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.

Thicke continues:

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.

 

Share your thoughts

19 Responses

  1. Serious Art forms should promote lots of examination, critisicm and discussion, as this song did. The artists may not be asking you to like the song (the blurr is that the industry also wants to sell a product). They provide material to examine. Awareness and promotion of Girls’ Globe issues is definitely helpful when discussing the arts in general. It is the awareness of the cultural messages that is important.

  2. Have you also realized the drums and beats are from a familiar South African Zulu song? I haven’t heard anyone saying this. Can someone confirm this?

    1. Shorai70, thanks for your comment! I don’t know about the drums and beats to the song and can unfortunately not confirm if it is from a Zulu song. Thanks for visiting Girls’ Globe.

  3. Can we also talk about how in the video at one point the model is lying on her stomach naked with a tiny stop side sitting on her bum. That little stop sign blatantly rubs it in that Thicke & Co. get that their lyrics deal with consent, right? But- for them- it’s not really about consent and whether she wants to do something; they know what she wants better than she does and they’re there to tell her what she wants and give it to her.

    Putting this stop sign into a situation- maybe a girl gives a feeble ‘No…” to a guys advances (small stop sign) but he continues advancing on her (because he knows what she wants!) compared to the firm, loud “No!” and a shove off (big stop sign- “Get off me!”). Little stop sign= blurred lines, she probably still wants it; big stop sign= not gonna happen.

    This quick scene in the video was a perfect representation of the problem with this song. It’s like this could almost be used as the perfect example for what consent isn’t.

    1. So true Sally! I believe I must’ve been so disgusted with the video that I missed that scene. Yes, a no is a no, but this song seems to spell out that when a woman says no, what she actually means is yes, yes, yes. Absurd and horrifying!

  4. I’ve seen the video- it’s disgusting. The women who are topless seem to not realize that they are being exploited. Or know but don’t care. Very sad.

    There’s also a part of the video where something like “Robin Thicke has a big d***” is written on a wall. So he gets to be treated like a king by having that sentence written on a wall while topless girls dance around him. And to make matters worse, he’s actually MARRIED!!! Who could marry such a sexist man? I don;t get it.

    1. Thanks Tanya for your comment!
      Yes. It is unfortunate that so many women live within the norms of today’s media industry, which defines a woman’s value by her sexual objectification. The whole video reaks of men seeking to overpower women.
      Regarding Thicke’s personal life, I know nothing about it, but I hope that the reactions to this song may make him revalue his songs and videos in the future.

  5. I agree that some of the lyrics in the song infer non-consent – especially the “blurred lines” piece where the woman is supposed to understand that the man is interested in her.

    What I can’t agree with though, is assuming that lyrics like you’ve quoted here:

    “Nothin’ like your last guy, he too square for you
    He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair for you…”

    pose any sort of a problem. I’d argue that if she is making it known that she has interest in these sort of activities, she is sexually liberated enough to have this vocalized and there is no issue. I would also suggest that diminishing sexual acts like this to “abuse” is really encroaching on disallowing women to have a say in their sexual experiences and what they want out of them – which is really anti-feminist when you look at it.

    Women should be able to have whatever kind of sexual encounters they WANT TO HAVE without being shamed for thinking it’s perhaps abuse of some sort, or thinking that it might promote abuse for others.

    Asking, agreeing, or consenting to having your hair pulled during intercourse is by no means “promoting violence towards women” and shouldn’t be promoted as such – that is shaming.

    1. I agree with what you’re saying entirely, women should be free to engage in any kind of activity in whatever way they want. But while the lyrics in and of themselves aren’t shaming in and of themselves, in the context of the song, they’re less empowering.

      Throughout the rest of the song, the woman’s presented as an object purely for his use, and one of the ‘blurred lines’ he references is how she’s dressed: (What do they make dreams for /When you got them jeans on/ …You the hottest bitch in this place / I feel so lucky / Hey, hey, hey / You wanna hug me / hey, hey, hey / What rhymes with hug me?)

      So, he’s already suggested that she’s suggesting consent by the way she’s dressed, and takes the huge leap from hugging to ‘what rhymes with hugging’, and then after the lyrics you mentioned, they say, “Had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you / So, hit me up when you pass through
      I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, “Not many women can refuse this pimpin’ / I’m a nice guy, but don’t get confused, you git’n it!”

      Then the breakdown consists of, “Shake your rump / Get down / Get up-a / Do it like it hurt, like it hurt.”

      I understand completely what you’re saying and stand by a woman’s right to not be shamed for her preferences, whatever they may be, but I think it has to be very explicitly stated that they ARE her preferences. In this song, that very important fact isn’t only ignored, it’s suggested isn’t even a factor. And that leads onto the dangerous territory of accusing women of enjoying violent encounters simply because some women do and her partner simply assumed she would be okay with it, which is not be a legitimate defense in an unwanted violent sexual encounter.

    2. Dear Sarah! Thank you for your comment and for visiting GIrls’ Globe. As Farah points out below, and I agree with her comments completely, it isn’t the individual lyrics per se that are the problem, but the way women are represented in the whole song and the video – as weaker, vulnerable, sexual objects, that do not know what they want, but should be treated in the way a man desires. This is what leads to the tolerance of violence and objectification of women.

  6. SOMEONE ELSE NOTICED. I remember hearing this song on the radio, and at first I liked it but when I listened to it, I kept thinking how wrong it was. It is annoying that undoubtedly many people are going to say objections to this song are overreacting or oversensitive, and I do think there should be some lenience in art and pop culture when it comes to political correctness. But the lyrics to this song are particularly unacceptable, & the fact that ‘blurred lines’ is the title is adding insult to injury. Great post.

    1. Thanks for your comment Farah! I agree. It is so often that music is ignored even though it is discriminatory or offensive, just because it is music. But just like women are represented in other media outlets as well, we need to not stay quiet if we want to make a difference.

  7. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue, Julia! I had also heard the song on the radio, and as I didn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics and had not seen the video, I found it very catchy! However, as you point out in your post, the lines have been more than blurred in this song – they have been grossly crossed. The issue of no meaning no should be black and white, and there are no blurred lines there – sending a message that women who say ‘no’ really mean ‘yes’ and that it is okay for men to keep pushing until they get what they want is dangerous and callous. Thanks for the great post – I am removing this song from my summer play list as well!

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