by Yas Necati
Robin Thicke wants you to know that he has a big dick–but really, it’s more like he IS a big dick, as proven after the release of his latest video Blurred Lines earlier this year. The unrated version of the video features three fully clothed men next to three women in nothing but thongs. The women dance around the men, shaking their breasts, touching their breasts, and basically just parading their breasts as much as possible. Shortly after it’s release, this version of the video was banned on Youtube, which really had no effect whatsoever, because you can just watch it on Vevo instead. In fact, the removal of the video probably worked in Thicke’s favour – everyone loves to watch banned content, right?
Now the uncensored version is back on YouTube, and censored version of the video is on TV in the charts. To be honest, the “censored” version’s not particularly much better than the uncensored, featuring the same fully-clothed men next to (this time) barely-clothed women. Whether the women are nude, or almost nude, the video still conveys the same message: women are simply objects for men’s viewing pleasure and sexual gratification. The clothed man/ naked woman dichotomy empowers men by putting them in control. They are fully covered, standing next to exposed, and therefore more vulnerable, women. The video is not a load of playful fun; rather it is a power game in which men can assert their desired “ownership” over women. (This video by Mod Carousel flips those gender dynamics, and the differences are fascinating.)
The video is sexist, offensive and somehow people still love it? It seems like music video content is almost required to be as extreme as possible to gain an audience. As popular culture becomes more and more sexualized, there is higher demand from the public to view more extreme sexual content. We can learn from Thicke’s video that in order to gain a large audience in society today, artists must convey increasingly sexualized content in their work. This is a huge problem, as it means the objectification of women will continue to grow and thrive.
When asked if the video is degrading to women, Thicke answered, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade women.” The guy is obviously a jerk, with no respect for 51% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, this attitude seems to be what is selling his song. Sexism has become so normalised within society today, that it is actually sought after. Never mind that Thicke and his companions are disrespectful to women. Never mind that they degrade women. Never mind that they are promoting a rape culture. Sexism sells, and the more outrageous, the more people want to see it.
Just as the video is appalling, so are the crude lyrics, including the line “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” This disgusting, violent phrase is not even censored out of the radio-listening version of the song. Neither is the supposed compliment “You the hottest bitch in this place,” which Thicke actually shouts into the face of one of the women. The lyrics are blatantly abusive, and promote male domination over women, as well as sexual brutality towards women. The song, and Thicke’s attitude that “women are beautiful and men are always going to want to follow them around,” contribute to rape culture. Perhaps what is most worrying about the video is the silliness of it. It is advertised as jokey, harmless, and “just a bit of fun,” when in reality it is highly damaging.
One aspect of the video that seems to have been continually overlooked is actually one of its most malign elements. In the uncensored version of the video, which, let’s face it, everyone’s seen, there is a tiny “stop” sign balanced on one of the women’s naked bottoms:
The sign is so tiny, that it could be flicked off with minimal effort. This disgraceful prop seems to mock the idea of consent, suggesting that a woman asking to “stop” is just a small obstacle that can be, and should be, quickly and easily overcome. The tiny size of the sign hints that consent is insignificant and unimportant. This is an absolutely disgraceful message, which openly promotes violence and abuse towards women. The fact that the video is seemingly so light-hearted and playful makes this even worse. The men are having a good time abusing women, and suggesting that rape is ok.
Thicke’s lame defence of the video is that none of the men are sexist because they are all married with children. Yes – I’m not making that up, he actually said it. According to Thicke, married men are incapable of being misogynistic, because they’re married. However just because a man has made vows and loves a woman, that does not mean that he can’t be sexist towards her, or other women for that matter. We all know that marriage is an institution built on sexism anyway.
The song has been number 1 on the Billboard charts for weeks, showing everyone, obviously, that sexism sells. The fact that this misogynistic track was even released in the first place is disgusting enough, however for people to be buying it and supporting it so greatly is absolutely appalling. Thicke makes it very clear what he feels a woman’s place in society should be in this video, and for some bizarre reason there’s not been a massive uproar against it, rather support for the demeaning nonsense. The catchy beat, original melody, and fun feel of the song all contribute to people’s love of the track. The fact is, people aren’t going to boycott “Blurred Lines” because of its abusive nature. In fact, the controversy surrounding the song probably bought more attention to it, therefore contributing to its increased sales.
Perhaps the solution is to keep the backing track, keep the tune, but change the lyrics. That’s exactly what a group led by J. Mary Burnet and Kaleigh Trace decided to do. Their video “Ask First” (http://vimeo.com/70304632) was released online a few days ago, and is also available as a free download, what’s not to love?!