Oppression Takes a Number of Forms…
So Lilly Allen has caused quite a stir with her new music video for Hard out Here.
A barrage of criticism has appeared all over the blogosphere, with Allen who has positioned the video as a feminist remonstrance, being accused of reinforcing the very stereotypes she is supposedly challenging. Her perceived separation from the black dancers featured in the video has also brought with it allegations of racism: Allen’s empowerment coming at their expense.
Whilst I understand what feminism means to me, I’m punching above my weight with this debate. So I am going to stop right there before I find myself in murky water. What I do want to say however, is that whilst Allen may have caught our attention for the wrong reasons, at least she has caught our attention. I am hopeful that as a consequence of this, we may in the future be less likely to turn a blind eye to the more subliminal anti-feminist messages we condone on a regular basis.
Let’s move away from the high budget glossy images that hold little relevance to our daily lives and instead take a look at Facebook, specifically those annoying little e-postcards that seem to breed indiscriminately in our news streams. Here’s a selection of some of the wonderful inspirations you can find featured on such cards courtesy of someecards.com:
You’re my favourite person to complain about life with over a glass of wine.
I am almost as scared of losing you as I am of driving with you.
Keep your friends close and your glass of wine closer.
All I want this season is the company of a man with a functioning credit card.
Thanks for knowing when to listen to me and when to shut me up with a delicious sweet.
Just a heads up that I am starting my summer diet that has probably finished by the time you’re reading this.
Now I’m not averse to a bit of self-deprecation, in fact I kind of like it. And if people want to draw attention to their weight issues and drink problems then who am I to judge. But I ask you is this really how you want your story to read? Click like on enough of those little witticisms and this becomes you narrative:
I am a women. I am therefore a neurotic moaning bitch. I can’t drive and I’m pacified only by wine and shopping. Talking of shopping lend me your credit card, a silly little lady like me can’t earn her own living. Now feed me some chocolate and I’ll shut up; did I mention I was neurotic and don’t know when to quit?
Ok hands up, I’m being a bit dramatic. Lighten up you say these things are satirical. Perhaps. But as Lily Allen is finding, satire and lack of intent do not stand up as a defence. If in a post-modern world gender is at least in part constructed through language (Judith Butler 1990), then the language in these little gems of wisdom is building some pretty negative stereotypes.
It’s bad enough when the negative stereotyping is self-directed but this isn’t always the case. One recent affirmation that sadly found its way into my Facebook news feed featured a picture of a smug perfectly formed women reassuring me of her high self-esteem. Her self-worth was evidenced by the fact she didn’t feel the need to wear short skirts. Click like and confirm your own amour-propre.
Surely as intelligent educated women we are capable of rooting our self-esteem in something more solid than this? If reality is given meaning through language, then by condoning these seemingly meaningless mantras we are labelling a whole group of women as insecure and needy simply because of the length of their hemlines.
I am proud to say I know lots of beautiful, confident, intelligent women who choose to wear a short skirt from time to time. They are not insecure, they are not slappers, they are not asking for it. I see no stereotypes here. On the other hand, the privileged middle class white woman metaphorically slapping her fellow females in the face for wearing the wrong outfit. Is that not as clichéd as Lily’s bottom smacking? It feels just as undignified.
So before we all gang up on Lily let’s at least take a look closer to home. It’s not just writers who build alternative worlds.