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culture valkyrie: why lana del rey cannot be a feminist role model

I really want to like Lana Del Rey. Partly, this is because of my fascination with how Lana-bashing has swiftly taken over from Zooey-bashing by the kind of boys who howl feverishly when realising that their manic-pixie-dream-girls are, in fact, manufactured-pixels-on-a-director’s-screen girls. Something about the horror delights me. Chicks with collagen-injected lips and personal stylists don’t hang around your local dive bar, my friend.

I also really enjoy chilling out to Lana’s music. It’s beautiful and melodic, and I think she is gorgeous to look at, surgery or not. I think she gets an incredibly bad rap for that – she’s not the only manufactured singer around, but somehow by having the perceived audacity to style herself as “alternative” she’s been lambasted.

Her melodies are great, her montage-style music clips are weirdly good, and her video interviews are hilarious if only for the way she stalls for time by drawling the words “thematically, visually, and cinematically” in her bizarre Betty-Boop voice. I also love to hate her. But when examining her misogynistic song lyrics I’m coming to the conclusion that I should probably loathe her.

Exhibit A: Lana’s break-out hit, ‘Video Games‘.

Swinging in the backyard / pull up in your fast car / whistling my name / open up a beer/ and you say get over here/ and play your video game.

I’m in his favourite sun dress / watching me get undressed / take that body downtown / put his favourite perfume on / go play your video game“.

Spritzing on your best eau de toilette so your beau can briefly sniff your neck before staring at a screen for hours on end while he plays Skyrim? This just reminds me of my housewife Grandmother who used to put on a full face of makeup at 5pm before her husband came home to light up a Camel and tell off the kids. Something’s not right in Pleasantville.

And then there’s her song ‘Yayo‘. It sends a chill down my spine, and I’m not talking about the haunting melody.

Let me put on a show for you Daddy / Let me put on a show / Let me put on a show for you Tiger / Let me put on a show“.

And again, from the imaginatively titled ditty, ‘You Can Be the Boss‘.

You can be the boss Daddy/ You can be the boss“.


In ‘This Is What Makes Us Girls‘, Lana gets even creepier.

Know we used to go break in / to the hotel pool, glittering we’d swim / Runnin’ from the cops in our black bikini tops / screaming ‘Get us while we’re hot!’

And then the chorus:

This is what makes us girls, We don’t stick together coz we put love first“.

The fact that she thinks women “don’t stick together” when men are around is a really sad, awful stereotype. Juxtaposed with images of blatant sexualisation posing as anarchy, this song is just a rotten little apple.

And then there’s this one – ‘Blue Jeans‘.

I will love you til the end of time / I would wait a million years/ Promise you’ll remember that you’re mine / Baby can you see through the tears / Love you more / Than those bitches before“.

“Those bitches before?” You seriously say that? Hot tip: really good first step to kicking misogyny in the pants is to stop referring to women as “those bitches”.

It’s bad enough that Soulja Boy does it. How can women be a powerful and cohesive force for change if you keep talking all this crap, Lana? Pump your lips, primp your hair, alter your name, be a train-wreck on Saturday Night Live…but just don’t talk that way.

25 thoughts on “culture valkyrie: why lana del rey cannot be a feminist role model

  1. Whoa! I’m sorry you feel that way. Her lyrics are upsetting and creepy- but I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

    A bit of shameless (but relevant) self promotion:

    You’ll also find linked in there a fiercely feminist/recuperative reading that was posted on Feminaust last week.

    She may be artificial, bad at performing live, and a rich girl moaning about rich girl problems- but is also, in my opinion, one of the most feminist things goin’ round right now 🙂

  2. Strange how lyrics can be interprited diffrently by diffrent people. To me the video game one looks to be more about how the bf is ruining the relationsihp because even when she has made herself all sexy for him he still would rather stare at a screen.

    Perhaps he was going to go over to her but took an arrow to the knee.

  3. This! I found your blog while pondering on the same dilemma: to love her or to loathe her. The music is quite catchy but the lyrics are disturbingly misogynistic and the whole point seems to be her life revolves around a men and … that’s all.

    Another example (from “Smarty”) …

    “Put me in a party dress one time
    Baby, if you love me you’ll call me a bunny
    Tell me I’m just a baby, honey
    Beat me and tell me no one will love me”

    Beat me and tell me no one will love me ??? WTF!!

    • “And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, the more you beat me, I will fawn on you: use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me. Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave, unworthy as I am, to follow you. What worser place can I beg in your love—and yet a place of high respect with me-than to be used as you use your dog?”

      From a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Haunting, yeah, tragic, yeah, but that’s love sometimes: deluded and wrong and dangerous and awful as it may be. I think it’s brave of Lana to introduce the excruciating pain of love in such a way that is beautiful, and hauntingly so. Lana recognizes how awful that is, she’s not an idiot. She’s writing from the perspective of someone who doesn’t.

      How many times have artists created personas in songs and in their careers where they presented ideas and stories that were different from their own direct experiences? We also have to remember that Lana is incredibly well read, referencing many of the greats in a lot of her songs (like A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams in her song “Carmen”.)

      I don’t mean to justify the thinking that a man beating his partner and treating her like a child is a safe image of love, but I certainly don’t think the presentation of these people makes Lana an anti-feminist. I mean to honor her artistry, and her observance of things that so many people are uncomfortable even thinking about.

      She’s not out here trying to be your feminist icon. I think she’s trying to be a woman, creating music, developing her craft, all the while writing about love in the world as she understands it based on observation, and how she has experienced it. Again. Love isn’t always ideal. Love isn’t always right. Love isn’t always safe. Love is pain. Love is self-sacrifice. Love — may lead someone to submit themselves completely to another.

      It’s the difference between art and politics.

  4. Blue Jeans.

    I´m more than sure she meant that the same way girls talk about another girl they hate out of jealousy.
    “That bitch!” Sometimes women don´t like other women either, haha.

  5. SUCH A GOOD REVIEW. Seriously.

    So good in fact that someone decides to copy it and then claim it as their own, saying they were “inspired” when asked about their opinion on Lana del Rey.

    And not just your review either from the looks of it. Not sure how you feel about plagiarism but from my personal standpoint, I cannot stand it at all. But imitation is supposedly a form of flattery so who knows?

  6. i find this completely ridicules if you don’t want to like her you will certainly find a reason not to like her.
    the fact that you want to sit there and act like she is misogynystic is just foolish.
    she is such a sweet mousy girl and she sings about her life and what she sees.
    so instead of chastising her for it maybe look at it and think about what she’s trying to say.

    i hate when foolish people take bits and pieces of things just to make a slanted uneducated point.

  7. I really liked her first few songs, but upon hearing the rest of the album changed my mind about her. Nothing to do with feminism, just clearly a lack of life experience to warrant writing songs about anything of interest. The breathy, I’m a lonesome sex kitten thing gets boring after a couple of songs. Next!

  8. I think if you see the misogyny in her lyrics and stop there, it’s definitely possible to find her anti-feminist and be disgusted. But if you look closer, you realize the message. Her songs are all meant to be tragic, full of sorrow. She’s following the ideals imposed on women: of being beautiful and ruthlessly dedicated to men. And she’s facing the price. Her music is a cautionary tale.

  9. The songs she writes are about her life and her life experiences, so what you’re basically saying is that her whole life is misogynistic, so she isn’t aloud to tell her story
    Wow, really liberating.

    She’s not trying to represent all females out there, she’s trying to represent herself. People like you, who force every women out there to have to represent every other woman on the planet are doing just as good a job of restricting women’s potential as the rest of the media.

    • Lily is right on. Feminism does not mean that every woman has to look out for every other woman, it means that women should be free to choose whatever lifestyle they desire, without being judged for it on the basis of their sexual/biological construct. And the least we, as women, can do is support women who make these choices.

      I find her work to be beautiful, haunting and to capture the essence of a raw, romantic, feminine spirit. Her approach IS traditional in this manner, comparable to one’s housewife grandmother, but there is truth and validity in that choice, as much so in fact, as a career-oriented woman who won’t go on a second date with a guy because the sex wasn’t good enough.

    • YES. It’s disappointing that yet ANOTHER blog has to write negatively about a women in efforts to protect the meaning of “feminist”. Lana is awesome, her music is beautiful as is her imagery. She’s successful and did it without letting the public into her daily life or private moments without having scandals and cheap news written about her. One of the very few female celebrities that can keep the public hooked on her music without caving into the peer pressures of the media.

      I find that despite the definition of the word feminism meaning equality for male and female, so many women, including this author, feel the need to make it a personal crusade to tell people who and want can stand as a feminist. How about posting about someone who you think is a good role model instead of tearing someone down? Lana is more successful than you, so maybe you should take notes instead of writing 1,000+ words in critiquing her.

  10. This review is extremely comical I laugh at all the angry feminists who hate Lana. They think about her so much and she doesn’t think of them at all. Good for her. She’s constantly blamed for her lack of [female] empowerment in her songs. I don’t understand this one bit. I had no idea music had to be measured on feminism and empowerment. How does talking about intense love, romance, and men make a woman unworthy? These are obviously themes in her music because she’s been through stuff of that nature. If you want to see more female empowerment go listen to another artist. Not every woman has to be the standard [modern] feminist woman. I say ‘modern feminist’ because it seems as of late feminism has been used as a tool to measure how worthy a woman is- we can never feel an intense love, wear things our partner likes, or be unhinged by love, even die for a man. Give me a break. At the end of the day men and women are equal. We should all agree on that, but everything else can differ between people. Women do not always have to portray themselves as independent, dominant, and strong. Not all women are like that and that is okay!

  11. I understand you are not a literary academic, but it is not required to realise that the vast majority of songs are not intended for literal interpretation. Written word especially in the creative arts is often manipulated to either tell a story, usually ironically or as a metaphor for a thinly veiled statement.

    That being said I suggest you read the lyrics again and stew on their meaning, Ill add in the hint of checking Lana’s background and history and things will start to become clearer (hopefully).

    In regards to role models, male or female, Hollywood is the last place anybody should be looking, turn off the TV, close your fashion magazine, stop feeling like a victim, go do some volunteer work and discover truly amazing selfless people, then educate your “audience” on who they should model themselves upon.

  12. Why do feminists spend time bashing other WOMEN? Isn’t that against the whole “meaning” of it? I mean if you want to bash music for misogyny why aren’t you reviewing every single album by chris brown or some other rap artist out there? The double-standard becomes too much really

  13. Pingback: Lana Del Rey, Conservative Icon

  14. this blog post is literally so ridiculous?? by now i’m sure every lana stan is aware of the fact that she has no stance on feminism, and doesn’t want to get involved in it, so she’s definitely not considered a feminist role model. but the fact you had to pull out her lyrics as “receipts” just to show what you assumed is lana’s internalized misogyny is just reaching. maybe you should take it into consideration that smarty is a song about an abusive relationship lana was in, and every single interpretation you have of her other songs is incorrect. feminism supports women in every way, whether they’re anything like your “housewife grandmother” or not. if your feminism isn’t for everyone, then it’s not feminism. this shit sounds like it was written by lena dunham.

  15. I adore her feminity,her sweet soft voice when she speaks,her passivity and submission to a man in the song.Such an ancient feminine yin principle in women I’m glad she hasn’t thrown it away.Im the same.Some women adore the ancient feminine traits including submission.

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