When I heard the tune of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” featuring T.I. and Pharrell, I thought it was incredibly catchy. That baseline, that beat.
It was when I listened to the lyrics, saw the sexism and gender imbalance in the video and read the outcry online, that I reacted. This is not just a summer tune. This song, and especially the music video, reinforces the picture of women as sex objects and the status of men as superior beings, which so often is repeated over and over again in the media.
The original video, featuring three models parading around with nothing on but nude colored panties (while Thicke and Pharrell are fully clothed), has been banned by YouTube (but can still be viewed in its full nudity on Vimeo). In the video, Thicke whispers in the ears of the naked women:
I hate these blurred lines,
I know you want it
Blogger Lisa Huynh of the blog Feminist in LA writes, “Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity.” The lyrics pretty much say that a man knows better than a woman if she wants to have sex with him, which could, in fact, encourage rape.
What’s most disturbing is the imbalance in the video, where the men are portrayed as having full control, and the women as vulnerable, whimsical and naked.
T.I. raps a few phrases I feel uncomfortable even quoting in this post, and continues:
Nothin’ like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair for you…
I’m a nice guy, but don’t get confused, you git’n it!
The lyrics during the rap do not only present women as inferior and sexual objects (as in the video), but also encourages violence against women. It is not news that hiphop lyrics may be degrading to women – this has become a part of the culture, which may be a reason as to why these kinds of lyrics continue to blast through people’s speakers. But this song is spinning on every radio station and in every club this summer, being praised as the song of the summer.
Songs like this are a problem.
They are a problem because violence against women is a problem. The WHO recently released new global statistics stating that 35 % of women in the world will experience gender-based violence in their lifetime. The report also encourages all sectors to ensure that tolerance of violence against women is eliminated.
Just because it’s wrapped in nice beats and sung by popular pop figures doesn’t make it OK. This song is disturbing, and it is disturbing because it is not just innocent fun, it is not just ironic. Violence against women is something that happens every single day, to millions of women and girls around the world. Violence against women is not a joke (as the title of Girls’ Globe blogger Emma’s post).
The power relations in this video portrays women as objects. When a person is objectified, whether by race, by gender, by sexual orientation, by ethnicity, or by any other trait, violence against that person becomes justifiable.
Ok, now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
So, whose lines are blurred? To me, the line between this being a fun song for the dance floor has been completely blurred out by the fact that the song sounds like an encouragement to rape.
#THICKE I won’t be dancing to your tune this summer.
Presenting…The Rapiest Song of Summer http://t.co/tJuGM4wUHY
— Women in the World (@WomenintheWorld) June 18, 2013