Social Commentary in Lily Allen’s “Hard Out There”

It’s been 4 years since her second studio album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, and fans have been eagerly awaiting for the English star’s return to the music scene.  Lily Allen is a female artist who has never been shy to speak her mind.  She expresses her opinions and comments on current issues persisting the society around us.  She is an artist that most relevantly appeals to a female audience.

For example, the single Not Fair where she lyrically expresses sexual dissatisfaction with a man. “When we go up to bed, you’re just no good, it’s such a shame … You’re supposed to care, but you never make me scream”

Or 22 where she discusses society’s general view/expectations of a woman’s life. “It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over”

One of the hottest songs this summer was Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, a song that has been criticized overall not just for its rapey-vibe but also for its objectification of women in the official music video.  In the MTV VMA’s this year, Thicke had performed his hit with Miley Cyrus [who really emphasized twerking for us all] and the performance overall was a racy one.  It was often Cyrus who was criticized for dancing on Thicke, no one really said anything about Thicke.  In my opinion, Thicke is just as responsible for the performance and should know better, keeping in mind that he is a 36 year-old father and Cyrus was not even 21.  Basically, Miley Cyrus has been slut-shamed for the performance all because of the double standard that society puts for how women should and shouldn’t express themselves.

Lily Allen is one who comments on the roles emphasized for women by society and all the double-standards that surround us today. In November of this year, she released her single Hard Out There which addresses the entertainment industry’s attitude towards women as a whole and also features a quick parody of Thicke’s Blurred Lines video.

The video starts with Allen getting a liposuction procedure done and essentially being bashed by the men in the room [manager and doctors] for her weight – shaming her for her weight, “How can somebody let themselves get like this?”, to which she replies that she had 2 kids during the 4 year hiatus. This just shows what expectations and treatment women receive as far as the need for having a specific physical appearance goes.   She’s getting the procedure done to be ready for her comeback. She was then shown with a group of women whose jobs were to dance sexy and twerk – portrayed hilariously with Allen adjusting and trying to fit in and dance with the girls. The video overall, perhaps NSFW, was quite amusing and featured this scene in which she parodies the balloon art in Thicke’s video that boasts of his ‘big dick’.However it is the song itself and its lyrics that really express and makes this a ‘women-anthem’.  Lyrics such as, “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut / When boys be talkin’ ’bout their bitches, no one’s making a fuss.” explicitly comments on the sexuality double standard among men men and women. She also sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you, ’cause I’ve got a brain.”, commenting on the objectified roles that women are typically portrayed in music videos today, while ironically the video itself is with a bunch of dancing women [on a side-note, the song’s chorus is also auto-tuned in a way of satire of today’s music]. There’s also the lyrics, “You should probably lose some weight, ‘cause we can’t see your bones. You should probably fix your face, or you’ll end up on your own … You’re not a size 6 and you’re not good looking / Well, you better be rich or be real good at cooking.” which pretty much state the general importance society emphasizes on women’s physical appearances and how the most desirable women must be skinny. The song’s chorus, “It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard out here for a bitch”, simply wraps up the general focus that women are in fact in tougher situations and put in unfair set expectations as opposed to men. The bridge, “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay / Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away.” pretty much states the sad hard-hitting truth that these ideas of women will never go away, that there will never ultimately be equality among men and women, and that we will have to put up with these double-standards even if we don’t want to.  Overall, I do feel like this song is a women-anthem to an extent and see Lily Allen as one of the few voices for women in music, one of the few women who will actually address these issues and not simply accept them and let them be.

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2 thoughts on “Social Commentary in Lily Allen’s “Hard Out There”

  1. Do you think the chorus of “Hard Out Here” is channeling “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from ‘Hustle and Flow’? If so, how does that complicate the gender politics you describe in Lily Allen’s work?

  2. The reason Miley Cyrus was slut-shamed is because she publicly humiliated herself. She was the one who was half-naked. Robin Thicke may have been complicit in her immoral act, but he at least kept his dignity. (Also, frankly, women are biological sex objects. It’s the male animal who chases, catches, and impregnates the female. Men still ask women out on dates, don’t they? So, if she’s advertising sex, then she’s creating temptation.)

    I’m not as concerned with a woman’s weight as some of the people out there. Yes, some people do have an unhealthy obsession with women being skinny. That’s a problem.

    The reason women are called sluts and not men is because sex is literally more dangerous for them. The origin of this “double standard” lies in nature. It’s science. Think about what could happen to a woman if she had unprotected sex with a stranger: pregnancy. Meanwhile, the guy runs off, and nothing bad happens to him. He’s free of dealing with that problem. It’s also physically easier for a woman’s sexual organs to contract diseases during that potentially dirty sex act. Therefore, she is criticized more harshly for it.

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