by Mia McKenzie
I just watched that new Lily Allen video (I’m not posting it here). Halfway through, I had to pause. Because I didn’t want my brain to fucking explode all at once.
Here’s yet another video of a white woman performer using the bodies of black women as props. Smacking their asses and cutting away to their parts as though they are just pieces of people rather than, you know, whole people. All while singing about how she doesn’t need to shake her ass because she has a brain. The juxtaposition of that sentiment with images of black women gyrating and twerking is downright insulting. Here’s yet another white feminist throwing black women under the bus because she has some point she’s trying to make about…sexism? I mean, I can hardly tell, probably because my feminism includes black women. Because I don’t see black women, or any other women of color as tools, props, or background noise for white women’s self-expression. But that’s me.
But here comes Jezebel and others in the white feminist brigade to let y’all know that it’s ok, it’s ok, because this is satire! There’s a line where she says she’s being sarcastic! So this is totally not offensive at all. Y’all see what she did there?!
I like satire as much as the next person. I write a lot of satirical stuff myself. And you know what? Satire works best when you are flipping the script on the oppressor, on the system. When you are calling attention to the ways that the system is jacked by amplifying the absurdity of that system. Not caricaturing and otherwise disrespecting the people who are oppressed by that system.
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Satire has been defined as “a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, and society itself, into improvement.”
Flashback: remember when the Onion called Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt? That shit wasn’t funny, was it? No. Why? Because ridiculing or shaming a black girl child, someone who has very little power in relation to a white patriarchal media, to make fun of the Oscars, doesn’t make sense.
So, how in the holy fuck is it “satirical” to “criticize” the sexist music industry by shaming and insulting black women?
Also: Lily Allen, Jezebel, etc…Why the fuck does your feminism look like this?? Why do you need the bodies of women of color as background for your points? Why do you think slapping the asses of black women on national stages makes you smart or edgy or anything but an asshole? Why do you feel like you are entitled to use our bodies in these ways?
And please don’t tell me that the black women in the video made their own choices and blah blah blah. “Choice” is a relative concept. Not everyone has as many choices as they would like. Many people do what they have to do to pay their bills and eat. And not everyone has an analysis of oppression that they can access when faced with these “choices”. Furthermore, even if each and every black woman in the video had all the choices in the world and all of the necessary analysis and still chose to be in that video, it does not erase Lily Allen’s culpability. It’s Lily Allen’s video. It’s Lily Allen’s artistic product.
I also find it interesting that the question of whether someone “chose” to be part of something that might be degrading to them and people like them only becomes important for (white) feminists when talking about black women and other women of color. (This is mostly because people don’t see black women as victims, ever. We aren’t ever innocent enough to be victims. We are always at fault, at least partly, for any violence or degradation perpetrated against us. That’s why Rihanna was portrayed as an equal partner in the “hot mess” that was her relationship with Chris Brown, rather than a victim of violence). In all other cases, though, (white) feminists seem to understand that we live in a world that limits (white) women’s choices. If a husband beats his (white) wife, feminists don’t say he’s not responsible because she “let him,” do they? He is still responsible for his actions despite the fact that there was a (white) woman willing to marry him, right? Her “decision” to be there doesn’t erase his actions, does it? Of course not. You can understand that said man would likely be in a position of power over said (white) woman, right?
Well, who do y’all think is in the position of power in Lily Allen’s video? And who isn’t?
Lily Allen thinks it’s “Hard Out Here For A Bitch.” Which “bitches” is she referring to? Because it seems really easy out there for a white “bitch” who’s willing to degrade black women.
White feminists: y’all stay fucking up.
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Mia McKenzie is an award-winning writer and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous.
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Congratulations to BGD creator Mia McKenzie, whose novel, The Summer We Got Free, is the WINNER of the Lambda Literary Award! Get It Here