By Nina Lowe
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
Singer-songwriter, Lana Del Rey, recently released an open letter on her Instagram page titled ‘A question for the culture’ shortly after the announced successes of the remixes of Say So and Savage by Doja Cat featuring Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé respectively. In the letter Lana Del Rey called out eight musicians, seven of whom are womxn of colour. The letter was mostly a lament on the years she was criticised for exploring the same ideas featured in the songs produced by those musicians and how those ideas that are now celebrated. However, the denial of her allusions to racism in the post exemplifies the white feminism that the letter became indicative of.
White feminism is an ever-growing form of commercialised and “accessible” feminism that fails to acknowledge the intersectionality of gender and race in dismantling the patriarchy. It is a form of feminism where the participant is only active when they themselves are being personally affected by gender inequality. A ‘feminism’ that neglects people of colour and the queer community. In essence, a feminism that protects white fragility.
Since posting the letter, she has insisted that she was not referring to white womxn when referring to people that ‘look like her’ but rather those that are soft-spoken and timid in their approach. However, even in that remark are allusions to personality traits of being ‘fragile’, a social privilege only white womxn are afforded.
Del Rey further insulted BIPOC by saying that she “paved the way for other women” to continue to explore these themes when in reality she was just the first white womxn to sing about them. Despite the commemorative tattoos she has of big names in the music industry like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Whitney Houston it seems like she has a limited acknowledgment of their activism and advocacy for womxn in music.
Del Rey’s whiteness has historically protected her from confronting systemic hardships like racism that excluded BIPOC from mainstream success who came before her. They are the very reason she has been able to hold onto her fragility, she sat back while the outspoken womxn fought to be included and now that they are, her passive role feels rejected.
Racism and classism are instrumental in the operation and success of the western music industry. Now that these systems are being questioned and dismantled by Del Rey’s black contemporaries and since they are receiving the deserved recognition for their actions of transformation, she is resentful of ‘the culture’s’ previous criticism of her work. With this resentment she tries to insert herself through her embodiment of white fragility in a space dominated (deservingly) by outspoken black womxn.
Lana Del Rey’s success is a result of the historical activism done (previously) by marginalised groups of womxn in the music industry. The realisation of these years of activism in the music industry is now being celebrated but she seems to have seen it as a marker of the silencing of herself and the ‘people like her’. It is important to acknowledge how much of the groundwork for y(our) own success was laid by those you (we) now claim victimise you (us) just because y(our) privilege is being dismantled.
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