When Lily Allen came out of her self-imposed four-year break from the music scene last November, she used her reentry into the spotlight not only to introduce new single to her fans, but also to shed some light on a depressing matter. The Brit singer’s latest track “Hard Out Here” is a satire that hits out at the ubiquitous culture of objectifying women in the entertainment world nowadays. The song’s controversial lyrics has since spurred countless debates and the bold music video –which draws most of its inspiration from Robin Thicke’s video for “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’s infamous “twerking”– has put Lily as the new face of feminist pop movement. All hail Queen Lily!
HOH’s success is largely based on the its candid approach on the issues of misogyny and double standards in the music industry, although I am sure that Lily’s excellent songwriting skill and sassy attitude don’t hurt the sales, either. Lily herself said that her motivation to write the song was to “find the answers to the kinds of questions she hopes won’t even exist by the time her two daughters are old enough to notice,” as she was quoted saying on mtv.com. “I’d like to think that my children’s generation won’t feel like this [objectified]. I want them to realize that not everyone can be f—ing ‘hot’. Rather than attractiveness being the end prize, it should be as rewarding to be clever or funny,” she confessed in an interview with The Observer.
Lily’s comments are spot on. Because as of lately, it seems like more and more female pop stars are vulgarizing themselves in some ways to sell their records, sending a distorted message to their fans. Like there is an implicit rule that sexualization is the shortcut for women to get ahead in the male-dominated music biz –and society. If you take a look at any popular pop videos of female musicians on Youtube these days, you will understand why. Most videos earning the highest views have one thing in common: the singers are all scantily clad and performing raunchy moves. Misogyny has become the norm and the winning formula.
The sexualization trend running across the pop culture doesn’t spread without setting some tongues clucking, though. Experts have expressed deep concerns on the effect that sexualized pop stars is having on young people these days. “The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real. We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development [in teenagers],” said Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, in an interview with BBC.
Living in such a technology-conscious era, us young people might find it very difficult at times to not be influenced by the content shown on the media. Every day, we are constantly being told to dress and act in a certain way by society, and sometimes we just give in to the pressure because we are afraid to stick out like a sore thumb. I say to this: Be the Lily among the Cyruses and Rihannas in your world. While I respect every artist’s decision to go down their chosen path, I feel like what society needs now is more people like Lily, who still stays true to herself when the time is tough and is not afraid to make a difference where it matters.