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Lana Del Rey shouldn’t have to defend being emotionally vulnerable & feminine in her lyrics. But her haters prove her right

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

Lana Del Rey shouldn’t have to defend being emotionally vulnerable & feminine in her lyrics. But her haters prove her right
Singer Lana Del Rey is being excoriated for “glamorizing abuse” and even “racism” after attempting to defend writing lyrics from a vulnerable female perspective. The attacks have made her point better than she ever could.

Del Rey slammed her detractors in a rambling “question for the culture” posted to Instagram on Thursday, acknowledging that while she was “not not a feminist,” the current state of feminism was erasing precisely those who needed it the most. “There has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me… the kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women.”

The pop star laid out her grievances with an industry that had attacked her for years for “express[ing even] a note of sadness” and playing “submissive or passive roles in my relationships,” noting she’d been repeatedly slammed in reviews for supposedly setting women “back hundreds of years” – only to watch other stars like Ariana Grande and Cardi B top the charts with songs containing lyrics in a similar vein. 

Del Rey laid it on a bit thick in places (“slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves”?) but she made some good points. Even in 2020, where “feminism” is a box one must check to be accepted in roles ranging from public intellectual to, well, pop singer, female celebrities are expected to conform to certain parameters – and woe betide those who step outside the box. 

Also on rt.com Don’t believe your lying eyes, says New York Times feminist claiming #BelieveAllWomen is a ‘right-wing canard’

The retro-feminine glamour Del Rey embodies with her lyrics and her persona acknowledges a vulnerability that is decidedly out of style in modern ‘have it all’ feminism, in which women are every bit the equal of men, yet somehow need diversity quotas in order to fill out exactly half the ranks of corporate boardrooms.

Her critics’ claim that she is “glamorizing abuse” – as if merely singing about something implies it’s an admirable thing – is the ultimate in victim-blaming. Del Rey has said, both in this post and in interviews, that she’s experienced “challenging” relationships. Many artists experience catharsis in channeling their negative experiences into their work. Is she supposed to pretend those relationships didn’t happen, lest some critic be triggered?

Even more asinine are the racism allegations. Yes, Del Rey named a list of female artists who have had number-one hits with more “feminine” content. Yes, some of them are black (though Ariana Grande certainly isn’t, no matter how much she darkens her skin). But she’s not “throwing them under the bus,” as more than one commenter claimed – merely pointing out that they’ve had hit songs with lyrical content similar to her own. 

Even some fans were shaking their heads, essentially telling Del Rey she should have just sat down and shut up. Who exactly is being the misogynist here? It’s the internet equivalent of “Oh, it was fine until she started running off at the mouth with too many opinions, then I had to belt her one across the face… you know what it’s like.” This is the opposite of female empowerment.

The cultural tide does seem to be turning against the superficial, mass-produced pop ‘feminism’ that continues the ‘original sin’ of treating women as objects while further degrading them by forcing them to mouth the language of empowerment as they’re being manipulated. It’s entirely possible Del Rey is just riding that rebellious wave, the post a canny marketing tactic for the album she’s releasing in September. 

But the hate showered on her for doing it justifies every word she’s written. Her critics have walked right into the trap – if it is indeed a trap. 

Of course, if Del Rey were to suddenly turn on a dime and start pumping out insipid ‘female empowerment’ anthems a la Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, many of her fans would drop her like a hot potato. And the critics would find something new to tear her apart over – perhaps that her new style was “inauthentic” (though in that case, they’d be right). For now, Del Rey’s unabashed femininity holds up a mirror to their own insecurities. As a celebrity, she’s a lightning-rod for those who feel entitled to shred any woman who dares to have the ‘wrong’ opinions. And that whole paradigm – “you’re famous, therefore you owe me” – is far more misogynistic than her lyrics could ever be.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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