4. Instagram: Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey has royally fucked up over the past week or so. As I wrote in my last column, Del Rey made a post on Instagram criticizing the music industry’s double standards; said she was judged differently from Doja Cat, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and others whose performances involve “being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc”; and claimed to have paved the way “for other women to stop ‘putting on a happy face’ and just be able to say whatever the hell they wanted to in their music.” Del Rey’s initial comments were controversial as she completely ignored the compounded oppression that Black women and women of color endure, and many also objected to her ahistorical understanding of music history, noting the peculiar absence of white performers such as Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette and the like in her statement. This misunderstanding also ignores the contributions of many other women of color who preceded these artists.
After already doubling down on her comments twice (once in the comments of her original post, and once through another post to her account), she does it again in this video. In her first post and subsequent responses Del Rey uses racialized language to describe herself as “soft,” “delicate,” and “fragile,” things Black women have never been allowed to be. While I believe that Del Rey didn’t intend for her statement to be about race, it is. And in order for her to have some of the nuanced conversations she wants to have about her music’s relationship with feminism, Del Rey needs to understand her relationship to whiteness and how that is privileged in feminism (For Harriet has a great video on this).
Right now, my biggest qualm with Del Rey isn’t what she said in her statement, but that she doubled down on it THREE TIMES, hasn’t listened to the criticism of the women of color she named in her original post, and shows a complete unwillingness to learn. I don’t think Del Rey is deserving of all the attention I have given her, but someone I used to be much closer with agrees with the singer’s defense of herself and I can’t stop thinking about it. I also believe that this could have been a tremendous learning experience for Del Rey and the people coming to her defense, but instead they are supporting an insidious form of racism. Racism doesn’t just happen in extreme acts of violence, it is also present in small “delicate,” “soft,” and “fragile” moments. So maybe Lana Del Rey doesn’t matter that much, but this conversation matters tremendously.