My alarm rang at 7:45 am and I woke up irritably to dismiss it. Instinctively, my fingers found their way to my notifications. Emails, check. WhatsApp, check. Instagram…okay.
The first thing that appeared on my feed was Lana Del Rey’s statement about being crucified because she “glamourised abuse”. Apparently, her freedom of expression was denied and frowned upon.
LDR has always been bold when it comes to her choice of words, music and art. Rampant criticism was not something she deserved. I knew her statement would warrant massive backlash. After all, the woman was tired of being tormented for something she was born to do: make honest art.
Come late afternoon, I saw posts that called Lana a racist and misogynist. Naturally, like any loyal devotee, my first response was denial.
She was being called “a perfect example of white feminism”. I was devastated. Defensive. Why was she not allowed to speak her mind when Beyoncé openly sang about cheating and making love?
Was I really going to let a bunch of salty fans convince me that my hero of about a decade was blinded by her privilege and had refused to choose a wiser set of words to speak her mind?
Lana’s music got me through so many dark days of my life. On days I didn’t feel like waking up, knowing LDR existed filled me with relief and hope.
The first 24 hours were harrowing. I was getting into banter with friends and strangers, tearing up at the thought of how much a woman must suffer before she finally gets to be herself. My arguments in her defence were obscure and badly put, I admit.
I argued that she had never intended to make it about race. That she only compared their music to hers because those were things that were conventionally frowned upon. That she should damn well be allowed to be herself, when other women do it and are indeed, celebrated for it. Her art was exaggerated as “problematic” when she was simply truthful. Being a white woman did not liberate her from her struggles, and if anything, feminists must accommodate such women for their inability to be their uninhibited selves.
But the truth was: Lana Del Rey messed up. And she messed up bad.
Also read: The Heroes We Worship
Having calmed down, I realised I was being ridiculously stubborn about something I had no control over. Apparently my hero was fully capable of propagating problematic ideals. The blow was ruthless.
I read extensively about why what had happened was considered wrong and had warranted criticism from feminists all over the world.
And now I know why.
LDR wanted to reclaim her voice as an artist who was suppressed by her counterparts but she name-dropped women of colour and compared their struggles to hers as if they weren’t at the receiving end of deplorable backlash.
She hypersexualised women for being openly sexual and owning their sexuality when they sang about – “being sexy, wearing no clothes, f*cking”. And made her art sound innocent by calling it – “being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect”. Having number one tracks on a billboard, however, does not set women of colour free from their oppression. Lana was clearly in a position to understand the severity of her words when they were put out for the world to see.
As Megan Fox said, “There is never a need to compare yourselves to other women. I would never invalidate the struggles other women have faced in order to give voice to mine.”
And Lana did exactly that.
She retorted that it wasn’t about race. But indeed it became about race when she name-dropped women of colour and berated their art. Her justification for doing so was definitely not convincing. It became about comparing struggles. That was not cool.
Then, her older, more controversial interviews resurfaced. There, she spoke on how “she had better things to look forward to than feminism”. Her privilege and ignorance were clearly despicable.
I was crushed. I was so, so mad. But more importantly, I was deeply disappointed in my own feminism. In my inability to see through the bullshit of the woman I had loved for so long.
I realised the first step to making amends was realising that this needed change, that something was wrong. It has taken me a long time to finally wrap my head around understanding and accepting that my idols can be wrong. Hell, they can be terrible.
But we will only be able to view the world for what it is when we start holding our heroes accountable.
I don’t think Lana will apologise. Her recent post made it clear that she doesn’t think anything was wrong. But it’s allowed me to understand that people make mistakes and sometimes they don’t want to acknowledge it. Most times, it is their privilege that gives them this liberty. And it is sad, but we cannot change that.
However, we can change our beliefs. And we can certainly change our actions depending on our faith. To be able to look beyond our limited vision is what matters. Truth be told, it is the only way forward.
Rakshika Aphale is an unabashed nerd who finds solace in poetry, solitude, and good conversations.
Featured image credit: Reuters