The past few years have brought a host of empowered female pop artists and a new flurry discussion about feminism. It’s about owning your sexuality. It’s about taking power. It’s about freedom and liberation. It’s about Lilith Fair or riot grrrl. It’s about Madonna. Actually, it’s about Nicki Minaj. No, wait, it’s about Miley Cyrus — or Beyoncé. OK, OK, maybe it’s actually about all of those things.
Conspicuously absent from this list, though, is the one of the most talked about woman in music right now: Lana Del Rey, whose new album Ultraviolence hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts as soon as it was released. She wants nothing to do with any of this feminist discussions. A few months ago, she proclaimed in an interview with FADER, “The issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept.”
“Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god,” she said. “I’m just not really that interested.”
Her appeal depends on her willingness to disregard feminism completely. She plays a character who smells like french perfume and lusts after “dope and diamonds.” Her music tunes upon abusive relationships, at death, at drug abuse, but never comes close to offering a nuanced discussion on those topics. She sits around listlessly, waiting for her man to call (and when he does, she’ll quickly answer, as she points out on the track “Old Money” — “But if you send for me / You know I’ll come”). She romanticizes everything modern women have fought not to be.
With that sentiment, Del Rey has basically ensured that the word “feminism” will haunt her wherever she goes. But anybody looking for her to use her star power for equal rights will find something pretty disturbing: Del Rey’s music and image seriously romanticize an era in which women were systematically degraded.
Moreover, we have all claimed to be only repeating what was said on the Internet by certain bloggers, but the extent of the backlash raises questions as to what is really the problem with Del Rey? One of the problems is that, after a decade in which women were told that they had everything it took to get ahead, and that the playing-field was somehow level in our new, post-feminist world, it was disturbing to many to see a woman recast herself as an old-fashioned male fantasy and to seemingly embrace submissiveness, and to dress as if she were nostalgic for the days before women’s liberation.
However, we still loooove her music. For example, look at Marilyn: we publish her poems and talk about how sad she was, somehow putting her on a pedestal because of her excess and her silent sorrow. I don’t think it’s wrong, but I think it breeds a false sense of mystery. Society probably needs this, though, because life is impossibly dull and boring for most.Or, Maybe she wants us to hate her. Maybe she actually wants to make art. Maybe she loves to be an unaccountable romantic “heroine.” Maybe she’s pointing out something we all ignore…