Sexist Song of the Day, #8: Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I. – Blurred Lines

This song (and it’s accompanying video, which I am not, consequently, linking to) is so rampantly sexist that even the media has picked up on it. It’s also spent 3 weeks at Number 1 in the charts, because, you know, sexism is great or something.

Even Thicke himself is open about this: when asked if the video is degrading to women, he said, “of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.” I mean, wow. Thanks for your honesty. His reasoning behind this statement is that both he and his collaborators, Pharrell and T.I, are married with children. Therefore, presumably, they could never be misogynists, and they’re making fun of the culture that does.

Which sort of sounds like a good thing. Until you actually think about it. For a start, there is nothing that guarantees that any man who is married to a woman, nor has children with a woman, is not sexist. It is perfectly possible, and perfectly common, for men to be in love with a woman, and display all kinds of misogynistic ideals and attitudes. That’s the nature of society; misogyny is ingrained. Plus, marriage is an institution built on sexism and the idea that women are possessions, and motherhood is generally considered the only real role for women. So, nice try.

Plus, there’s this thing about making fun of something and being “edgy” in the commentary you make: it has to actually say something. Unfortunately for Thicke, his music video, which features three women dancing and cavorting around whilst topless and in flesh coloured thongs, alongside the three men that sing it, who are all fully clothed and obviously loving it, could not be less edgy. In fact, it is frankly swallowed up by all the other music videos that feature men lording it over naked or scantily clad women dancing for their pleasure. It fits right in.

Basically, Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. might love women more than anything else in the world, and they might truly think the way that women are degraded in society is disgusting, and they might really want Blurred Lines to be a commentary on that – but it isn’t. It is impossible to tell, especially in light of all the other videos like it that most certainly are not making fun, that they aren’t just three of the many other male artists who treat women as sex objects, existing purely for male pleasure, in order to sell their music. Which means, far from being harmless, it is contributing to the society and culture that degrades and hates women. Thanks again, Robin.

But then, if you listen to the lyrics of this thing, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here, anyway.

Good girl,

I know you want it,

I know you want it,

I know you want it.

So, she’s a “good girl”. I’m not sure what a “good girl” is, but it probably has something to do with ideas of innocence and sexual purity. Which is bullshit in itself; women can have sex with whoever they want, whenever they want, like men do, that’s all. Purity is merely a concept used to control and demean women. The fact that this is what Thicke means is pretty much confirmed when he adds, “the way you grab me, must wanna get nasty”. Because she is acting very sexually suggestively, and seductively, so, obviously, she must want sex. But she’s a good girl, so will she do it? Robin hates these “blurred lines”.

Here’s the problem: he doesn’t know a thing about what’s going on in this girl’s head. Therefore, no matter what she does to him – grab him, dance on him, whatever – he cannot know that she “wants it”. Not at all. Even if it seems that there is no way that she can’t not want it, this is something that must never be assumed. Even if she 100% did want him, it still can’t be assumed that she is going to give it to him, at any point. She’s a human being with her own autonomy.

Then, Thicke proves exactly how much respect he has for women by screaming in her face, “you the hottest bitch in this place.” Which is meant to be a compliment, obviously, but the use of a gendered insult that has been used to denigrate women for centuries detracts from that somewhat. T.I does the same thing later on, when he says “had a bitch, but she ain’t as bad as you.” Which is a double whammy because first of all, he thinks of women as things to have, rather than people to be with, and second, he’s using that word. So.

T.I continues in this manner when he says, “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” Um, great. Do we actually know that she wants that? And later on, when he compares himself to her previous lover, who “don’t smack that ass and pull your hair for you” – are these things that the woman likes? Cos last I heard, you were only assuming that she “wanted it” full stop. Women need to consent to every sexual activity that the two of you embark on… they’re not objects.

I mean, I understand what Thicke thinks he’s trying to do with this song, but he’s simply not doing it. He thinks he’s satirising the degradation of women. He thinks that him, Pharrell and T.I. acting like old men catcalling from a porch as women pass by highlights how beautiful women are, in the way that men are “always gonna follow them around.” But unfortunately for him, society doesn’t allow that context to come through. He’s just adding to the reams and reams of footage that make women appear lesser than men, and, most crucially, robbed of their sexual autonomy. You don’t know that she wants it.

5 comments

  1. Kaya

    Thank you, your words are powerful and arm women against the mysoginistic attacks ingrained in our culture.

  2. emily

    i’m a woman and i consider myself a feminist, however, you’re taking it way too far. i would be super turned on if a man told me i was the hottest bitch in the place. i also think it is very sexy when TI talks about spanking a woman and pulling her hair. so to answer your questions.. yes, yes some women do want this! if you don’t like it, don’t worry about. but some feminists like to be sexy!

    • tillyjean

      I never said no women want this. I asked if the woman in this case specifically wants it, which every man should ask before he does anything to any woman. It’s called enthusiastic consent. I also never said I don’t like what was described here, nor that I don’t like to be sexy nor that feminists aren’t sexy.

      I actually love this song, since you’re so good at making assumptions, I wonder if you knew that? It’s possible to enjoy things and be critical of them.

    • Hilary

      I consider myself a feminist and would be very turned off by a man who called me a bitch. Where does that leave us? A lot of women consider themselves feminists. How does that add to your credibility?

      Men calling women bitches is certainly not revolutionary/feminist. Maybe it could be construed as feminist for a woman to enjoy that kind of treatment versus simply tolerating it as in the past. Because then it’s kind of like the woman is getting what she wants. As long as she wants what she’s going to get anyway.

      This is a good critique of the song. I’m completely unattracted to strange men who have the nerve to come up to me and more or less ask for sex. Great, you think I’m fuckable. Will you feel that way when I’m 70? Or do you just want to use me as a fuck hole for the next 5 minutes?

    • Hilary

      One more thing: I’d venture to guess that most feminists “like to be sexy.” Just because you don’t want to be called a bitch or have your hair pulled doesn’t make you an unfun boner killer who doesn’t like to be sexy. Although I’m sure that’s what many in the culture would like us to believe.

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