Lana Del Rey: Not a Feminist

8471447681_1c3245543c_oCount Lana Del Rey as the latest celebrity claiming to not be a feminist. She joins the ranks of Shailene Woodley, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, all who have recently rejected the feminist label because they “love men,” or “don’t think of things as guys versus girls.”

What such celebrities are lacking is an accurate definition of the word feminism. Whatever they choose to call themselves, many of these young women are highly visible models of modern feminism in action. Unfortunately, as evidenced by her latest album, Del Rey is not one of them.

Whether or not Del Rey actually knew the definition of feminism before she rejected it in a recent interview, her statements, lyrics and music videos prove that she wants nothing to do with the movement. In her most recent album, set for release early next week, Del Rey not only perpetuates her helpless, damsel-in-distress image, but verbally promotes violence against women. If we as a society accept the disempowered form of femininity that Del Rey embodies, young women are truly in trouble.

Since her first commercial hit, “Video Games,” in which she attempts to lure a neglectful romantic partner by wearing his “favorite sundress,” Del Rey has taken on the persona of powerless victim who depends on men for validation and support. The vast majority of the music videos on her official YouTube channel feature her wrapped around the arm of a man, crooning lyrics such as “You went out every night, and baby that’s all right / I told you that no matter what you did, I’d be by your side.” Compare this to lyrics by artists such as Beyoncé, who spices up her more contentious lyrics with woman-power lines such as, “I’m reppin’ for the girls who taking over the world / Help me raise a glass for the college grads.”

Whether or not Del Rey actually believes the helpless, desperate-for-attention words in her songs is irrelevant—her lyrics position her as the powerless victim of evil men, and her music videos cast her as little more than arm candy. As singer Lorde said when asked her opinion on Del Rey’s music, “This sort of shirt-tugging, desperate, ‘don’t leave me’ stuff, that’s not a good thing for young girls, even young people, to hear.” Hearing celebrities define themselves as feminists is undoubtedly beneficial for young women, but it’s perhaps more important for those young women to witness a feminist example played out in popular culture.

If Del Rey makes any claims to personal agency at all, it is through her sexuality (see the track “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” off of her latest album.) While feminists can debate whether blatant sexuality is beneficial or detrimental to women, Del Rey’s version is not only disempowering, it can be dangerous. Her new album’s title track, “Ultraviolence,” is an ode to domestic abuse, with lyrics such as, “He hit me and it felt like true love” (an uncredited homage to the 1960s song by the Crystals, “He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss”). There is a line between espousing different sexual preferences (think Rihanna’s “S&M”) and glamorizing violence against women, and Del Rey crosses it with this track.

Del Rey is also known for modeling herself after the character Lolita from Vladimir Nabokov’s book of the same name—a guise she uses to explain her preference for older men and her penchant for baby talk in her songs. Anyone who has read Lolita, however, knows that the book is not about a grown woman choosing to be involved with older men, but about a man sexually abusing a child. Again, Del Rey crosses a line.

In the same interview in which she rejects feminism, Del Rey offers her own definition of a “true feminist”: “a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” By claiming that a true feminist would simply do whatever she chooses, Del Rey is denying the lived reality of her women fans: Misogyny continues to restrain women from doing “whatever they want” by way of the wage gap, discrimination in hiring, sexual harassment and sexual assault, to name a few roadblocks. If celebrities dropped the damsel-in-distress act and stood up for women’s rights, we might find ourselves closer to what Lana Del Rey described as “true feminism.”

Photo of Lana Del Rey courtesy of Flickr user Jaguar MENA

Ms profile pic

Emily Shugerman is a politics major at Occidental College and an intern at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I don’t know if she rejects feminism in the same way someone like Taylor Swift does. It seems like she just doesn’t want to market herself on a girl power platform, rather than an all out anti-feminist. From the original Fader interview: “In any case, her comments on the subject will be disappointing for both camps: “For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept,” she says. “I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.” Fortunately, her ambivalence about politics doesn’t undo any subversiveness that may be embedded in her work (though, nor does it excuse any ill it may cause). When pressed, she adds, more illuminatingly, “My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” I ask her why she’s always being choked in her videos, and she gives a fitting answer: “I like a little hardcore love.” That raises an important point: she’s the one willing these scenarios into existence, romanticizing the very things that hurt her.”

    Though I would agree that some of her songs don’t promote the best messages for young women. But perhaps that’s just her expressing her own lived experiences.

  2. This article comes across as extremely ignorant. Have we forgot that art(yes that includes music) is not always about promotion, it’s about self expression and artistic value. Just because some creates a piece on something does not mean they promote it. Also if the writer of this article is a true feminist, tearing down other woman for their views on the gender battle does not seem very feminist to me.

    • So we have to support every line of BS another woman utters so we won’t look disloyal? Yeah, no.

    • Bravo.
      I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks that this article is somehow against the concept of art and feminism. I agree completely with the LDR’s affirmation: a woman doing whatever she wants FREELY and without rejection or reprimands. SHE IS FREE. Why don’t you listen to other songs?

      I think that this situation has turned not only into “women vs. men”, but also into “women vs.women”.

      • Feminism can be a roadblock or an avenue. Many modern women/girls look at feminism as an obelisk and the shape thereof. I, as a man, feel that I should not hinder women in the least. Yes, I have opinions and I am thrilled at femininity. LDR and Lorde and the feminine future of vocal artistry should keep on evolving. Celebrate the GRRRL in all!

    • I would agree with this comment if it applied to all music, because when men talk about raping women, sharing women with their friends, and making her suck them up people are quickly offended… but then again… it is just their self expression, correct? I don’t believe this article is ignorant because I happen to be a die hard Lana fan, but “Fucked My Way To The Top” as well as other lyrics and even the way Lana portrays herself in “Ride” is a horrible example to set for young girls. Despite Lana’s elegant and classy image, her lyrics and “self expression” are saying other wise, so while it is fine & dandy that we, as women, allow her to express her art how she feels, we will have to stick to that and not criticize a men when he openly talks about exploiting women as Lana is exploiting herself.

      • Compliments for you wonderful answer and reasoning. Interesting.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more. So what if LDR enjoys and gets pleasure from “hardcore love” and that some of her lyrics promote misogyny….it’s mostly directed at herself anyway! So whether this is how she really feels and she’s just choosing to express the inner pain she’s experienced in her life or not, It’s LDR’s right to do that. I’m a huge fan of hers and I am also a feminist. But what I gather from this article, is that the people behind Ms. magazine blog really do get some sick and twisted Joy out of pitting female against female…and whomever renounces being a feminist is somehow the enemy. LDR is most certainly NOT the enemy, our selfish state of minds and apathetic society are to blame for that unfortunately.

    • Lizzy, I don’t mean to come off as harsh here…but if you have any concept of the value of art and the artist in society, you would know that it is the artist’s role to be self-expressive but to also CHALLENGE DOMINANT STEREOTYPES. In Lana’s case, she’s not doing anything new or creatively subversive. Some of her songs sound nice, for sure…but at the end of the day, her lyrics and self-representation are extremely problematic and don’t propel mainstream society further in any way. Ultimately, most of the shit she does is regressive. I don’t know one true artist whom I look up to or whom has had any sort of longevity or influence on the art world, whose work is based entirely on bringing back regressive values, beliefs, and stereotypes from the past. Typically, when an artist does bring those things back in their work, it’s to make a social critique/commentary of them. (Can I get an all hail PATTI SMITH please).

  3. This is all false. Supports violence? Really? It’s a damn metaphor. She talks about domestic violence but she does not support it in any way. She tells the story of her loving a person so much that she would do anything and go through anything for them which ends in a tragedy. She does not support it, SHE IS TELLING A STORY. And just because she doesn’t find the topic of feminism interesting she is automatically a bad influence?? I think she is a great role model because Lana has gone through hell and back and she is still happy and alive. I love her love stories even though it always ends tragically. It shows how hard life and love can be. So the person who published this should do their research and not be a hard core feminist. Ps. Lorde is totally a great influence, ya know, trashing other female music artists. (*sarcasm*)

    • Your response reflects an infatuation of celebrities to the detriment of society- not to mention your own. Why are you so insulted by this articles argument which was well constructed and well supported? You are so defensive of Lana del Ray as if she were your goddess and you worship at her shrine daily. You are right as an “artist” she would have the right to express herself and her life experiences as she wishes- but choosing to portray a weakened persona, a victim as demonstrated by her lyrics is NOT a positive role model. You may choose to revel in such debility, but when young women who are not from rich and affluent east-coast families are faced with domestic violence in their real lives not because they CHOOSE but because they come from an impoverished background, her music is demeaning not artistic.

  4. You should have used this platform to show Lana how her songs could be “read” as feminist. Instead of perpetuating the same boring argument, you could have twisted her narrative towards something positive. These artists need to know that feminism is not a bad word. You’re just alienating her (and her audience) by writing articles like this.

    Lana still seems to be wary of the word feminist but I think she clears some of it up in an interview with the New York Times.

    “A recurring criticism was that her songs about being swept away by love were anti-feminist in their passivity; she contends that she was writing about private, immediate feelings, not setting out doctrine. “For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants,” she said. “If my choice is to, I don’t know, be with a lot of men, or if I enjoy a really physical relationship, I don’t think that’s necessarily being anti-feminist. For me the argument of feminism never really should have come into the picture. Because I don’t know too much about the history of feminism, and so I’m not really a relevant person to bring into the conversation. Everything I was writing was so autobiographical, it could really only be a personal analysis.”

    http://nyti.ms/1qBhJde

    She’s interested in her personal narrative. These larger labels, tropes and ideas were never her intention, they were never part of her songwriting. I think we need to take a step back and stop thinking in such binary ways. She could have used your help in realizing her inner feminist. But instead you’re perpetuating the anti-feminism critique which further alienates everyone from women’s rights.

  5. Couple issues.
    1. As she states on her official website, Lana’s album is being released on the 17th….not tomorrow
    2. Her Ultraviolence lyrics are “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” and “He hurt me but it felt like true love”
    3. Ultraviolence is not an ode to domestic abuse. It’s about time she spent with an underground group in New York. Quote from an interview “I used to be a member of an underground sect which was reigned by a guru. He surrounded himself with young girls. He thought that he had to break people first to build them up again. At the end I quit the sect.”
    4. “Fucked My Way to the Top” is not in fact about her, but someone she knew. Quote from Lana Del Rey interview – “It’s about a singer who first sneered about my allegedly not authentic style but later she stole and copied it. And now she’s acting like I am the art project and she the true super artist. My God and people actually believe her, she’s successful! I shouldn’t continue ranting, it doesn’t get anywhere.”

    Trust me I could continue to share mistakes from this article but it’s not my responsibility to ensure statements you make are accurate.

    Here are the links I got the quotes from:
    http://rock.rapgenius.com/Lana-del-rey-ultraviolence-lyrics
    http://perezhilton.com/2014-06-08-lana-del-rey-anonymous-shade/?from=post#.U5ojhI1dUx4

    • Thank you!
      a) no one asked her if she wanted to be the perfect feminist role model. Yes, she is in the public eye, but that doesn’t make he accountable to every girl and woman in the world; it’s very unfair and unrealistic to dump that on her like she doesn’t, or shouldn’t, have a choice in the matter. The author of the first article is on a VERY slippery slope stating that “how she (Lana) feels…is irrelivent”. That sounds EXACTLY like the arguments on the other side of the fence telling women their thoughts and feelings are lesser to men’s. The author is essentially stripping Lana of her personhood for the sake of the “greater feminist good”. That is SO not the way to help women.
      b) if you’re so worried about little girls using her lyrics as a role model, make better parents! My mother told me exactly what it meant to stand up for myself and have good role models so I didn’t feel like I only had celebrities to look up to. Education is the best route for everything, including women’s rights; teach your children some f*cking history and perspective so they stop trying to imitate fake celebrity crap!
      c) Hey, Author! Have you ever felt helpless?? Have you ever felt crushing pressure to live up to expectations?? Have you ever been in a damn abusive relationship?! I have. And you know something? Listening to Ultraviolence is like hearing my thoughts at the time played out to music; it was actually a bit healing even. Mate you should take a minute and actually listen to some of the lyrics and think about a different group of girls, the group who has been through the same struggles and can identify with the feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and looking to others to feel validated. She doesn’t promote those things, her lyrics say that she has been through and/or knows of some really hard struggles, but that she overcame them. That’s the message; you can make it through whatever harsh realities life throws at you.

  6. I’ve gotta say bravo for this article. As a fifteen year old girl, I barley knew anything about feminism or what it means to be a feminist until just a few months ago. I’ve learnt that feminism is often misunderstood, frowned upon and thrown under the bus because women should just stop being man haters or need to think about “more important causes’ or the worst I’ve read yet, sit down and accept nothing can or ever will change. I’ve realised that in order for us to become equal, we need to start from the younger generation – the generation that will be running the future. Looking back, I’ve seen that sometimes blatant sexism has happened right in front of my eyes and I was so unaware that I didn’t even realise. Young people, including myself (well until I read this article) look up to Lana and to think that shes sending such a horrible message and thinks its okay because its somehow art? That doesn’t sit well with me. I will not be buying her new album.

    • Don’t base your opinion of Lana on this article. It’s almost entirely untrue. I encourage you to read some of the other comments and to look into other articles about Lana’s music.

    • Art doesn’t excuse, but art is a non-discriminatory platform. For as far as I am concerned, music and movies are allowed to portray less-than-perfect female stories. What matters is that the idols – the actors and singers – do not spread untruths about empowerment and sexism. Art is open for interpretation (and I do not believe Lana’s music is misogynist, it is self-loathing sometimes but not loathing to womanhood or women in general – there IS a difference, being a woman shouldn’t obligate you to be healthy or shut up) – celebrities advocating ideas or wrong interpretations is NOT open for interpretation and should be addressed.

  7. Lana Del Rey is an artist. Her music is poetry. She isn’t part of politics or other movements, she is just putting her art out to the world. This sounds like when people took all of Eminems lyrics seriously. If all artists took all their lyrics seriously then I guess Eminem advocates killing people, specifically spouses and I guess Kesha, Katy Perry and Rihianna want everybody to drink and have promiscuous sex. And the Beatles want everybody to trip off drugs.
    If you want a “feminist” leader stop looking for it in musical artists.

    • I agree Lana can be herself regardless of politics and has a right to say what she feels, but I disagree that feminism cannot look at or even analyse and criticize pop culture. That’s not entirely fair. Just because you do not like the analysis does not mean it doesn’t have a place in the world – so the logic you use is in fact mutual.

  8. Emma Bowers says:

    This is an absolute bullshit article. First of all, artists should not write with their audience in mind. The goal of any artist is to produce profound work, which is what Lana does. The fact is: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS ALIVE AND WELL, CRIME IS ALIVE AND WELL, PROSTITUTION IS ALIVE AND WELL. What Lana does, is embody these downtrodden characters, and write from their point of view. It gives a voice to people with less-than-perfect lives. Most victims of domestic violence love their partners-it’s not right of course-but it’s true. Music isnt supposed to be a huge public service announcement, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ART! I have been a Lana fan for about four years. I listened to her music when I was sixteen. I listened to her songs about young girls fallings for older men, being used, and doing many illegal things. Guess what? My record is clear, I’ve never touched any drugs, I have a 3.7 GPA, am pursuing two degrees as an undergrad, and plan to go to law school. I have also never let any man control me. Why? Because her music does not promote any of these actions! It’s just music!

  9. So not to sound mean, but you have no right to say such things about Lana. She is identified in herself, not Lolita, or being a ‘powerless victim.’ She is one of the strongest female singers out there, and while she may not be YOUR definition of a ‘true feminist’, but she is mine. She is empowered THROUGH her music, and her own will. Whenever she hit a rough spot in her career, she powers through, never giving up. So, while being very biased, you have also managed to anger an entire fan base.

    • You had a great point and then you said “you have also managed to anger an entire fanbase”.

      That should never matter. And as someone who is idealistic, like you, that should be obvious. Offending a group shouldn’t be our motivation or demotivation to express ourselves. You are saying this person will be persecuted/punished by a group for speaking and that is not a rational reaction nor a useful discussion.

  10. What I find ironic, Emily is that you talk about what the true definition of feminism is and how Lana is nowhere near it with her music. However nowhere in this article do you acutally give what you view as the true defining characteristic of the “movement”. The only part of your musings that gives any indicaiton at all about how you see feminisim is when you reference lyrics from Beyonce… “I’m reppin’ for the girls who taking over the world”. Sure, the college grads portion of that song I 100% agree with as higher education is something that should be afforded to everyone, regardless of gender. Referening that line or an artist like Lorde as an attempt to tear down Lana Del Rey is laughable at best… because Royals is such a great example of a song that is positive for young girls.

  11. Well, in his opinion, everyone has to think the same as you, then? Does Lana can not have your opinion and your vision of life according to their experiences and needs? Does Lana reflect the opinion of Elizabeth? Post very enlightening about the message you wanted to send, seemed more a review criticizing a singer that you don’t than like what a post expressing his opinion about her position on the issue.

  12. If you did your research on Lana, she writes her songs as if they were about men, but they’re actually about the alcohol abuse she went through when she was younger. She breaks the mold by going to deep dark places that people don’t want to talk about. She is an artist, and she creates stories, and characters. If you’re gonna bash on Lana you better bash on Rihanna. You better bash on any rapper who degrades women. You better get your facts straight before writing an article about someone you know nothing about.

    Oh and there is nothing wrong with being Dependant on a man. That doesn’t make a woman weak. That only means the woman is aware she doesn’t have everything figured out, that she can be vulnerable with someone, and that’s okay. Stop demonizing men.

  13. If her actions are not feminist and she said she isn’t feminist, then what is the problem? Sure she is big and many people, a lot of whom are young women, look up to her and listen to her music, but that is just it. It is her music. It is her art. Is she not an artist? Are artists not allowed to express themselves? Are they not allowed to have different views, glorifying different things, expressing different beliefs? Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a household of domestic violence and I’ve seen first hand what that environment creates and how those twisted relationships form and continue. I am also all about equality and the feminist movement, but it sounds like this article tries to shame her for not being a feminist.

    Lana del Rey makes beautiful art. She sings of lost love, drugs, violence, regret, sex, the list goes on. She openly admits to not being part of the movement and I am glad that she can acknowledge that and owns it. She doesn’t claim to be a beacon of female power. The article makes it clear by comparing her to Beyonce. That isn’t hear art and that is her music. She produces what she knows and feels. It would seem that her definition is in lining with her music, in that she doesn’t feel she is a feminist.

    To shame her for that seems and feels wrong. Not everyone is a Beyonce, a Mallika Sherawat, a Wendy Davis, you get the picture. Feminism is about fighting for rights and equality, not each other. We march forward for everyone’s equality including Lana del Rey’s even if she isn’t fighting for it herself.

  14. Stefania says:

    Please, this is nonsense.
    You’re getting it all wrong. First of all:
    Video Games: Please tell me you’ve NEVER used a garment just because your partner liked more. We’ve all done, let’s not be hypocrites.
    Second, the phrase mentioned in the song Blue Jeans, speaks only of unconditional love she felt for him.
    If they paid real attention to her, the videos and lyrics would realize that she never speaks of hopelessness or despair. And much less dependence on a man, on the other hand speaks of the kindness of strangers she met in her life. Above all the lyrics speaks of love, strength and faith.
    Her lyrics are very personal, tell the real story behind Lana.

    Third: # Ultraviolence is not about violence itself.
    It is from the book / movie A Clockwork Orange.
    She does not promote gender violence. She mentioned on other occasions “like a little rough.” The quote “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” speaks of a twisted relationship she passed by, is not saying that is really good or cool. She´s just telling her story…

    And personally I think she is right: This is not a battle of men against women. Women should be able to do whatever we want. Period.
    And if we could love each others more and argue less maybe we should not worry about things like gender violence, sexism / feminism.
    We would respect everyone equally.

  15. I’ll try to be kind about this but come on, this is ridiculous. Lana Del Rey has been through a lot, and although she was born to a producer dad and “successful family,” she didn’t depend on them. She went through drug and alcohol problems and managed to get out of it all. She was part of an AA program, which is the group mentioned in Ultraviolence (the song) and Jim is the leader of that group. Lana says in her Ride music video that she has a chameleon soul, which she has shown by going from Elizabeth Grant to May Jailer to Lizzy Grant to Lana Del Ray to Lana Del Rey, not to mention her other aliases like Sparkle Jump Rope Queen. This woman has always done what she wanted, been who she wanted to be, and who are you to judge her portrayal of her own definition of feminism? When I listened to Ultraviolence (the album) last night before going to sleep, I began to cry. Was I crying because I felt like my idol was promoting rape, abuse, violence, narcissism, or anti-feminism? No. I was crying because I couldn’t believe how STRONG the lyrics were. She can have people listen to her heartaches and heartbreaks… I could never do that. She can make art out of her misfortunes and exploits… I could never do that. Never once have I felt like she was singing that men were stronger or more important. I heard the words and pleading of a woman in love, a woman who was willing to give up everything to be with that one special man. If a man sang the same lyrics but to a woman, I bet people would applaud him for being such a “gentleman” instead of being a man against his own gender. Oh and guess what? One of the tracks on Ultraviolence, titled Brooklyn Baby, is actually about a relationship and she says that she’s “cooler” than him. She’s not afraid to compliment herself or stand up for herself. Don’t write a puff piece disguised under the mask of equality, period. As you can see, she has many supporters willing to stand up for her lyrics, her music, and most importantly, for her.

  16. “For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants,” she said. “If my choice is to, I don’t know, be with a lot of men, or if I enjoy a really physical relationship, I don’t think that’s necessarily being anti-feminist. For me the argument of feminism never really should have come into the picture. Because I don’t know too much about the history of feminism, and so I’m not really a relevant person to bring into the conversation. Everything I was writing was so autobiographical, it could really only be a personal analysis.”

  17. LDR is very different from Taylor Swift & etc. I think there is a great misinterpretation of what she stated in the interview and what she sings. This ‘violent’ theme has been in Lana’s music from the beginning, mostly relating to the fact that when women are in abusive relationships they find it difficult to leave because of fear, hope that they will change, love, and worrying not being able to find love anywhere else among other reasons. You have looked at her songs in a shallow perspective and I believe that is why you are misinterpreting her. I am even surprised by your interpretation of what Lana said in the interview, obviously she is aware that women are restrained in society thus she says women should do what they want. I guess people in this day and age of mindless music just can no longer see through the surface value of music as an art form. It is truly a shame. Lana’s music is pretty much poetry, it is so dynamic, unique and beautiful. I would love to rant about this more but I believe there is just no point.

  18. lana del rey is a moron, but from the artistic perspective I guess she is very stereotypical and I HATE her boring music and despise her videos, she is sooooo annoying boring ass, anyways I agree that is harmful to listen to her bullshit, its NEVER EVER healthy to be willing to “leave everything for (so called) love”, thats NOT love, thats CODEPENDENCY, and I guess thats why a lot of codependent defend her, no wonder

    • Sometimes love is codependency. Personally I feel you would be missing out on a lot of love if you never allowed yourself to feel any kind of dependency for it. Love is a tightrope walk and you are allowed to lose balance sometimes if you stay true to who you truly are inside. There are ways to rely on someone else’s love without losing that. I cannot imagine loving my partner without needing them and their affection.

  19. Listen, of the songs I’ve heard, Del Rey’s album has tone’s of the 70′s rock scene. She refers to Lou Reed in another song. I believe “Ultraviolence” is a song telling a story about Jim Morrison who was somewhat violent when he drank. I’ve heard several stories of him acting violently towards Patty Smith and Nico. However, he is a difficult character to hate, he was an icon after all (maybe even a “cult leader”). Perhaps, she is commenting on our obsession with those in the lime light? Maybe, she is urging people to think twice about staying in domestic violence situations? I certainly didn’t think it shed a positive light on domestic violence, but, rather, quetioned in. She did study philosophy, so I think it’s important to think critically about what her music is really saying. Surely, she understands irony, metaphors, sub-text, etc.
    Additionally, I think Del Rey’s point on feminism is one that many women share. I think she has the idea that there is no longer a glass ceiling and therefore femenism is obsoelete. Afterall, she is successful, why would she assume women in this country cannot acheive the same success?

  20. Yikes. The art police are back in action. I run a feminist website (lunalunamag.com) and I’m also a poet. My writing subverts and exaggerates “anti feminist” situations and feelings as a way of confronting them.

    Not every artist can be a clean feminist.

    I take issue with her dumb and lazy interview comment on feminism but I’m not going to break down art.

    The day we make art into a totally happy, positive healthy thing is the day we kill it.

  21. Hello there Ms. Shugerman, I unfortunately disagree with your article. Firstly I would like to point out that the lyric that you sampled “He hit me and it felt like true love” does not exist. The song in question (Ultraviolence) contains the following lyrics “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” and “He hurt me but it felt like true love” but never “He hit me and it felt like true love” as you claim, thus your article is already unreliable and not worth anyone’s time. Furthermore, I do consider myself a feminist, and I am deeply ashamed of Lana for not knowing the true definition of the word. However, I do strongly agree with the artist’s message of what true feminism is “a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” (I hope that you properly quoted that). I think that the points that you bring up against her statement are completely ludicrous. You say that “Misogyny continues to restrain women from doing “whatever they want” by way of the wage gap, discrimination in hiring, sexual harassment and sexual assault, to name a few roadblocks” but what does Del Rey have to do with any of that? She is not a politician that can enforce laws against discrimination and overall sexism. Grant (Lana Del Rey’s actual name) is not a magical being that can protect women against sexual assault and violence. In the song Ultraviolence, when Grant says “He hit me and it felt like a kiss”, I do not find that she is romanticizing abuse but rather that she is showing how twisted the type of relationship described in the song is. She says “He hurt me but it FELT like true love” not that it was true love. Furthermore, her song “Video Games” was based on an actual relationship that Grant was involved in. Del Rey has not “taken on the persona of powerless victim who depends on men for validation and support” since the female character in the song is, in fact, herself, not a made up version of a helpless damsel. Moreover, I don’t see what is wrong with Del Rey being “wrapped around the arm of a man” if that’s what she wants. You seem to be saying that any male presence in a female’s life will have a negative impact on the woman. Feminism is all about BOTH genders being equal and being able to do what they want. Therefore, by stating that Del Rey being wrapped around some man is sexist you are stating that women should not be wrapped around men and thus that women actually can not do what they what, which is SEXIST.

  22. wait, what?

    Beyonce had a producer dad, put her in drama school, put her in talent shows, then pushed her to Destiny’s Child, which he wrote/managed. Handed on a plate.

    Gaga went to drama school, was in a crap cover band until she met her producer boyfriend, who set her up as Lady Gaga we know today. Sleeping her way to the top?

    Lizzie Grant taught herself music and songwriting on a guitar, played bar shows to help pay her way through college, released a couple of albums that flopped, but KEPT GOING and writing and performing because she knew what she wanted. When Born To Die came out, it was the result of ten years of hard work and dedication on Lana’s part. She knew what she wanted and went for it, despite the setbacks. Can’t think of a better definition of Girl Power and Feminism than that.

  23. So sad to see all the drones coming out to defend Del Ray. So glad to see someone calling her out on her detrimental lyrics. Just because she’s poses herself as a tragic victim who finds release in her music makes her neither strong or complex; it just makes her someone who poses herself as a tragic figure. How she speaks about her music and its impact are what make her strong, complex, and a feminist worthy of admiration. Sadly, she has nothing to offer in her commentary that even remotely addresses personal agency.

  24. Wow, this article was deplorable to say the least. Lana’s songs are not ‘odes to domestic abuse’. These are her experiences, her real stories, not a political stance or belief. Lana’s music is real, her lyrics are real and convey her troubled history. Before you write an article demonising an enchanting singer, please do proper research and understand your subject before you choose to vilify them for not standing for a certain view. Feminism is not compulsory, it does not have to apply to everyone. In fact, what you’re doing here is almost like archetypical gender-roling (which i believe many ‘feminists’ are against). It’s like holding up a pink teddy bear in one hand, and a blue teddy bear in the other and stating that if a female girl does not choose the pink teddy bear, they are wrong and untrue to their gender. Feminism is a stance, not something we are obligated to support because we were born with a pare of female genitals. Feminism does not own us, it does not own music, it does not own media, and does not own Lana.
    Also, what is wrong with Lana’s perception of what feminism is? “A woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants”. Is this not feminism aims to advocate? For women to be freed from societal grips and restrictions? For women to have equal rights as men (as much freedom as men?)
    Lana from a young age has been confronted with so many issues, her music is her release, her mind, body and soul gifted to us through our ears.
    This is disgusting. In a world where there is clearly a social division between men and women, how can you further disregard and hurt other woman, the exact way you fear men will hurt you?

  25. Joe Serrano says:

    The author clearly missed the point of Lolita…

  26. If you take her songs, or any song in general so literally, you are probably going to misunderstand the meaning. Lana’s songs are about feeling. She y puts her emotions into her songs so we can relate and feel them as well. That is just what artists do. She isn’t promoting any form of lifestyle or politics. This is how she feels. This is what she experienced. Even if she was trying to speak against feminism, who are we to judge? Its everyone’s right to express what they believe. and Lana Del Rey has the right to put her story in her songs. If you do not appreciate her, don’t pay attention to her.

  27. Guglhupf says:

    The most stupid thing women can do to other women is to divide them into the two categories “feminist” and “anti-feminist” (friend or foe), and judging them. One mare biting the other, the old story.
    I’m bored to death by that self-empowered feminist attitude of some popstars, the author quoting Beyoncé who just made that Crazy-Horse-like vid to please her hubby…
    I find Lana del Rey multifaceted, original and deep, even if a lot of the description in the article would fit her – but just on the outside. She is smart enough not to be caught in the superficial interpretation of the author of this article makes of some of her attitudes. Besides, the music is beautiful, and don’t forget it’s about music, too.

  28. “Anyone who has read Lolita, however, knows that the book is not about a grown woman choosing to be involved with older men, but about a man sexually abusing a child. ”

    Actually, anyone who’s read Lolita knows it’s about a murderer defending/explaining himself and how he ended up in the situation in the first place while using an excellent mastery of English and narration. It’s a great book, don’t make it sound like smut.

    Also Lolita herself would be a fine role model, but there shouldn’t be any baby talk involved…

  29. Ollie Butler says:

    Lana Del Rey’s music does appeal to our baser instincts as women…kind of a throwback to pre-feminist modes of feminity. But if you know anything about the music industry…you know that appealing to people’s baser instincts – arguably our default settings – is where the money is. Did you know Eminem made conscious music before he got famous? lol…nope. because he couldn’t get famous doing that. He got to the top saying the most violent, bigotted, misogynistic things he could think of. This is just the nature of the beast.

    Sure, her message isnt particularly feminist, but it is unique right now because its almost so unapologetically un feminist. She is a throwback to where we came from, and to where you or I may still find ourselves emotionally from time to time. sometimes it feels good to linger on the pain….

  30. I strongly disagree with this article. For starters, i think it gives too much power to pop music. Women don’t and will not accept the victim/damsel in distress role because LanaDel Rey said so in her songs, much as Beyoncé’s lyrics did not push the femminist movement any further (and we might debate for hours on Beyoncé’s femminism given her male-centric dress code). Secondly the author here misses the subtilty in Del Rey’s work. Like Nabokov’s lolita, which apparentely the author of this article never read, in Lana’s song, the weak damsel, the victim, uses her weakness to conquer and rule and always stays in command.

    • Although I also disagree with the article, I have to disagree with your counter points as well.

      Just because damsels in distress in the media will not directly lead to real women wanting to be victims, you have to acknolwedge that it is important for young women to have strong rolemodels who say ‘no’ to being mistreated in case they ever find themselves in the same situation. Just because Eminem does not cause school shootings, doesn’t mean we can’t be concerned about his songs about murdering people having a negative effect in some indirect or small way. With that said I don’t even believe Lana promotes weakness or being a victim, but I just wanted to point our your point is incomplete.

      Secondly I strongly disagree that you suggest that women using weakness to conquer is an acceptable alternative to feminism/empowerment. That is like saying that fucking your way to the top is a valid way to show your talents. Manipulation, begging and prettying up are not cool, no matter what your gender is or what it ends up getting you. That is like saying you are in control by giving the control to someone else and they took it. It is not empowerment and it is in fact – in my opinion – a harmful concept. It would tell teenage girls that their pride is an acceptable currency to get what they want. Mind that you specifically said “uses her weakness”, not “her weakness results in”.

  31. This article dives too quickly into devouring Lana as an ‘anti-feminist’ and spends too little time actually considering what her music is about. Del Rey is an artist and her music depicts her memories and experiences; who says that she’s an advocate for domestic abuse because she’s experienced it? This article just made me slightly sad that before you even attempted to understand her even as an artist as well as a human, you dived straight into judging her and labelling her as ‘not a feminist.’ I think your own personal issue of that she didn’t label herself as a feminist affected the whole article. Lana is an artist and all she ever really does is what she ‘feels is right,’ just because she doesn’t comply with everything that is thrown at her (she gets a fuck lot of criticism for her work) does not mean she’s a bad or misunderstanding person or that “rejects feminism” (which she didn’t actually do.)

  32. This is like saying Shakespeare advocated for suicide when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. Art and politics are two different things. That is why one is called art and one is called politics. This article makes the assumption artists are required to have a political agenda, whereas artists in fact, political or not, by nature of the creative instict, reflect the world we live in all it’s contradictions and paradoxes so the audience can understand themselves and the world in a deeper way. This is the brilliance of Ms. Grant and the archetypal tapestry she creates with her music. Her songs could be argued equally to be Pro Feminist because she exposes the realities of women in relationships where their head and their heart tell them two different things.

    • Writing songs about being a doormatt is taking a political stance. She already hooked herself into politics.

      I’m tired of hearing this argument. If you have power you must decide how to use it. That’s your responsibility. “Artist” or not.

  33. Normally I don’t comment on Ms. articles but I felt compelled to do so for this one. I think more research should have been done regarding Lana’s work before writing this piece. Art is subjective and people will take from it what they want to. For example, when I heard Ultraviolence I did not think that it promoted domestic violence but told a story of something that many women experience. Even though their abuser physically, emotionally, and mentally torments them many women will still continue to think that the man loves her and she will continue to say that she loves him and stays with him. I don’t think it’s promoting the violence but just telling the story of what many women go through on a daily basis. Now, whether or not that was the true intention of the song I don’t know but I’m just pointing out that there can be different interpretations to an artist’s work. In addition, a lot of art tells a deeply personal story and can contain many metaphors for things other than what is on the surface. I think instead of automatically tearing someone down just because they did not say something you wanted to hear we should be having healthy debates and discussions about what the art could represent. Oh, and please do some more research before writing a piece like this because otherwise it looks like the harsh judgmental feminism that drives others away rather than something that can draw others closer to the often misunderstood concept of feminism.

  34. I think you’re both awfully right and awfully wrong. First the two things I fundamentally disagree on.

    Firstly the songs – you say: “Since her first commercial hit, ‘Video Games,’ in which she attempts to lure a neglectful romantic partner by wearing his ‘favorite sundress,’ Del Rey has taken on the persona of powerless victim who depends on men for validation and support. ”

    This is not only flawed rhetoric, it is in my opinion also something that exposes your lack of objectivity, making your entire point less credible. There is nothing “powerless victim” about ‘Video Games’, it is a song about deeply loving someone, how love can make life better as a whole and how we all crave to be loved back. There is nothing sexist about that, and demonizing any form of emotional dependence on anyone else is a very unhealthy view on feminism. Secondly you yourself presume the song is only about male/female love. If she was lesbian and this song was about a woman, you would not be crying sexism, then? Because it would be the other female having the power? Your point here is simply flawed.

    Secondly I deeply disagree with your sentiment that dependence and desperation are not allowed to be expressed. That is giving in to exactly what we are fighting. Telling women they can’t wear skirts because that’s what men want(ed), and telling them they can’t be vulnerable or a mess because that’s what men think or thought. Every woman is allowed to exist, feel and express in her own right – if she is unstable, desperate, dependent on a partner (male or female) or not, and they are allowed to have a voice and be heard. I prefer strong female rolemodels, too, but denying the other end of the spectrum a voice is like banning your own product. She is allowed to be this way and be it out loud. She is allowed to express her feelings, even if dysfunctional, and just because they happen to be for a man doesn’t make it misogynist. A very wrong point – you are not like me, therefore you cannot speak up as you may misrepresent me.

    What I DO agree with – I agree that Lana Del Rey is harmful. I think every woman who expresses a disregard for feminism *without knowing what they are saying* is an evil. And a big one, at that.

    To me being a feminist means two things directly – firstly, it means that I can exist and express myself honestly however I truly am – secondly, it means that I have a right to form an informed opinion and express it and have it be heard just as much. When “we women” are fighting for a voice to be listened to and taken seriously, and to receive the RIGHT information (not a warped idea of what we should be), it is the biggest crime of all when we deny ourselves that. I do not care for the Bible, so if anyone asks me, I say I do not know – I do not go out and say it is a boring book or a useless religion. Lana should have the same respect for the beliefs that granted her the right to be how she is in spite of the criticism, from both feminists and non-feminists.

  35. To say she’s not a feminist is an understatement. Her new album glorifies violence against women and her new video shows her delightfully being taken advantage by an older man. Also, I think Gaga retracted the not a feminist statement.

  36. And Doris Lessing, of course. Just saying. Why do women have to have their opinions policed?

  37. Ok, I haven’t read all the comments, because really aint nobody got time for that, but I read a lot of them and guys, please, PLEASE LORDe, hear me out. The title of this article is Lana Del Rey: not a feminist, and she herself has said those words, and the article really just keeps proving the point of the damn article which is, here we go again: Lana Del Rey is not a feminist. Now, what the article does that is very cool in itself is to tell us what happens when someone that is on the spotlight, like Ms Del Rey is, keeps showing us domestic violence and the abuse of women without any statement of criticism towards those acts; and that is: those things (violence and abuse towards women) keep being reassured as normal, expected and predictable and happen to also give strength to a patriarchal society that does not do women any favors. I presume that the article was written by a feminist and I, as a fellow feminist, have to say that what I read some truths which are:
    1. she is not a feminist
    2. her songs are not empowering of women and that can, and probably will, damage/influence how young girls that like her and listen to her songs view themselves and the situations in which they encounter themselves in
    3. art cannot be excused for being art and neither can an influencing person, such as Ms Del Rey, be excused of their actions and statements because they claim to be making art

    ps.: ok, now, lady gaga did say that but she has made another statement saying that she is a feminist link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8skCakDm1sM

  38. I support the message of this article. Maybe it is a little over the top, but still the main thing is that she did not identify as a feminist. She is perpetuating the notion that feminism is no longer needed in our society because women are already ‘free’ and equal to men, which is definitely not the case. While I don’t think the messages of her songs are great, their still her form of expression, so yeah, she’s free to do what she wants. However, she is realllly not doing the world any good by not educating herself on intersectional feminism and it’s extreme importance today, especially to the younger generation and the people who listen to her music. I don’t care if you don’t want to be labelled as ‘girl power’ music (which i don’t understand.. why wouldn’t you?), use your fame to support equal rights and stand against injustice to women. You don’t have to do anything major if you don’t want to. By simply agreeing that you are feminist, that alone is enough.

    • The Orwellian overtones of this comment and some of the other comments above is disgusting. To demand that Del Rey should promote feminism simply because she is a woman of power and fame is to demand that all female pop stars preach political correctness as if it is a mantra; that art must continually conform to the latest chic philosophies of leftism, be it feminism (i.e. Lorde and Beyoncé), gay rights (i.e. Lady Gaga), or whatever else. This goes completely against the values of these movements.
      Also, the contention that feminism is what has allowed Del Rey to be successful is ludicrous. It is patriarchy, which celebrates her sexuality, that has made her successful (as evident in “Fucked My Way Up To The Top”); not feminism, which has continually attempted to suppress her. She owes NOTHING to feminists.

  39. The passé ideologies of this article are truly disturbing. In contending that a woman trying to please her partner, even in a non-sexual manner, is an act of profound submission and subversiveness, the author suggests that romantic relationships must solely survive on the chivalry of the male. This is innately sexist.
    This ignorance continues into the author’s analysis of Del Rey’s song “Ultraviolence”. When stating that the line “he hit me and it felt like a kiss” somehow “glamorizes violence against women”, she fails to note that The Crystals song from which this was taken was written to condemn domestic abuse. Furthermore, the author blatantly reduces Del Rey’s music to its political content by neglecting to notice the complex power structure that exists within the work; while focusing exclusively on the antagonism of the male “villain” in Ultraviolence, she does not even mention the line “’cause I was filled with poison // but blessed with [...] rage”, which indicates that the “victim” (supposedly Del Rey) is not so innocent herself. This is, again, innately sexist.
    The purpose of this article was to argue that Del Rey “is not a feminist”. However, the author’s idea of feminism is much closer to sexism, as opposed to female empowerment. If we as a society accept the incredibly biased and uninformed form of feminism that the author embodies, young men AND young women are truly in trouble.

Speak Your Mind

*