If you haven’t heard of it yet, Lily Allen’s new song “Hard Out Here” has been garnering a lot of interest as a female-empowerment song as well as a direct call-out to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. There are some direct shout-outs to his song/video as well as lines about sexism in general. The song has relatively low controversy, but it’s the music video that some are finding problematic. Upon writing this post, I realized that it would be too long to address everything, so I divided it into two. This first post is about the song, and the next one will be about the music video.
The lyrics of the song have a lot going on in them, so I’m going to deconstruct from start to finish. Just one line in, Allen uses the b word, which she continues to use for a majority of the song. Some people could complain of how using a misogynistic slur only sets feminism back, but I think this is more about a power play than anything else. If women want to use the b word and use it as empowering rather than derogatory, more power to them. I don’t really think it helps when women negatively call other women that word to bring each other down, but if you change the context of the word to turn it against people who try to use it negatively, it creates a different impact. It’s kind of how the show Queer As Folk revolved around gay characters who would constantly say f-g to each other and other gay characters. I think it’s okay to use words satirically to show that you won’t allow others to attack you with them.
The next couple of lines could be seen as problematic in a round-about sort of way. Allen states that she won’t be found in the kitchen, and that she doesn’t need to “shake her a-s” because she has a brain. This could be interpreted as shaming women who choose to be a housewife/cook through free will, not through societal standards, as well as slut shaming for women such as strippers who dance for men. The message of feminism is doing whatever you want to do, man or woman, because equality should allow everyone that freedom to choose. I don’t like the connotation of these lines, but she does say “Don’t need to shake my a** for you cause I’ve got a brain”. I’m glad she used ‘need’ rather than ‘want’, implying that people should do that because they want to, not because they feel that they have to. She also follows with “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut”, so I don’t think it was her intention to imply slut-shaming with the previous line (that would be kind of backwards, wouldn’t it?).
The rest of the lines are all general observations on how society regards women, and they’re all perfectly reasonable and delivered with wonderful amounts of sarcasm and sass. She addresses double standards, beauty standards, and misconceptions of how inequality has disappeared (side-note, it hasn’t). She then has a line about someone tearing a butt in two, which is a direct hint towards a line referring to the same thing in “Blurred Lines”. Whether you think “Blurred Lines” is a good song or not, there is no way you can argue that ‘tearing a butt in two’ is not problematic; sex acts that are supposed to be pleasurable for both parties should not be referred to with violent connotations; even if it were in a BDSM or S&M context, the line is still cringe-worthy and creepy overall.
Regarding the song itself, I think it fits in with the general pop paradigm of today. On a purely musical level, there’s nothing too special or amazing about it, but it is catchy, fun, and has a rather mellow yet upbeat melody throughout. With the positive, no bs taking lyrics added in, it’s definitely an empowering song that I don’t mind getting stuck in my head once a day.