Why Lily Allen Should Be Challenging Homophobia

Amy Ashenden

Lily Allen’s comeback has caused a huge stir. Caitlin Moran has congratulated it as a satirical success of the over-sexualised music industry, whilst others – and many others, at that – have criticised the video for its sexualisation, specifically of non-white women.

The lyrics are witty, playing on the ridiculousness of an industry that society has become obsessed with – but it’s the video that brought that satire to life. The twerking, champagne wasting, ass-shaking mess that goes on in that video is a slap in the face. Whilst you try to laugh along with its ridiculousness and satirical tone, the reality is quite depressing. And it’s got some people really angry; be it because of the exploitation of black culture or the non-white dancers. Especially, as Lily Allen tends to stand around, fully clothed whilst the dancers dance in, well, very little (although some say that is kind of the point).

Others don’t agree – such as Radio 1 DJ Jameela Jamil who blogged: “I can count 4 black girls and three white girls…It is almost racist to discount the girls who aren’t black.” And I have to say I don’t either. Not because I think the video was the best possible portrayal of women of all ethnicities being exploited by the music industry, but because I thought: what if Lily Allen had made a video parodying homophobia in song lyrics?

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Eminem, even at the age of 41, is still rapping homophobic slur in his newly released record. In the last few days, Prince has released anti-gay music, poor James Arthur has had to quit tweeting after he put out a now-removed ‘diss’ track, rapping ‘fucking queer, and Katy Perry’s Ur so gay has accumulated over 32 million hits on YouTube. I’m gay and every time I put the music channel on, all I see is over-heterosexualisation. Where are all the LGBT singers and songs about bisexual, lesbian and gay relationships? I would love for Lily Allen to have had made a music video ridiculing the industry’s obsession with heterosexuality. The constant portrayal of men as irresistible to women and vice versa, is just as sickening as the prevalent lack of gay sexuality represented.

It wouldn’t be comfortable viewing, however. A Lily Allen parody, swapping feminism for gay pride, would probably have to include chants like faggot, lezza, dyke (I could go on, but I won’t), calling unsexual objects ‘gay’ because some claim it’s an acceptable alternative to ‘lame’, and generally presenting us with horrendous stereotypes. But, I would support an artist challenging the issue with such a slap-in-the-face parody, despite how much it hurt, because it’s not any different to what we already know about the music industry. It’s reality, served up on a big, satirical dish thrown in front of you. It would make me uneasy, but I’d like for an artist to instil that feeling into viewers and make them question what surrounds us.

So I say: nice work Lily Allen, but who’s going to challenge this?


About Amy Ashenden

Freelance journo currently on my Year Abroad in Madrid, and blogging it at madridforbeginners.wordpress.com. BA French and Spanish at the University of Southampton, Editor of studentjournals.co.uk, and previous intern at g3 magazine and Pink News. Proud freelancer for BBC South East.