dear lana del rey: it’s only personal

Words by Celeste Krishna, written in response to the controversy surrounding Lana Del Rey.

Dear Lana,
I want you to write about the personal
In your music and poems

You are a great songwriter
And singer
I want you to advocate
For yourself

I think you have a point:

My impulse
Was first
To lift up
Amy Winehouse
Her authenticity,
Her voice,
Her songwriting craft

With you,
My impulse 
Was first 
To hate you
Hate your work
Hate how it centers
Your role in romantic relationship to men
Hate your boys-will-be-boys expectations
Your love of codependency

The very same stuff
Amy sang so passionately about

In that way – your statement held truth for me:

I had double standards in framing
You as a performer lifting that stuff up as desirable
And, Amy as being real, singing from her pain

But Lana,

I wish you valued others’ voices
In responding to your work
And recent public statement

If you pose a question to ‘the culture’
Why deny the ‘culture’s’ voice in response?

The culture spoke clearly:
Your statement is controversial,
But you denied them:
No it isn’t, and if you think so
I’m gonna call you a name (trump supporter / hyper liberal…)

I believe you:
You weren’t trying to make a point about race
You weren’t trying to drag down the black women you mentioned
You love them

I also believe the culture:
You have white blinds spots
They showed up here

Your piece can read like
You’ve had it harder in the music industry
Than black women
That you don’t recognize your white privilege in music 

You used  ‘the culture’ in your title 
– a phrase – I believe – popularized by Black culture
And then denied those who viewed statement as racial

Is the piece what it seems: 
 a first draft
Off the cuff
no feedback-gone public statement?

A good, intersectionality-woke friend
Could have read it, kindly given some feedback,
Hey – this has some white blind spots and it could read like this… 
And you could have adjusted to make your intended points clear:

that you want feminism to include women who don’t read as “strong”
that you want to explore codependency and abuse in your work
that you are angry at the female writers and singers who have criticized you and want them to stop

Lana, third wave feminism certainly has and has had a place for you
Women can read “feminine” “delicate” “fragile” “sexy” and be a feminist / and lifted up by feminists

As a third waver – you gotta remember:

A lot of women and men worked really hard to advocate for a world where women don’t have to be “feminine”, “delicate”, “sexy” “fragile” –  traditional frames for what a woman is supposed to be – frames that have operated as structures that keep women down — frames which often left out WOC in a vision of what a “woman” is

In art
I believe
That going inward
And boldly being honest
And not censoring oneself for being right or wrong
Or a good feminist or not
Is essential 
To the creation of good work
Do it!  
Write for yourself
Account how you feel in that relationship to men

I’d also like to challenge you to also write about something different
Surely there are lots of other topics you could deeply and honestly engage in?
Maybe you did this in your coming works… 
I’d like to challenge all of the music industry / music artists 
To spend more time exploring / lifting themes outside of romantic relationships 
We have so many songs about leaving a bad one, loving a good one, loving a bad one or being a bad partner… 
What else we got?

And for your point on critics:
Your critics have been both men and women
Feminists can identify as any gender
But you clarified, that your anger towards critics/feminism
Is exclusively for “females”

This makes me sad

Critics – especially feminists critics
in music and literature
Are extremely valuable 

bell hooks taught me
The patriarchy has no gender
My friends who write criticism professionally
Are the ones who have taught me the most
About my white blind spots –
Who have helped me name
Challenges I’ve faced in music
As parts of patriarchy

I would be stoked 
If Ann Powers took the time to listen
And thoughtfully engage and respond to my work

I am also super afraid of criticism
And often read it as a judgement of my character
And respond defensively 

I relate to you on that

I believe you’ve experienced 
An unfair ton of oppressive / hateful / trolling bs
As a woman 
And i think you and the women you mentioned
Have gotten way more of that stuff
Than y’all’s male peers

I imagine it can be confusing
To separate the hateful, violent, judgmental attacks
From the thoughtful, discursive views from feminist criticism

I get jumbled on this too

Can’t there be a space for 
You to be fully embodied and honest in your art
And the public and *female critics to have a valid experience of it? 
Even if their view is something you don’t want them to have?
Isn’t there a difference between criticism and oppression?

Isn’t art kinda like the tree that fell in the woods?
Only half-baked if not experienced by others?

Remember when you were unknown and wanted so badly for folks to listen to your music?

Fell the tree of your choice – just like you want
Maybe some will like the sound, others won’t, others will like the wood and be mad you cut the tree
Not letting them have their response denies what released art and music is:
Experienced Outside of the Artist
Reflecting bigger stuff than the Artist may have intended

If you want to control the experience of your words
Then keep them in your diary

Image credit: Lana del rey instagram @lanadelrey

For more on the writer, and to hear her music, visit Celeste Krishna’s website.

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