The Curious Case Of Lana Del Rey And Feminism

By Katie Bielamowicz

Lana del Rey caused quite the storm with her debut album “Born To Die,” for its seemingly anti-feminist lyrics. But if any of the critics, the bloggers, the reviewers took the time for a closer look, they would see a deeply troubled young girl, instead of some pop fad setting women back 50 years.

I’m not here pick the poor girl apart anymore. Enough already. She doesn’t deserve that, especially for her brutish honesty. Instead, I’m here to stick up for the little (wo)man.

Lana del Rey’s music and style pour salt on a lot of apparently unhealed wounds in our “culturally advanced” society. Either she isn’t feminist enough or her music isn’t mundane enough to be overlooked by the female population, or she’s too pretty and too sexual to be taken seriously by her male critics. It’s an interesting conundrum. No one wants to claim her. The feminists are disgusted, the men overlook her, even though all she yearns for is to please the man she loves. But let’s forget the men. I am concerned with the women.

Where is the solidarity, the sense of camaraderie? Have we not advanced far enough in terms of gender roles that we women are entitled to our own thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams? Last I checked, feminism was about freedom and equality… and even before that I checked that we have free speech. So why does the feminist community want to silence Lana del Rey?

So yes, some, if not the majority of her lyrics are far from the Riot Girl cries of the ’90s. But if we as women cannot express everything we are feeling without retribution from other women, what did all of that fighting accomplish?

In my opinion, Lana del Rey is not trying to ruin the cause, she’s pouring her heart out on “Born To Die.” A deeply troubled heart, but her heart, nonetheless. One listen and you immediately hear the pain and suffering in her voice and in her lyrics, coupled with some pretty erratic behavior. If I had authority over any mental illness other than my own, I’d make a case for one especially after hearing her monologue in “Ride.”

“I was always an unusual girl. My mother told me I had a chameleon soul, no moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality; just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide and as wavering as the ocean… And if I said I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way I’d be lying… Because I was born to be the other woman. I belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone.”

Even the album title “Born to Die: The Paradise Edition” is indicative of polar opposites. Allusions to sexual abuse run rampant throughout the album as well. Take the constant references to “Daddy” in her lyrics or her song, or even the track, “Lolita,” spelling out “D.A.R.K.” and “P.A.R.K.” reminiscent of parents spelling out words that they did not want their children to hear. So much of the album screams that she is emotionally a little girl.

So here is my proposition to you: Take a different look at Lana del Rey. Look at the album, devoid of gender. Look at it for its raw emotion and look at it for its insight. Yes, she comes across as a pretty troubled chick, but in many ways, a perceptive one. She knows that her ideas won’t be popular. Take the song “This Is What Makes Us Girls” where she sings,

“We don’t stick together ’cause we put love first.”

And she’s right. We don’t stick together—in a lot of things. We are chastising another woman instead of celebrating her for having the courage to express herself, and express ideas that are far from the socially acceptable norm among strong women. She is rocking the boat, causing a mutiny within the feminist community, instead of outside it.

It’s a sad situation. But what’s even sadder is that we as women should understand. For many of us, these same emotions that Lana del Rey wails about are all emotions that we have had, but we just don’t want to admit that we have had them. Tell me you haven’t wanted someone so bad it hurts, so much that you don’t feel like living without them. Sure, they aren’t the strong, resilient emotions that we have been taught that we have to show to be respected in this patriarchal society, but they have been our emotions, at some point in our lives. Tell me your world did not come crashing down when you broke up with your first love?

Lana del Rey shows that vulnerability, maybe in the fashion of a teenage girl, but we are not the ones to judge her for that. She gives voice to traits that we, as women, are not supposed to have if we are strong. But what is strong? Some ideal defined by a man? Why are we still trying to level the playing field? We are different and we need to embrace it. Own it and say “Fuck you if you don’t like me.” That is feminism for the 21st century. We can do things just as well as men. We’ve proved it. But we shouldn’t have to anymore. We can do it our way—whatever that means for who we are right here and right now.

Photo from Billboard.

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About Katie

Katie Bielamowicz


Katie is a twenty-something Texan that fell in love with Mexico… so much so she up and moved to Mexico City two years ago. Other loves in her life include random adventures, laughter, good reads, cats, cooking, and carajillos.

View Comments (8)
  • Beautiful article, Katie. I consider myself an active, passionate feminist and I absolutely adore Lana Del Ray. Not because she takes a stand as an empowered and independent woman, but because she reveals herself as an honest one. A vulnerable one. A woman that is not afraid to simply lay it all out on the line. So many women want to be seen as empowered by shoving away their deepest vulnerabilities and pretending that they are completely solid and hard as rock. But Lana empowers herself in a very different way, but empowers nonetheless. She shows what so many women feel but what so many women try to hide. Vulnerability, dependence, unrequited love, pouring love into a man and getting nothing back. These aren’t pretty issues, but they are the true issues of many women. Shoving them into darkness is not feminism. Living your truth no matter how shameful it looks is feminism,

  • I thought this was a beautiful piece and you did Lana Del Rey some serious justice with it. Well done and well written!

  • I couldn’t agree more, Caitlin. It’s actually something I’ve struggled with a lot–always wanting to appear rock solid, no matter how much pain I was holding inside. Then you realize that doesn’t get you anywhere…it just adds more layers of pain. It’s ok to be vulnerable and I respect her for that. Thanks for commenting, KT =)

  • “Why are we still trying to level the playing field? We are different and we need to embrace it. ”

    Love this. These couple of sentences echo my thoughts on the matter. You nailed what feminism really is (in my humble opinion). Very well written!

  • I love this twenty something for writing so fearlessly. Lana herself ascribes to your idea of feminism. The Kim Gordon lady tore her another hole for that. Its ironic how someone who claims to not understand feminism defines it so beautifully than the so called feminist.

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