The British pop singer is one of the few I can stand, besides Lady Gaga — but why does her snark all too often have to be directed at other women? A closer look reveals that even the cooler pop singers can fall prey to negative stereotypes.
I know, I know. Taylor Swift is way more annoying. And Katy Perry is… Well, to quote her: “I’m like a fatter version of Amy Winehouse and a skinnier version of Lily Allen!” …Charming! But we expect a little more from Allen, who brings us everything from the political spunk of “F**k You” to the insightful feminist criticism of “22.”
Her music expresses a brand of unfiltered, wit-infused rage that is easy to identify with — and naturally, a percentage of that rage is going to be of the girl-on-girl variety. But it’s in this kind of criticism that she seems to be the least amusing, the least astute — and sometimes downright destructive to the very values she seems to want to promote. Let’s look at some lyrics.
“Friday Night”: the song describes her face-off with some shallow girls at a night club; using the c-word to describe one, she adds “good dancing, love, but you should have wore a bra.” In “Friend of Mine,” Allen criticizes her long-time friend for being gossipy — which seems to be anti-catty — but then later, she calls her a whore. Listening to these songs, I feel like relating to Lily something that Tina Fey says to girls in her movie, Mean Girls: “You guys have GOT to stop calling each other sluts and whores! It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
Which brings me to my main thesis. As a smart girl who has fallen prey to the same angry trap: call another girl a slut, and you will live to regret it. I don’t care if it’s accurate by your own personal standards, society’s standards, a libertine’s standards — I don’t care if she’s slept with your ex or half the swim team. Calling a girl a slut never leads to anywhere good. It doesn’t make you look more powerful, it doesn’t make you look more witty; it’s just ugly. It makes you feel ugly. And eventually you will end up a hypocrite, and hate yourself for saying it. Some time, something you do, or wear, or say — it’s going to put you in the position of being called a slut yourself. The only way to reduce the ugly cattiness you have to deal with is not perpetrate it yourself. If you have to criticize a girl, find another way to do it — a smarter way. Because when we point our guns at another woman’s sexuality, I can’t help but feel that we’re also pointing it at ourselves.
Cattiness doesn’t just have to be directed at other women, either. Another thing that bothers me about Lily Allen’s music is how often it resorts to petty emasculation of the male villains. We all love “Not Fair” — but I don’t care for its sequel, the garishly titled “Not Big.” I watched this video of her at a concert where she says “There’s nothing worse than when you meet someone new, and you go back to their house, you take their trousers down and they’ve got a small dick… And you really like this guy, but he’s got a small dick so you know it’s never going to work. It’s the worst thing.”
I’m sorry, but why is it okay for women to say things like this? At all? If a popular male artist got up in front of an audience, railing against the injustice of small boobs, there would be a veritable shit storm. I don’t like being made to feel like I’m a prize pig at the county fair having my dimensions assessed, so I’m not going to do that to anyone else.
…Anyways. I like Lily Allen better than some, but she’s not exactly a super-cool warrior on the front lines of ending gender stereotypes. Until next time!