Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 07/11/2009

Lily Allen: closet feminist?

So Lily Allen’s new music video just come out for her song 22. And it got me thinking. I’ve always listened to Lily Allen, and thought “there’s just something about her I really, really like.” 

People have called her lyrics mean, brutal, bitchy, but the thing is they’re just honest and apt commentaries about how fucked up it is to be a girl in this society.

misunderstood and absolutely brillz

misunderstood and absolutely brillz

In her song 22 she sings about how young girls who comply with society’s standards are just left in the dust, only valued for their youth and beauty and how depressing this is. Such a feminist musing, such a truism — no wonder people scold her for being a downer.

And then there’s The Fear, which describes the pressures of fame on young girls. So completely honest, no glamorization of the ugly world of fame and beauty. 

And people may think that these lyrics are her voice, what she wants and what she believes. As in the Fear, I’ve heard people make comments like, “I can’t believe she just says how much she wants fame and money.” Which may be true, but in a way I feel like it’s Lily’s observations about society taken into the first person – not necessarily her own ideas.

And even if they are, she’s completely unapologetic about admitting how society has made her act. It’s like she’s admitting, “maybe all I was concerned with was being beautiful, rich, famous. But I get it now – I get how society has influenced me.”

And people may not understand it, but she’s fucking empowered. The only thing is I feel like maybe she doesn’t see it. She seems to be just expressing depression over the unfairness of an often sexist society. 

My open note to Lily Allen: Feminism is what comes after that. Feminism is the positive answer to that depression. JOIN USSSSSS LILLLLYYYYYY! 

Watch/Listen/Observe for yourself: 

22

Lyrics:
When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she’s nearly 30 now and she’s out every night
I see that look in her face she’s got that look in her eye
She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

She’s got an alright job but it’s not a career
Wherever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
Cause all she wants is a boyfriend
She gets one-night stands
She’s thinking how did I get here
I’m doing all that I can

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

The Fear

Lyrics: 

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and i want fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them

And i’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
Cuz everyone knows that’s how you get famous
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track yeah I’m on to a winner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers 
It’s all about fast cars concussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
and that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And its not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track yeah we’re on to a winner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

Forget about guns and forget ammunition
Cause I’m killing them all on my own little mission
Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner
Now everything’s cool as long as I’m gettin thinner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cause I’m being taken over by fear

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  • Bethany Elfrink @ at 10:19 pm, July 12th, 2009

    LOVE HER.

  • Jess @ at 11:31 pm, July 13th, 2009

    I don’t think she’s a closet feminist, I think she’s completely out there about it!

    I’ve kind of loved hearing her “Not Fair” song all over radio, something I never thought would happen. I actually hear her on radio all the time here, it’s fantastic to hear a female artist with an outspoken, relevant message behind all of her songs.

    I also love that her videos are creative and not centered on sexuality and she has a great voice, too.

    Her album is fantastic.

  • Christina @ at 3:49 am, July 14th, 2009

    I was JUST listening to her cd and thinking the exact same thing. I think she’s a closet feminist simply because through all of her interviews, even in feminist magazines, she hasn’t once acknowledged it or presented the idea of it. And @Jess, definitely Not Fair is one of my favorite, and definitely a feminist song.

  • PharaohKatt @ at 4:29 am, July 14th, 2009

    Closet nothing!

    I remember first hearing The Fear and being astounded at her frankness. I think it speaks of the pressures young women face on a day to day basis, and how sometimes it’s easier to just give in to it all. It’s really powerful! I think she’s sorely underappreciated, to tell you the truth.

  • Julie Z @ at 10:18 am, July 14th, 2009

    By closet I just mean I don’t think she’s ever stated “I am a feminist.” Which I guess in some way isn’t necessary — she’s putting out amazing music and I’m thankful for it. I guess I’m just itching for a celebrity to use the f-bomb…

  • jessalynn @ at 1:08 pm, July 14th, 2009

    Thanks for this post — LOVE Lily, she definitely embodies a feminist spirit that I think a lot of girls can relate to!

    I’m going to link to this on my blog, Brazen Beauties. Thanks! :)

  • Sospira @ at 5:05 pm, July 14th, 2009

    I love her too, and I agree with your analysis here. Also…what about Kate Nash? I feel like she’s very much like Lily in this aspect!

  • AG @ at 6:11 pm, July 14th, 2009

    i love lily allen

  •   F-Bombs: Feminist Teen Blog Starts Strong Despite Adult Sniping [Feminazi Youth] by Funny Celebrity . info @ at 8:01 pm, July 14th, 2009

    [...] Recent posts range from an interview with Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, to an essay on Lily Allen’s feminist lyrics (despite the fact that she’s never applied “the F [...]

  • vanity @ at 9:31 am, July 15th, 2009

    Love her.

    I think the very fact that she doesn’t state “I am a feminist” makes her message stronger — not to mention more palatable to the general audience that doesn’t like feeling like they’re being preached at.

  • Baroness Bourdeau @ at 7:26 am, July 16th, 2009

    I think Lily wrote the Fear to raise awareness in a geniusly blunt way. I have no doubts about her being a Feminist, in one way or another. She reminds me of Emilie Autumn with her sarcasm and raw adittude. By the way, I came across your site in a News update site. It automatically lured my eyes. Speaking of which Have you heard of what’s happening with women in Iran?!

  • The Music Industry and It’s Best Friend, Sexism | Pop-Culture | fbomb @ at 11:25 am, July 17th, 2009

    [...] music who seem to hold feminist opinions but do not publically identify as being feminists—Lily Allen, anyone?—you could come to the conclusion that, if their record labels do have these opinions about [...]

  • Lucy @ at 12:00 am, September 26th, 2009

    I agree…good observations.

  • KS @ at 11:58 am, October 13th, 2009

    It’s unfortunate that artists and film stars are hesitant to identify themselves as feminists but I don’t think that makes them anti-feminists.

    On Lily Allen’s case, I love her music and her lyrics. It would be comfortingt to hear her express herself as a proud feminist, but one can only hope… Listen to “Not Fair.” Great song about a topic women are rarely allowed to talk about!

  • Fiona @ at 6:56 pm, November 4th, 2009

    I have this memory, though I can’t find the interview at the moment, of Lily saying she became a feminist when she saw the sexism of the music industry close up.

  • Music that’s better than Katy Perry | The Hathor Legacy @ at 12:22 pm, January 6th, 2010

    [...] Lily Allen might be a closet feminist — “The Fear” and “22″ provide some great social commentary on women and desirability. [...]

  • Hunter Spuck @ at 9:21 pm, April 20th, 2010

    Very good post. Hope to read even more good posts in the near future.

  • PartTime @ at 8:16 pm, January 9th, 2011

    Feminism created the tragedy in “22″.

    Too many women can’t get a prince to pick them up and carry them over his shoulder… It is soooo unlikely in the feminist world.

    If a man tried, he’d be arrested for assault. Or worse, permanently criminalised on life-long sex predator websites.

    Women still want to marry ‘up’, secretaries want to marry their bosses, professional women will not marry tradesman.

    Men have responded to this post-feminist world, where the goal-posts have been moved, by refusing to play the game.

    Men are not ‘commitment-phobic’ they simply have herad too many stories of men destroyed by the feminist divorce industry.

    Better never become a father, rather than have your children stolen from you.

  • A. @ at 6:59 pm, April 8th, 2011

    i ADORE lily allen. i think that she’s a total feminist. i think her lyrics in “the fear”: are supposed to be a wee bit satirical; she’s mocking one of the interpretations of society’s standards.

  • Karen @ at 2:42 pm, May 12th, 2011

    I absolutely love Lily Allen. She’s one of the only female singers today that can be considered anywhere near a good role model for young girls. She tells it how it is, and of course for that she gets crap (society’s way of saying “quiet down little girl, we don’t want any disruption to our patriarchy”)

    What I don’t understand though is how singers like her (the very rare and few there are) don’t openly talk about being a feminist and empowering women. They have such a great influence and could be a source of positive change in our youth, instead of the anti-intellectual misogynist crap most young ones listen to today.

  • Renee @ at 9:30 am, May 28th, 2011

    I’ve never liked her songs or this genre really it’s all blah to me…

  • Renee @ at 9:35 am, May 28th, 2011

    @Karen I have to disagree with you a) I fel as though we don’t live in a patriarchy women have just as much power as men in thi country and b) she probably get crap b/c he songs just aren’t that good..but that’s just my opinion…but having said that I rather have her than that blasphemy spewer lady gaga

  • karen @ at 9:43 pm, February 13th, 2014

    I see this as Allen expressing her own opinions on the subjects she wants to make a point about. She isn’t the voice of feminism. As has been highlighted there is no specific voice of feminism and those most heard are those often with more access to the resources to be heard.

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