Lily’s Right, It IS Hard Out Here
Lily Allen’s new video for Hard Out Here got me thinking. My first thought was that it’s great when a mainstream female artist draws attention to sexism, misogyny and double standards. My second thought was that I wish the message wasn’t accompanied by (lots of) the very porn-y and corny imagery it professes to detest. Yes, of course, I get that it’s satire, but I think the point can have been just as easily made with less bare-assed twerking and a few fewer fellated bananas. The song’s catchy chorus, It’s Hard Out Here for a Bitch (which I wish were the song’s title), references Three 6 Mafia’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp, Miley’s twerking, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video and even offers a parallel message to Robin’s big dick signage with inflated letters spelling out "Lily Allen has a baggy pussy”. Still I could have done with a lot less finger-licking, champagne-ejaculating, and other tired and crummy porn simulacrums. I appreciate Lily making it clear by singing, “If you can't detect the sarcasm you've misunderstood”, but too much porn in the parody still feels very having AND eating your cake to me. But what really got me thinking was Lily’s line, “Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits/It's hard, it's hard, it's hard out here for a bitch”. I’ve often wondered if Jane Elliot’s famous Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise could be somehow be adapted and applied to gender. No matter how sensitive they may be, I think it’s impossible for men to fully realize the range of indignities, abuse, threats, labels, derision, dismissals and injustices to which women are exposed every day. I wonder if there were some way to devise a workshop that could help males experience the vulnerability, fear, inferiority and repressed anger one experiences going through this world with a vagina. To varying degrees, my sex affects my life every day, and it’s certainly been the determining factor in much of my life experience. As Shirley Chisholm explained, “Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black.” Shirley also knew that, like race, there is no escaping your defining label. “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females” said Ms. Chisholm, “begins when the doctor says: It's a girl.” When you’re born female, the seminal (no irony intended) thing about you is always going to be the happenstance of which sexual organs you possess. After that of course, race, wealth, class and attractiveness will come into play, but women of every background and in every stratum of society can be subject to the judgment, unfairness, violence, and powerlessness that is all too often part of the feminine experience. All women know this (though some choose not to admit it). Lily Allen hints at it. But I hope that one day there’s a Jane Elliot who’ll find a way to help men realize, in a deep and profound way, what it’s really like being a bitch out here.