Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feminist Anthems: Lily Allen - LDN

Feminists like to talk about a 'click' moment, a instant of realization in which everything about feminism comes together and makes sense. For some, it's a speaker, piece of music, a college course, or simple exposure to sexism. My own 'click' moment came after reading (at random, curiously) one of bell hooks' works.

Lily Allen's "LDN" presents some 'click' moments, albeit not overtly feminist ones:

(Quick disclaimer: I'm fairly certain Allen didn't intend this song in the way that I'm about to interpret it. Still, that's the beauty of art - so long as the artist observes truth without forcing judgement, the audience is free to apply as they see fit!)

So the city is a nasty place, huh? But notice that however bad the character's in the song get, the song is upbeat, the singer apparently happy. Happy, that is, until the end, when she realizes that she's in the same boat as the others. I think that it's easy to intellectualize problems, to recognize that they exist for other people. It's quite another to realize they affect you. Wait - that's sexism? I can be a tool of the patriarchy, too? And suddenly, everything is sad and depressing. Click, click. Click, click. Everything good is bad, everything right is wrong.

Another thing: In real life, pimps and muggings are fairly obvious. They are also relatively rare in the overall scheme of things. But people who behave in the same ways, who hide their inner pimp or mugger (if you will) are not so rare. In the song, they first appear to be normal, even a pleasant sort of person, right up until the second look. In the same way, a date, or even a marriage might appear to be happy, but really be a thin excuse for prostitution. And someone helping an elderly or poor person may appear to be honest enough - but recall that 'philanthropy' is usually a trick to keep the powerful in power.

Finally, while the subject might be rather bleak, the overall sound of the song is upbeat, positive. It's better to be happy and a bit sarcastic then depressed and miserable! At least, it is better so long as we don't stop working to end injustice and inequality.

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