In a now-famous interview with Fader Magazine, Lana Del Rey was quoted saying, “For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept,” and that she is “more interested in intergalactic explorations.” This resulted in backlash, harsh criticisms, and a firm ‘anti-feminist’ label on her and her subsequent album, Ultraviolence.
At first, it’s not hard to see where this backlash stems from. Del Rey’s entire musical persona is that of a damsel-in-distress, stuck on the wrong side of the American dream, in which she was so brainwashed and confused between love and abuse that her ‘lover’ “hit [her] and it felt like a kiss.” Thus, critics such as Nolan Feeney the New York Times insisted that Del Rey was not only anti-feminist, but also glorifying domestic violence. Even Lorde weighed in on the controversy, stating that, “This type of shirt-tugging, don’t leave me stuff just isn’t healthy for young girls to hear.” It is true that Del Rey’s drug and sex-filled lyrical themes don’t paint the most traditionally empowering image of the modern woman.
However, her outspokenness against the traditional feminist image of a powerful, independent woman is what makes Del Rey not only a controversial figure, but also an easy target. Strong, independent, and charismatic women such as Beyoncé and Lorde are the poster girls for the feminist movement. They are people who strive for a dominant position within society, and this shows in their music and how the public perceives them. Del Rey, on the other hand, comes across as a lonely, depressed, and desperate character; unsure of herself and lost in a whirlwind of American flags, red dresses, and men. Beneath the makeup and ’60s-bouffant hair, however, Del Rey is a reflection of our own loud voices, ideas, and frustrations. Silenced by her critics and feminist detractors, she is a model onto which society projects and pins up its own dangerously skewed perceptions.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kim Gordon, founder of the band Sonic Youth, discussed the issue that many critics have with Del Rey: “Lana Del Rey […] believes women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts towards self-destruction.” Del Rey is labelled anti-feminist because she is accused of undermining everything that women have worked hard in order to move away from. Therefore, her wallowing around in a lonely room of drugs, depression, and dependency is seen as detrimental to the feminist movement.
However, these criticisms of Del Rey’s work and the lifestyle she chooses go completely against the values that feminist movement should be upholding. Why can’t there be a soft, broken, and vulnerable feminist?
Rejecting Lana Del Rey and her form of femininity is detrimental to the movement. Focusing the spotlight on super-women like Beyoncé creates an unrealistic and unachievable model for women to strive for, and deepens the stereotype of a feminist woman as someone who is conventionally ‘powerful.’ Society should be accepting of women of all personalities, choices, and lifestyles—not ignoring them because they don’t fit within the ‘standard’ feminist mould. In the monologue to her music video for “Ride,” Del Rey asks, “Who are you? Are you in touch with all of your darkest fantasies?” before confidently declaring: “I am; I am fucking crazy…. But I am free.” This notion of being free perfectly encapsulates Del Rey’s stance towards the feminist movement: Women should be free to be themselves, even if that self is flawed, and at times weak and disempowered. In her interview with Fader Magazine, Del Rey expanded on her attitude towards feminism, stating that, “[Her] idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” She takes her freedom for granted, living the way she wants, with whoever she wants, all while defying the critics of her actions in the process.
Del Rey fills a gap within the feminist movement. She stands for the dark, the submissive, and the misjudged. Her very existence, and the criticism she’s received, is reflective of the anti-feminism that still exists today, but those who are attacking her choices and lifestyle are the very people who also claim to want equality. By accepting one type of woman as the ideal of feminism, the movement narrows itself and becomes unable to branch out and reach the broader range of individuals who are trying to exist, shutting them down because they do not fit into the categories that have been created in the name of ‘progress.’
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