Let me preface this by saying that I would consider myself a fan of Lana Del Rey, or at least a fan of her music. I think she’s talented, and I would never tell anybody that they weren’t entitled to their own ideas of gender equality and feminism, or that those views were incorrect. But upon reading an Off the Board piece by Jack Neal in the March 10 issue of the McGill Tribune, I took issue with a few of the points made with regard to her status as a role model, feminist or otherwise.
I can understand why Del Rey might find feminism to be not “an interesting concept,” in that many successful women are repeatedly asked about their careers and lives as women, while men rarely have their gender brought up so consistently. You can hardly blame her for preferring to speak about her music once in a while. It strikes me then as interesting that the argument put forward was that Del Rey should be embraced as a feminist role model, when by her own admission she has no interest in being one. Del Rey has every right to own her experiences and to create art from the circumstances she’s gone through, but to argue that we should encourage women to aspire to those struggles simply does not make sense. A role model is supposed to be someone you emulate, someone who is doing things you wish you could do.
If Neal was attempting to argue that Del Rey is relatable and should therefore be embraced by the feminist movement as someone going through difficulties as we all do, then I completely agree. There are plenty of “soft, broken, and vulnerable feminist[s],” but I take some issue with those three words being placed together. There isn’t anything negative about being soft or vulnerable—in fact both of those traits demand quite a bit of courage—but being broken isn’t something to aim for; it’s something to work through. To say that she should be a role model simply because she’s relatable doesn’t quite add up.
To clarify, I believe entirely that we should be telling young girls and women that their challenges do not make them unlovable and are a normal part of life—that’s a huge part of what feminism is about—but there is a big difference between acceptance or support and glamorization. As the author noted, “women should be free to be themselves, even if that self is flawed, and at times weak and disempowered,” but why should we pretend that those traits are things to aspire to? Women like Beyoncé or Lorde may be powerful, but why does that mean we shouldn’t look up to them as role models for empowerment?
I don’t think the “stereotype of a feminist woman [is] someone who is conventionally ‘powerful.’” I think it’s actually a disadvantaged woman who is empowered enough to say something. If feminists were all conventionally powerful, we would not have as much to worry about. The reason that the feminist movement even exists is because there are hundreds of millions of women who are terrifyingly disempowered. These women aren’t free to do whatever they want, as Del Rey feels she is. These women don’t have the luxury of not being interested in feminism, and these women need role models who are more than just ‘damsels-in-distress.’