FEMINISM 101: On Patriarchy, Authenticity and Lana Del Rey

I'm sure you all have heard about the new indie darling with her bee stung lips, sultry siren voice, eerily beautiful songs and retro aesthetic. I'm also pretty sure that you've noticed that right when the hype began taking off, the fall was soon to follow. Stories about her being a product, a fake, a dupe meticulously styled and marketed by her record company crept into the discourse when we learned about her (not so secret) past as Lizzy Grant (seriously, watch that vid and this one and tell me her singing and style are entirely different now compared to before the 'rebranding') and then there was that pivotal SNL performance that garnered her nothing but ridicule and /rolleyez. 

Now, one can't argue with taste, so I'm not going to try and turn all of you into rabid Lana Del Rey fans. However, the backlash against her makes me sick and has nothing to do with liking or disliking her music. It is just another case of patriarchy.

The gender issue is apparent in almost every bit of nasty commentary you read, but because we are SO used to reading reviews along the same lines, we just don't notice the misogyny. Read this article attentively and prepare to have your mind blown. For some reason, it is almost inconceivable for a female singer to make a claim to success without someone attributing that success to powerful men who pull the strings behind the curtains. Not always explicitly so, no, we have evolved past the age of in your face offensiveness. Sadly, the offense hasn't disappeared altogether, we have just gotten better at hiding our disdain behind seemingly objective criteria.

It might SEEM perfectly fine and even reasonable to say someone like Lana uses smart marketing to further her career. I wouldn't even deny it, and neither would she probably. But ask yourself: how often do you state the same about a male (pop)star? How often do you read a critic's review of a film or an album where they talk condescendingly about a woman's performance by 

- going on and on about her looks and the visuals while downplaying her professional accomplishments (often implying we have the producers to thank for the substance)

- putting a large emphasis on her mentors and inspirations who are mostly male, disregarding her own sound and input

- comparing her only with her female predecessors while her performance isn't actually entirely defined by her gender (f.e. people comparing Nicki Minaj to Lil' Kim while her style is a lot more similar to that of Busta Rhymes)

and how often do you read that same tone of voice in an article reviewing the product of male labor? Open a random magazine, read a music review and tell me you don't see it, glaringly obvious, jumping at you from the pages. So yes, when you are a woman performing, you have a 1000% larger chance at having your agency and authenticity questioned (I did the math). And since we live in a capitalist society, it is absolutely ridiculous to assume someone can make it in the entertainment business without streamlining their image and paying attention to the visuals that accompany the sounds. After all, television is our altar of worship. So why state the obvious to bash someone back into the obscurity they came from?

Authenticity is an illusion anyway. Chuck Palahniuk said it best in Invisible Monsters:

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”

And so are you, me and everyone we know. But Lana's lyrics speak to my teenage heart. Naked, raw honesty with a good dose of dramatic escapism, and a voice that is expressive rather than perfect. I love her.

Also, this sketch was perfection. Especially the bit about Lana coming across as awkward and distant BECAUSE she is awkward and distant. A lot of writing about her bashes her style and subjects because they "present a regressive femininity". Well, everyone who writes that obviously has never been a (teenage) girl. There's nothing wrong with being a girly girl, and we can be every type of woman we want to be, even if that woman is a passive Betty Draper type. The stuff she writes is real and relatable, whether they speak of a modern and emancipated individual or not. Also, not every woman in the world has the job to represent her gender-peers.Why is it so hard to see us as individuals?

It's utterly delightful (/irony) how a piece like the one I linked above goes out of its way to prove the anti-feminism of Lana while being as condescending as can possibly be towards teenage girls and their tastes. I got news for you, bro, teenage girls are enormously influential, diverse, awesome and have all the potential in the world. Quit disenfranchising them, dickhead.

And now go listen to some Lana!


  1. I'm a huge fan, so you don't have to convince me anymore, sweets! ;)

    x Krizia

    Shark Attack - Fashion Blog

  2. She has that amazing deep voice that I love. Its so different and unique. Love her style too....

    PS. accidentallyblogger.blogspot.com -in case you wanna take a look :)

  3. Punt, amen en uit. Ik ben het volledig eens met je "betoog" van het begin tot het einde. Op één of andere manier bereiken vrouwen hun succes niet onafhankelijk, maar worden ze steeds "geholpen" door één of andere man. Ofwel helpt de papa een beetje, ofwel heeft ze zich naar de top gesekst... Bij Lana del Rey zou haar vader zogezegd gezorgd hebben voor haar doorbraak.
    Ik ben haar muziek deze ochtend gaan opzoeken omdat er zoveel commotie rond haar persoon was en ik vind haar album gewoon weg schitterend. Net zoals jij zegt vind ik het muziek waarin je jezelf kan herkennen, zo weird is ze dus ook weer niet.
    En sorry, ik heb al vééél ergere optredens gezien (niet alleen van vrouwen, ook mannen kunnen wel is een flater begaan). Zo slecht zingt ze toch niet? Ik zou het in ieder geval niet aandurven om als jonge artiest ineens op Saterday Night Live het podium te betreden en zij doet het toch maar mooi.


    PS: ik vind je artikels die gerelateerd zijn aan feminisme echt super, ik ben er over aan het twijfelen om na mijn studies een jaar in het buitenland te gaan studeren, vb. in Zweden waar ze wel de richting feminisme aan de universiteit onderwijzen.

  4. deze reply maakt me ontzettend blij, ik ben zo gelukkig dat ik lezers heb zoals jij! <3 en DOEN! als ik er het geld voor had zou ik het ook doen!

  5. While I don't particularly like her songs nor her voice, I do agree with you on the patriarcal criticisms that she has received but most importantly and I don't think you mentioned it (or perhaps yes, but I am way too drunk to notice it - lol not that im an alcholic, I just had too much 'limoncetto')
    I find really disturbing the criticism on her LOOK. I mean I have read many articles that don't even criticise her voice but her 'premeditated' look, her full lips and snub nose probably due to some sort of cosmetic surgery or whatever, the fact remains that society only judge women based on their looks, like it is not legit to go and change your looks as you like it. Who did ever judge Enrique iglesias for removing his mole or a male singer for gaining some pounds, but beware if you are Christina Aguilera and gain some weight, why? because you are a woman. Simply as that.

    now I leave you with remarkable example that criticises her looks:

    "She appears to have undergone some sort of cosmetic surgery on her lips, since. Though to call it "cosmetic" is a bit like calling a hangover a "nice reminder". There's been a hair-colour change and style-makeover to line up with the Lana portion of her name. Yes, the influence for her name is Lana Turner and then the Ford motor vehicle (Del Rey). This name will catch on; more so than Lizzy Grant."

    source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/blogs/blog-on-the-tracks/6171244/Lana-Del-Rey-2012s-zero-talent-star

  6. I love you for writing this Annebeth, keep fighting the good fight! #LANA4EVAR

  7. yep, it's in there in the bit about "- going on and on about her looks and the visuals while downplaying her professional accomplishments (often implying we have the producers to thank for the substance)" :) I totally agree!

  8. I have that forever 21 top Kristen is wearing haha!

  9. I have to be honest, I'd heard about Lana Del Rey for a while but not actually heard her music, and when I started reading about this "controversy" I decided to judge for myself. And I actually like her music a lot. Artists male and female have been reinventing themselves as different people since the beginning of time. I don't get why suddently everybody is making such a fuss over this.

  10. I always love your rants :) rant on!

  11. Ik ben het eens met je verhaal, jammer dat dit nog steeds gebeurt. Het is denk ik ook een prijs die je betaald als je op dat niveau wil doorbreken en verkopen. Ik heb niks met Lana del Rey omdat ze zo gehypt is en overal wordt gedraaid en dan trekt het mij by default al niet meer. Heeft niet zoveel met haar zelf te maken. Toen ik het SNL filmpje bekeek vond ik het een failure puur omdat ze in mijn ogen weinig zangtalent heeft. Ik heb een opleiding zang gedaan, en de manier waarop Lana zingt is in mijn ogen erg lui en vergt weinig techniek. Ik snap vanuit een stijl-oogpunt wel wat er zo aantrekkelijk aan is. Artiesten als Amy Winehouse en anderen gingen haar al voor qua sixties vibe, maar ik vind het bij Lana del Rey wel iets mooier uitgewerkt en echter overkomt. Dus geen haat op Lana, just not into it myself!

  12. haar ademhaling zit ook niet goed enzo, die dingen hoor ik idd wel, haar zang is zeker niet perfect. Maar het past wel bij haar stijl vind ik, vol emotie ipv echt proper. Maar ik ben het niet eens met dat snobistische "als het populair is wil ik het al niet meer" :D dan sluit je jezelf af voor zoveel goeie muziek!

  13. the public reaction to lana del rey has been interesting and disappointing. there are some substantive criticisms of her (i.e., she's not a great live performer), but it's impossible to ignore the obvious sexism she's experiencing. i'm glad you're writing about this. it's hard for me to imagine a male artists facing the type of criticism lana del rey is currently receiving.

  14. I haven't listened to her at all, but the same argument goes for a lot of female singers out there. I particularly liked the point that women artists are only ever compared to other women.

  15. Lana might not be my cup of tea (I prefer my music electronic and French), but this article is good.
    I don't get what the negative hype is really all about.

  16. Oh man am I out of the loop I don't even know she is, but then again that always happens w/ me and no tv. but go you for bringing this up- totally not ok that women aren't credited for their accomplishments and put down for them when men aren't!

  17. I've been wondering what a feminist blogger would say about Lana DelRay. I haven't really read anything at all about her until now, but could tell by listening to the album that she'd be controversial at the very least, what with the fake name and the Betty Boop voice and the Lolita references and all. Seems I've timed it pretty well - the top google results for 'lana del rey feminism' are the backlash against the hate...

    Cool. I like the album. It's beautiful, haunting, sexy, disturbing and depressing, sometimes all at once... And no less 'authentic' than most other stuff out there...