Excuse the shocking pun in the title, but I couldn’t help it – it fits so well… I’m sure most people have heard about the Lana Del Ray ridiculousness by now, and I’m jealous of those that have managed to avoid it all during this difficult time. For those that haven’t, here is what she said –
She then, to make things oh so much worse, came out with the following response –
There is clearly a whole feminist argument that is going on here, for which there is validity, I think, on all sides. It is not, however, what I want to talk about right now, and it isn’t necessarily for me to discuss. So, though I recognise how much it is integral to this issue, for the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on another facet of this inequality.
What is such a problem here is the clear lack of understanding by Lana Del Ray, and a whole host of her defenders, about picking out mostly women of colour in her post. There is a debate about whether she is racist, with some defending her using her collaborations with POC artists and support of POC and indigenous charities etc. The defences seem a bit ‘I have a coloured friend’-esque to me, but I don’t really care whether she is racist or not. I don’t think that is quite the point of this whole spiel, and she probably isn’t actively trying to be racist here.
She demonstrates here a far deeper issue – the failure to recognise how much racism and discrimination against POCs, and particularly WOCs, are deep embedded both structurally in society, and in our own mental processes. In her extremely weak and failed defence, she claims that people are choosing to make her comments into a ‘race war’ and that people are just ‘making it about race’. What these deluded comments create is the illusion that race can, in any way, be excluded or omitted from conversations about inequality (here more specifically gender inequality).
All the women Del Ray lists, bar Ariana Grande, are WOC (though Doja cat is going through her own racism-related drama right now). Her reasoning for listing them is apparently simple – they are her favourite artists. She also notes, correctly, that many of the people topping the charts at the moment are black women. This may be because the industry is finally recognising the importance of talent, or an indictment of the current strange fetishization of POC cultures (especially in the States). I’m not going to deny either of those statements to be true, or suggest that Del Ray listed them for any other reason than they’re some of her favourite artists.
So, what’s the problem? Her suggestion that listing WOCs can be extricated from the race issue, and her failure to recognise that her attempt to ignore, and remove, race from the issue is, in itself, a form of racism. First of all, she could have made that post quite easily without including the name of a single other artist, POC or not. Therefore, she clearly had some intention behind naming singers, even if just to garner attention. But to then list these WOC and claim that it is other people creating a race issue, that is simply for ‘drama’; this is a form of discrimination.
Race cannot be excluded from conversations of inequality, or from POCs. Being a POC is not something that can be opted in or out of, or that can be in any way disconnected from the identity of these WOC. It is not a lens through which they can be viewed, or a part of their identity that can be recognised when it is most convenient. They are not women some of the time, and then POCs the rest of the time. Being a person of colour is an embedded part of their whole, and this desire to ignore these issues or worse, suppress them, is such a key part of why this post is so wrong.
In a completely wild moment in her first post, she managed to write – ‘the kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them’. I’m not really sure how to deal with this statement. It seems she is saying that the ‘stronger’ voices of those WOC are taking away her voice as a white woman. Just GLANCE at this page to see how things are so drastically different for Black and Asian women, compared to white women, in everything from employment, to health, to infant death rate. The vague notion that strong women, here all these WOCs, are taking her white feminist voice away is just extremely deluded. I will link below countless articles showing just how wrong that statement is.
Her defenders will say it doesn’t matter if those ‘strong women’ are black, that she is simply talking about their strength and how it may overpower her different approach to feminism. Well, again, you can’t separate their strength from their identity as WOCs. In fact, though I can’t speak for them, listening to the music of people like Beyoncé suggests that her identity as a black woman is a part of where she draws her strength from.
This fallacy that race can be pigeonholed, and that there is any way to be ‘race blind’ or ‘colour blind’ without simply just ignoring the importance of race, is the heart of what the problem is with Lana Del Ray, and with so many other who still don’t understand this. You can’t opt in and out of the conversation on race. It is at the heart of so much inequality, and it is a conversation that will not be silenced.
“The house of delusions is cheap to build but drafty to live in.” – A. E. Housman