Reading between the blurred lines The Sheaf September 13, 2013 12:00 am Opinions JILLIAN BORROWMAN Would you go topless for a music video? There is nothing unclear about the amount of buzz surrounding the summer’s hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, featuring Pharrel and T.I. — it’s sexist. If the lyrics don’t cause listeners to pause for a moment, the music video featuring topless women dancing around the (rather creepy) men certainly would. Search “blurred lines parody” on Youtube and you will find a seemingly endless stream of spoofs — everything from videos about the cougar/cub relationship to the trials and tribulations of tan lines. Superficial parodies aside, the grand majority of these spoofs are made by feminist groups attempting to narrow in on the bigger issue of sexism promoted by songs like “Blurred Lines.” One such video, garnering nearly as much buzz as the original, is “Defined Lines.” It was created by three women called the Law Revue Girls from Auckland University. In the video, underwear-clad men are walked on leashes and receive whipped cream facials, shedding an illuminating light on the ridiculous nature of the objectification of women in Robin Thicke’s misguided attempt at fame. “Defined Lines” brings to light the unfair sexual expectations of women and the subordinate role many men envision women to naturally assume. While I recommend taking the four minutes to watch the highly entertaining video, I can’t help but feel the internal sigh as I view one more incomplete feminist statement. One of the things that troubles me the most about the discussions regarding the objectification of women in “Blurred Lines” is the disregard for something seemingly obvious: those girls willingly agreed to go topless in the video for a song which strongly promotes female submission — and they probably didn’t think twice about it. As a strong and opinionated female, I find that the over-sexualization and objectification of women in today’s culture is disgusting. We do still live in a very chauvinistic world with a great deal of inherent sexual discrimination and misogyny, after all. But, why is it that men are getting all the brunt for an issue that too many intelligent women are allowing to perpetuate? Take for example Miley Cyrus’ performance with Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards. Of her own free will, she danced around half-naked and took initiative to twerk on Thicke. This is the way she’s chosen to represent herself as a successful female performer. Whether we like it or not, young women look up to celebrities like Cyrus — so what will they learn from Cyrus’ own self image? Viewing the women in Thicke’s video or Cyrus at the VMAS normalizes these sexist depictions in the minds of everyone. As women, we must refuse to self-objectify. Yes, men have sculpted a sexually discriminatory culture, but whenever a woman welcomes objectification it makes it easy for men to treat her as such. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s unfortunate that male and female celebrities in pop culture more often than not produce objectified and highly sexualized images of women, setting expectations for all that perpetuate sexist ideas and expectations. Sexism will only cease to exist if both women and men acknowledge their contributions to the problem and make efforts to change. – Photo: Supplied Anon I think people get deceived by the notion of ‘freedom’– many (not all) fashion companies justify their naked models by saying that the models are naked of their own free wills and that dressing in a risqué fashion is freedom (most of the fashion designers are men, I may also add). Pop culture nowadays also associates risqué behavior with this so called, “freedom,” and make women pride themselves in it. Call it freedom, but I call it service to men. So yeah I agree: “Sexism will only cease to exist if BOTH women and men acknowledge their contributions to the problem and make efforts to change.” Some women must stop letting themselves be deceived, and some men must stop being the deceivers. And vice-versa, as sexism applies to both genders. Blair Woynarski The problem with this sentiment is that there is nothing in the video that promotes female submission. The women alternate between bored, sarcastic, and silly, while the men basically act like idiots. The women certainly aren’t being dominated. Emily Ratajkowski has similarly defended the video ( http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/emily-ratajkowski-interview-blurred-lines ) and I think the accusation that her personal decision is contributing to the destruction of feminism is a bit unfair. What boggles my mind is that in all these arguments, the satirical nature of the video gets dismissed or not noticed at all. It’s a ridiculous video. It’s a ridiculous song. The men are desperately trying to pull off a macho-gangsta approach and the women are just having fun. Being sexual is not being submissive or promoting sexist agendas. Every woman should be able to do exactly what she is comfortable with. That means we shouldn’t pressure anyone to amp up her sex appeal when she doesn’t want to, but it also means we shouldn’t put down and admonish women just because their behaviour is not comfortable for someone else. anonymous We live in a country with freedom of expression, so yes “we shouldn’t put down and admonish women just because their behaviour is not comfortable for someone else.” But that’s not the issue here. The problem with this is that young girls nowadays practically worship pop culture–and if this is what the majority of music videos with female singers show—women being sexual and men being macho gangsta–then what does that say about our society’s values? Hi THe song just sucks, and from what i’ve heard the lyrics are no worse (maybe cleaner) than every other hit pop song for the last 10 years… why did’nt you give excerpts of the lyrics and explain whats special about them? You point out that many women seem to revel in sexual objectification, and then just hint that its bad… what do you see as a solution for this? finally, “Yes, men have sculpted a sexually discriminatory culture, but whenever a woman welcomes objectification it makes it easy for men to treat her as such. It’s a vicious cycle.” Saying men have ‘sculpted a discriminatory culture’ is a conclusion I would like to see more evidence for, I know hundreds if not thousands of books have been written on the subject and I don’t believe it should be boiled down into an accusatory comment such as this. Calling some sexualized women strong and empowered and others weak and demoralizing seems a bit odd. nah if a woman wants to be naked who are you to stop her? honestly all of there “strong feminist women” only what women to act how they think women should act or act like them, your idea that a women shouldn’t act how she wants is just as oppressing to women as men. While there are these problems in society, blaming a music video is not the answer when did we stop teaching kids a music video isn’t reality? not to mention women objectify men just the same. iv see just as many female artist with oiled down men in their videos why don’t we talk about that? Jeffrey Kulyk Thank you for writing this article! I have been waiting for someone to take this song/video to town and give it the critical treatment it deserves. I have been baffled by how many people have accepted this song/music video without so much as a second glance. I believe it to be a truly reprehensible work that degrades the image of women into nothing more than mindless mounds of flesh for the enjoyment of males. Note how the women in the video are expressionless, lacking of character: they have been dehumanized. This is especially clear since all the men are wearing clothes – these women are portrayed as mere objects relative to these male individuals. Yes, the is a plethora of examples of other music and music videos that are extremely sexual in nature, but Robin Thicke’s travesty takes it to a whole new level. I have never been more thoroughly disgusted – as one person put it “this is porn that is not even arousing”. I am a man, I am not even a feminist, and I am terribly offended by this video and song. I don’t care if the women in this video strutted topless of their own freewill; they have done an incredible disservice to women the globe over and helped undermine the image of women in their own eyes and the eyes of men. The degrading video is matched only by its lyrics, which have a disturbingly rape-y vibe to them. This whole song is about the blurred lines between consensual and non-consensual sex. Don’t believe me? Look at this passage from the lyrics: “What rhymes with hug me?” Not sure Robin, could it be “Drug me”? Careful scrutiny of the lyrics reveals as much degrading content as the video itself. On another note, how bloody insecure is Robin Thicke that he must have a cut in the video where we see silver balloons that spell out “Robin Thicke has a big dick”. Compensating for something? Hash tag, hash tag, hash tag – good God! how much more egocentric can this bastard get? I hope this song, video, and so-called “artist” come under greater criticism. It is incredibly popular and Entertainment Tonight laughed it off as just a steamy music video. But Miley Cyrus makes a considerably less degrading video and she is put before a firing squad. This is yet another classic example of lecherous males receiving admiration as players while promiscuous women are branded with a scarlet letter and shunned. When will the world open its eyes and condemn such ubiquitous inequity? Blair Woynarski OK, so you’re not a feminist, but your offended. Well, I am a feminist, and I’m offended by a lot of things. But I’m not offended by this music video. A little background: Robin Thicke had virtually nothing to do with the construction of this video. That was all done by the director Diane Martel (a woman), who I can only assume is a genius, because without her video this song would be a footnote at best. Thicke actually wanted to put out the clothed version of the video, but Martel pushed for the topless version. Why would she do that? Perhaps it has something to do with these blurred lines everyone is talking about. I keep seeing people make this “blurred lines = date rape” connection, but what everyone seems to forget is that the actual line is “I hate these blurred lines.” Let’s look at the full verse. You’re a good girl Can’t let it get past me You’re far from plastic Talk about getting blasted I hate these blurred lines Basically, it’s noting this conflict between the good girl image and the bad girl image, and he doesn’t know what to do about that. “You’re far from plastic” actually runs contrary to this idea of dehumanisation. At surface, the CMNF set-up does suggest female submission, but when you actually watch closely, you see that the women are never actually mistreated. They’re having fun or they’re acting kind of bored, but it never looks like the men are forcing them to do anything. They’re just hanging out and these douchebags are latching onto them. And the “Robin Thicke has a big dick” shot is obviously the director poking fun at male ego. But here is the most troubling thing. You complain that “promiscuous women are branded with a scarlet letter and shunned” yet you remain completely oblivious to the fact that that’s exactly what this article is doing. Jillian says “We must refuse to self-objectify.” You think that doesn’t include Miley Cyrus? Or virtually every other female singer? It’s basically saying that women are not allowed to act sexy, because that is playing into the evil patriarchy’s hands. But to stop that from happening would be to fundamentally change the nature of human sexual dynamics, which cannot, and should not, happen. Men will never suddenly respect women too much to be physically attracted to them. That’s not how it works. What we need to do is make sure that if a woman is attracting sexual attention, she does it by her own choice and on her own terms, and she isn’t made to feel guilty about it.