrug your shoulders conclusion that "hey, she didn't really mean to do it" and let's get back to the fact that what she was trying to say for 'women in general' was actually still pretty important, so hope for better next time.

Here's what you all need to remind yourselves of over and over and over again - 'women in general' includes WoC. All the irony and parody of this video is lost when she does it on the backs or 'bodies' of WoC.

Think about how you would feel about white males telling women how they should interpret feminism and when they f*!& up royally we should still give them credit for having tried. Or like the Joss Whedon moment where he's decided that feminism doesn't need to exist as a term any more.

Quite frankly if your feminism isn't intersectional then it's not worth having. How you start having intersectional feminism is by stepping back and listening to what WoC feel about X, Y, Z (and not just the ones who happen to agree with your own beliefs).

What the author gets wrong that the situation that black women constantly find themselves is not tired, it is insufferable, enraging and wholly unfair. The cop-out attitude portrayed in the last paragraph of this article towards Allen and her non-apologetic ilk is what's "tired".

One of the most intersectional feminist sources I have found is Guerilla Feminism on FB. Give it a try. https://www.facebook.com/guerrillafeminism

Last but not least, even without the issue with race, i still think both the song and the video fall way short as a successful parody. There were a few moments that had merit, but mostly an epic fail.

The author of the article,

The author of the article, Camille Hayes, is a woman of color. Other than that, I agree with you!

I watched the video, there

I watched the video, there were Black,White and Asian dancers and the reason the black dancers were more prominent in the twerking bits is just because they actually have butts to shake. The others would just look silly with their flat asses trying to shake.

Well. Here's the thing. The

Well. Here's the thing. The song's not feminist. Any song that pits certain types of women against each other, or berates and belittles women on the basis of class/ability/whatever other factor, isn't feminist. If you say some shit like "i don't need to shake my ass 'cause I've got brains" you're basically throwing this whole class of women under the bus. And that's one of the first things out of this gal's mouth.

(for posterity's sake i'll go ahead and say i'm coming at this from the pov of a white, fat, working-class AFAB/genderqueer/queer person. I know my perspective is fucked up some from whiteness but I still feel a responsibility to be extra extra sharp when I'm analyzing some white bullshit. This video and Allen's defenses of the video are all some white bullshit from where I'm standing.)

There are plenty of predominantly white genres of music that are rife with misogyny. In this video she's not making fun of "the music industry," she's making fun of rap/r&b aspects of the music industry. She didn't have to do that to do a really effective feminist critique because these genres aren't the only ones that have problematic shit going on in them. I would really like to see a feminist takedown of country music or hairband music or contemporary heavy metal. That'd be pretty sweet and if you've got that kind of platform pretty easy to do.

And tbh I'm having trouble seeing how there's ambiguity as to whether or not she did a really really pisspoor job of putting out some satire, since that's what she's saying the whole point was. I mean the video is disturbingly fucked up and it's not because it's "edgy" or "deals with uncomfortable subject matter in a humorous way." It's because she is making fun of an entire culture by pretending to wash rims with dishsoap among other things. I mean this wasn't something I had to lean on my "social sciences education" in order to figure out. I don't get that. I don't understand why, feminists especially, are saying that. I just don't.

Anyways I'm not gonna take up anymore space here. I just wanted to point out that couple of things. Thanks.

This

so hard. Seriously, the song doesn't even work without the video because the lyrics are "satire" about these parts. Which just reinforces the concept that this song is /not/ something I want to be feminist as it completely lacks intersectionality.

"The song's not feminist. Any

"The song's not feminist. Any song that pits certain types of women against each other, or berates and belittles women on the basis of class/ability/whatever other factor, isn't feminist. If you say some shit like "i don't need to shake my ass 'cause I've got brains" you're basically throwing this whole class of women under the bus."

Thank you for pointing that out! The line is very problematic. As a feminist we should not decide for another woman how she wants to use her own body. Feminism should still be sex positive, and since when does shaking your ass have anything to do with your intelligence level? Also, isn't making a parody about sexually exploited women the same thing as actually sexually exploiting them? Parody or not she is essentially making lots of money off of a music video that yet again has mostly naked women shaking their asses. I guess the way to break through the glass ceiling is to be like a man?

I think your points are well

I think your points are well said but I also wonder what response the video would have received if she had used white dancers would she (and I am not saying that I agree or don't agree with this) be appropriating "rachet culture" or black culture like people have said about Miley: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/08/big_freedia_to_miley_cyrus_thats_... (if you do a search on Google many more articles/commentary pops up)? I don't know how I feel about the video, though I can appreciate her attempt of bring attention to important issues-- and I always like controversies like this because meaningful dialogue that may not have happened otherwise happens. Though I feel that her comment about how it's not about race is a little sister-outsider-ish.-- like black women being in the video but her saying that it isn't about race negates experiences that black women have had that are different than those of white women because of race/ [white] privilege.

When I saw the video I

When I saw the video I cringed. I felt Allen and/or the video producers were trying to catch two birds in one go. They use Miley Cyrus like images of black background dancers on the one hand to be titillating and attract those kind of views, while at the same time presenting it as satire or a parody to avoid criticism and get the appreciation of feminists to get that part of the market.

Therefore, for me it's not good parody or satire. She could have parodied the objectification and appropriation of black background dancers in a variety (more inclusive) of ways, but she and her producers chose this format. The defense I've read is: Oh, but it's British satire, which is so much more nuanced than American satire....*eyeroll*. At least when you're using the imagery you want to condemn, don't be faux naive about it when you get comments or when you're called on that choice. With the amount of marketing in the music industry, I find it very hard to believe that anything in a music video would be coincidental.

From a businesses point it's probably smart (getting as much youtube clicks as you can by attracting as many audiences as possible. Creating a bit of a stir in the meantime as well). But overall, this format is as feminist to me as FEMEN's bare breasts.

I recently came across a

I recently came across a spoken word piece from a London based artist who discusses the objectification of women in pop culture, the role of modern day role models and the unfair difference between male and female public figures.

Very interesting coming from a male perspective!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7q-UI4__qs

allowed

I am interested by the notion of being "allowed to like" something. Shouldn't there be a better, more accurate term for this? We are allowed to like whatever the hell we want, the question is about the social consequences we impose on others and the reputation form for ourselves, yes? It's a very self-conscious way to approach the way we view media...

How about this.

White women shouldn't make videos with a bunch of black women dancing around them. Problem solved.

THIS ^^^^^

boom. Dear fellow white people, sit down and be quiet. Its not gonna be up to us to decide whether something is or is not racist. Cede the floor to those who experience that. Also as far as the who is or isn't an ally thing goes... frack it, I'm boycotting that word. The people who claim to ally with me are always talking over me and its freaking annoying, to say the least. My presumption is that for woc, the experience is probably somewhat similar.

That is similar to how it is for us too

Supposed allies don't get to deem themselves allies. That's not how it works.

Lily Allen is racist. Period.

So, while Lily Allen is getting is in an argument with a black woman, who I think is Azealia Banks btw, she decides to sent a picture of her husband dick all covered in Blackface. Here's the link https://twitter.com/lilyallen/status/356128023294136320. This is almost just as bad as calling a black person the n-word, in my opinion.

And you think she's not racist?

Okay, sure. She maybe did not mean to express her racist views in her music video (as is the case with most racists), but it showed anyway... well, maybe because she IS actually racist, lol...but, I don't think she knows she is one. Either way, I hope she changes for the better, but she's certainly not showing it within this video!

I think this is a great

I think this is a great article! I really liked how you discussed how you have to question your immediate response to things. I immediately loved it but also noticed the problematic portrayal of the backup dancers. I got that it was satire. It was over the top but also...pretty realistic. Which I think is part of what's so upsetting. I've seen women of color do the exact same thing in plenty of videos that were taking themselves completely seriously.

I'll break down my thoughts about this video in the time after I watched it

1) YES this is amazing I love it...but...very Miley-Cyrus-at-the-VMAs-esque. (I'll admit that the discourse about that was what put this on the radar for me in the first place.)

2) Watch again; consult Jezebel, Feministing, conclude I'm not wrong and people feel it's problematic.

3) Feel upset. But I liked it...

4) Realize, that's tough luck. Just because I like something doesn't mean that I get to ignore carte blanche the things that are wrong with it. I had the instinct to just write it off or pretend that it's nbd, but then I had to remember that I, as a white woman, can get away with ignoring problematic shit. It's not rubbed in my face. It's not negatively affecting how I'm perceived by people. Am I sad that what would otherwise have been an excellent video fell into the far too easy trap of "but I didn't even think..."? Yeah. Will I still secretly love the video? Yeah.

If there were more white

If there were more white people than black people dancing in the video you'd call that racist.

Get perspective.

Hello straw man!

Hello straw man!

Racism is not the same in England and America

Hello fellow feminists from the other side of the pond!

I have read enough feminist discussion by North American contributors to have a vague idea of this concept of intersectionality and how racism interplays with and tops up sexism.

Lily Allen is British. Racism in Great Britain, as well as elsewhere in Europe, is quite different from what it is in the USA. We do not have a history of slavery, and while there are by now plenty of non-white Brits, Germans, Swedes, Greeks etc., that is not how they are traditionally seen. Non-whites still get asked where they are from. Racism over here is a question of "otherness", fear of the unknown.

Without going too much into detail here, the point is that racism being different, the "non-racist reactions" are different. In the USA it seems to be about making a lot of noise about race, identity and representation and what it all means. In Europe it is, crudely put, about treating everyone the same regardless of race -- in other words basically ignoring race unless it is the exact issue you are dealing with.

This is what Ms Allen is doing in her video. That is why she is saying that race didn't matter. That IS her non-racist reaction.

Looking at the video with vague notions of US-style racism and race discussion in mind, one sees clearly how it will make you cringe. So Lily Allen's fault is not appreciating the US market and its sensitivies AT ALL. But her fault is NOT racism.

By the same token all of you (American) commenters here who are shouting "RACIST" are similary at fault for taking your problem, and your approach to that problem, and seeing the artistic product from someone who comes from a different background through that sole lense and passing judgment. I could very well shout "CULTURAL INSENSITIVITY" or "US POPULAR IMPERIALISM" right back atcha.

Bitch, please, try to get someone at your end to look at this and understand the issue a bit better. It reminds me very much of your reaction to Caitlin Moran's comment about Lena Dunham, Girls, race and ABBA. You just didn't GET at all where she was coming from. It is one thing to understand and condemn and another to condemn as a result of a lack of understanding.

Thank you! We are ridiculous

Thank you!

We are ridiculous here in the US. Absolutely, 100% off our rockers-bonkers. I find there are truly progressive people in the US, who have risen above this absurd nonsense. There really are people here who are not racist, sexist, homophobic, or any ist or ism. And it's obvious in reality, but our media is off its rocker-bonkers and the dolts love it. Sure pockets of ism's exists but you have political machines generating most of this for nefarious reasons. We really do have happy, mixed marriages, we live together, work together, play together, we are happy people! You're not going to tear my family or community apart no matter how loudly you cry ism's. We're just not listening to you. Only the most outrageous are highlighted for media and exploit. Every time I talk to a friend in Europe they ask me what the problem is here.

I.E reading this article and these comments, one would get the impression that US Jewish-American record producers went to Africa, kidnapped black women, brought them to the big city, and forced them to perform in this video. Again, welcome to 2013, these adult women actually chose to be in the video, as did Lilly Allen. And Lilly Allen does an excellent job of mocking more of the absurdity we seem to love here in the US!

I am kinda tired of hearing

I am kinda tired of hearing about how racism doesn't exist the same way outside of the U.S. (where I don't live, to be clear), so therefore no one in the U.S. can recognize or call out racism because they apparently don't understand other countries and talk too much about race.

It's great to give extra context for different places in the world and how racism plays out in different geographies, but Allen's video has some pretty obvious problems that aren't solved by claiming they're all part of a U.S. lens. Keep reading about race and intersectionality and you're bound to come across discussions of why the kind of "colour-blindness" you're attributing to all of Europe doesn't solve the problem.

Tiring you even more...

Hi Shelly,

Could you perhaps direct me to these numerous sources that discuss how racism, as it exists and is tackled in the US, is analogous to or applicable in other geographical, historical and political contexts? I've tried to keep myself fairly up-to-date on ideas and developments in this area in a few countries, but I must admit this is one idea where I must be looking at the wrong sources.

I don't think I was saying that the colour-blind approach was without its problems, it obviously isn't. What I was saying, or at least intending to, is that when one is oblivious to that cultural context of where the artist is coming from, and condemns her NOT because colour-blindness doesn't work in these particular circumstances, or in general, but as a knee-jerk reaction that because she is not aware of intersectionality and representation she MUST be racist, then that is not a particularly enlightened approach. I actually totally understand her frustrated reaction of "what should I have done, NOT hired them because they were black?"

If you disagree, I'd be interested in your reasons -- perhaps a bit more than a reference to "pretty obvious problems". Because to me the racial problems with this particular video (as opposed to society more generally) are indeed only obvious when I put my US goggles on. Not to say that once those goggles are on the problems are not fairly glaring.

I don't think her satire quite worked, largely because the dancers were so very attractive and so provocatively dressed, so it really did, even when totally OTT, provide the usual wanking material for jerks that the very pop videos that she was satirising do, but that is not a race issue.