Sunday, December 01, 2013

Can Lily Allen criticise Robin Thicke?

One of the most popular songs this year was "Blurred lines" by Robin Thicke. It has a video featuring topless dancers, whilst the lyrics are about men trying to seduce good girls.

The song annoyed English singer Lily Allen who penned an angry feminist response called "Hard out here". But Allen's song is exceptionally coarse. And Lily Allen herself is a staunch feminist defender of the right of women to be unrestrained in their sexuality and not to be called sluts for being so.

Which means it's difficult to take her criticism of Robin Thicke seriously. She's not interested in upholding reasonable standards. Instead, she wants women to have an absolute right to do whatever they want sexually, whilst at the same time expecting men to restrain their sexuality according to feminist demands.

Lily Allen: not the best choice to criticise Robin Thicke

I don't see how this can work. How can women behave coarsely and without limits, without that then affecting the behaviour of the men around them? If Lily Allen chooses to trash the standards of society, so that there is no sense of modesty when it comes to sexuality, then how can she expect men to act as if such standards existed?

There is a larger lesson here, which is that the effort of liberal society to understand freedom as autonomy doesn't work well when it comes to relationships. If the idea is to maximise our autonomous choice, then it's true that a woman can act however she likes sexually, but what she then loses is any right to ask that men don't do the same.

Lily Allen is Robin Thicke. She is his female counterpart, his twin. She is acting according to the same principles as he is. They are part of a bundle.

If he is wrong, then so is she.


  1. The fantasy is seducing a good girl. The mean-spirited, trash-mouthed feminist slut seems not to be such an attractive fantasy figure. I think Lily Allen doesn't like that she can "have it all" but she can never be as good as a woman who doesn't want to "have it all" but only what's good for her, such as her one, non-replaceable husband. Even in the eyes of men just as trashy as she is, the trashy feminist without traditional disciplines and virtues is not top-of-the-line.

    Nobody has a "transgressive" fantasy of dragging down into the gutter a woman who already constitutes the gutter. (Even if she happens to be STD-free at her latest checkup.)

  2. Thicke's attack on virtue is that it's "plastic" and should be dumped as a false element of identity. ("You're far from plastic...") This is a transparently bogus attack, because "plastic" implies that something is modern, fake, disposable, inauthentic junk, and traditional virtue is none of that, but slut-walk feminism is all of that. "Plastic" as fake and lacking in emotion can also be seen as the opposite of sexy. But again, that's sleazy Hollywood mass culture to a T, not traditional restraint.

    So why's the attack worth making? Because it comes in the wake of similar accusations not only from the big-money cultural but from top intellectuals and cultural authorities for at least most of the 20th century, and it's not slowing down. Meanwhile, traditional good women and good girls lack important cultural defenders. An accusation of "hypocrisy" for doing the right thing with your life may be a lie and itself obviously hypocritical, but if everyone who matters is chanting along with it and hardly anybody is standing up for you, that can leave you feeling pretty hollow.

  3. Lily Allen's answer is that the likes of Thicke can't liberate her from the brainless, inauthentic state of not being a slut, because:

    "Don't need to shake my arse for you
    'Cause I've got a brain..."

    This "brain" is identified with vulgarity, feminism, nastiness and being a bitch. (Explicitly and repeatedly a bitch.) It's not something that a traditional woman can have - even though it's the smarter women who show the greatest discipline and are least likely to fall for the pop culture image traps that both Thicke and Allen (among many others) set.

    But again, Lily Allen is just making a gesture in the direction of accusations made for most of a century by much smarter people - intellectuals with pure destructive scorn for the non-debauched "booboisie" - a word coined by H.L. Mencken in 1922. This has been going on for a while.

  4. It's typical female solipsism. She cannot see the contradiction because she believes she deserves the female privileges of a partiarchal society while also demanding to be treated as a meritocratic equal (blaming all failure on men/patriarchy). It's readily observable in the Primary School yard all the way up to the PM: "I'm a special snowflake, now treat me as an equal or I'll cry 'sexist'!" The women I know who realise they practice this behaviour find it hard to change. But they are much better people for doing so. It's almost like a 'red pill' for women.

  5. Allen is a little rich girl who spent her formative years knocking around ibiza. Any insight she might have about society has been filtered through a worldview developed in an atmosphere of privilege almost unimaginable to most of those who buy her songs on itunes.

    Don't be fooled by her affected "mockney" accent. Working class she ain't.