All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Blurred Lines Debate and Miley Cyrus

So I have been off the grid for a lot of the summer. Been busy doing some campaigning in my home state back in the U.S., but now I'm back and I have this thing that I absolutely must address: I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard about this song by now (I am very late to this party) - "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke and features TI and Pharrell. It was and still is a pretty popular song. For those of you who are fans please listen to what I am saying.

If you identify as a feminist, or just as a person who is against rape, or against violence against women, or just in general think that consent is a needed for sex to happen between two people, you should not like this song! Its catchy. I'll admit to being lured in by its beats and listening to it before I knew the message behind it.

Anyone want to take a guess what what message this song is sending? "I know you want it"? "Just let me liberate you"? "And thats why I'm gon' take a good girl"? I don't know about you but some of those lines are extremely worrying to me. "I know you want it" sounds very 'rapey'. That combined with the line about "taking" a 'good girl' sounds aggressive. The whole song is derogatory towards women. It objectifies them- their personhood is ignored and they are not treated as equal to men (i.e. Thicke himself).

Let's look at the narrative of the song: We start off with the singer (a male) trying to send some kind of message to a woman. This message is apparently not well received and so the singer is going out of his mind. The man has apparently observed another trying to 'get with' the woman, as indicated by "ok now he was close." Now Robin Thicke has decided that women are animals, sexual in a way, exotic, but now we have removed personhood from them, and these 'animals' need liberating from their 'good girl' status!

Now some people might say this is a good message. Women have been told to stay in the kitchen and be 'domesticated' for a very long time and breaking free of that is a good thing. Unfortunately Thicke is not encouraging the woman to free herself but is saying that he (or men) is going to do it for her. So really she is not liberated from the patriarchy, she is still only bound by what men allow. Also of note is that calling a grown woman a "good girl" is infantilizing and only helps to contribute to the singer's objectification of her.

Continuing on: Thicke goes on to say that because the woman needs liberating he is going to "take a good girl." "Taking" a 'good girl' implies a very low level, if any, consent involved. Why else would you use the word "take?" To make sure I'm not just imagining this - the next lines are "I know you want it" and then "Can't let it get past me." This is all giving off some very aggressive signals.

Now the above is made worse by the lines that follow them. We will start with "the way you grab me, must wanna get nasty." So apparently a woman wants to have sex because she of how she is moving around you. Now that would sound a bit ridiculous if not for the fact that the song is called "Blurred Lines." The woman is apparently "blasted", which likely means that she is drunk or in some way incapacitated mentally. She is also giving mixed signals as shown by the line, "I hate these blurred lines" followed by, again, "I know you want it."

All of the above was just analyzing the first verse! In the second verse Thicke is talking about provocative clothing, "What do they make dreams for, when you got them jeans on." He also mentions the type of touching the woman was doing in the first verse. She wants to hug him and all he can think about is something else. This is then of course followed by the chorus in which the main line is "I know you want it." So because of her clothes she wants it but there are still blurred lines and he hates them.

Finally there is the third verse, which does not air on the radio (at least in the US). In this verse TI describes what he would do to this imaginary woman. He's gonna "give [her] something big enough to tear your ass in two," and he wants to "smack that ass and pull your hair like that." The first part just sounds disturbing to me let alone inappropriate. In addition to this, later in the verse he acknowledges that she is not responding to his actions which makes all of this sound like verbal harassment with a distinctly violent overtone.

In the last chorus, essentially it sounds like the woman is given something, and then Thicke gets the girl saying, "Here's our beginning I always wanted a good girl." Continuing with the "I know you want it."

So please, tell me if you still think this song is appropriate, or in any way respectful towards women. In case you were wondering this song is very obviously directed at women as is perfectly exemplified in the music video. As stated above it is all about objectification; not in a flattering way, but rather in a dark and aggressive fashion.

If only I were done with this...Miley Cyrus, a young up and coming artist, I'm sure you have all heard of her (remember Hannah Montana?), agreed to spend part of her time on stage performing this song. Now for the sake of brevity I'm going to ignore some of the other criticisms of her performance and focus solely on this. Miley is clearly not a stupid young woman, as demonstrated by some of her comments on American society and what they choose to censor and pay attention to. Cyrus is coming into her own and as such is likely exploring her sexuality and so I don't particularly object to her being sexual. BUT choosing to be sexual and promoting a song which is so blatantly derogative are very different.


I do not believe that she is unaware of the controversy surrounding these lyrics, which means she chose to still go ahead with said performance in full awareness of what she was promoting. I can only say that this is sending a horrible message to young girls and developing young women. Yes, I want to encourage them to feel like they can be sexual, but NOT at the mercy of a man who treats them with such blatant disregard.

To put this all really succinctly: "Blurred Lines" is a terrifyingly sexist song and a stong indicator of our current rape culture. It is worrying to see developing young women, especially influential ones, buying into its message. /end rant

To end this on a slightly better note...here is my favorite parody of the song :)



4 comments:

  1. First off this has been grating my nerves Humans are animals (we are in the animalia kingdom) and in most conversations about sex, we used the term animals alot. For example when we say "he/she is an animal in bed" that suppose to a compliment. Also he said "Let me."..meaning she has the option to say no him. However he talking about her taking advantage of her sexual appetite so unless she's a lesbian he only asking can he be the one she does it with. Now here's your biggest crime you skip "go ahead and get at me" when you discussed the second verse. That is a very important line as it clearly means everything is left up to the woman. And ask this question to yourself when guy is talking about a girl grabbing him sexually doesn't he mean she grabbing his dick/ass, I don't know about you but I don't touch a man's dick in a platonic fashion (When a guy grabbed my ass in a club I assume he wanted sex too). Then let's get into your other crime here when attribute T.I.'s verse as if it Robin Thicke said it. He didn't in fact it another guy speaking. However crude his language is he still asks for permission three times ( a salute is a form of permission) and that line particularly is just a crude way of saying he has big dick. Overall none the things he describe are not going happen until the girl gives him the salute to proceed. In Thicke's part of the song the girl must initiate further contact. As for your comment on clothing while this has been excuse used by rapists (cause the issue with them is they don't know how to perceive normal social cues and behavior properly), I think it needs to be said that women do dress provocatively for attention and are highly aware what draws others to certain parts of our body (I wear low cut tops because I feel sexy AND because I am aware it would make males stare at my cleavage). Fashion/clothing is highly complex situation there is why there is saying that fashion is not for comfort. I am not feminists as there are part of the third wave feminist movement I find highly problematic but I against rape, violence against people in general (which the song never says anything violent in the first place imo), consent is everything (however Blurred Lines isn't even about Blurred Lines of consent cause as many pointed out there is no such thing) but those last 3 things have nothing to do with the song. I appreciate your commentary even though I find most of it extremely flawed as I know many women who don't mind being spoken to like the males speak in this song speak to the female because this song is not about every woman, its about one kind of woman.

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    1. Ok I'm going to try to address everything you've said in order. Let me start by saying I really appreciate your honesty and open opinion.
      So: starting with your first point yes humans are "animals" however we, as humans, refer to animals as distinct from humans in that thus far no animal is of the same capacity as humans (as far as we know). Furthermore, it is commonly known that animals are considered inferior to humans. Now, I also acknowledged that referring to someone as an animal can have sexual undertones, but it is still at the same time removing personhood from them. Animals are supposed to be wild not humans. My point still stands.
      As far as her filling her sexual appetite and you distinguishing that he says "let me..." I don't see how that makes much of a difference at all. He still is inviting that he is the one who is liberating her. She cannot do it herself. Her sexual appetite though she is apparently an animal is not something she can have without him. I'd also like to not that 'liberating' a person is not the same as just asking to be with them sexually.
      As far as the line I seem to be missing in the second verse...first of all I can't find it. Secondly I don't see "go ahead get at me" as leaving it all up to the woman. It sounds very much like a demand at that point to me.
      Regarding her sexually touching him as I said it sounds ridiculous out of context. However, as stated and shown in the context of the song there are blurred lines. Robin Thicke himself says, “And then there’s the other side of it which is the blurred lines between a good girl and a bad girl, and even very good girls all have little bad sides to them.” So a 'good girl' hugging, not wanting sex and a 'bad girl' getting drunk touching, dancing sexily. Mixed signals about consent...blurred lines.
      I'm also going to take this moment to point out that I think it is perfectly reasonable that if you were to touch a man and decide that you don't want to have sex with him or don't wish to continue further you are under no obligation to, which to me you seem to be implying. I'm also going to note that your assumption that he wants sex does not mean that you can are entitled to behave in degrading ways. As you said it is an assumption and may very well be incorrect. The person may only want to flirt.
      I can see now that I mistyped and put Thicke instead of T.I. for the third verse. I will fix that accordingly. However, I don't see any of the rest of your points on that verse as valid. He doesn't really ask for permission does he? He says to hit him up - I would assume call. Then continues to say that he wouldn't let her pass him by. He calls for the 'salute' however she doesn't respond. And then in the next chorus she seems to have been given something and then magically ends up with the man. Sounds oddly like drugging/rape to me. At the very least coercion. That does not constitute consent. In addition to all of this we can see from the beginning of the song that she is "blasted" in other words drunk.
      As for the last part of your comment..about fashion, again I reiterate that yes you can wear sexy clothes for multiple purposes one of which is to receive sexual attention. However that is not an excuse to degrade women to such a point as to think you can 'take her' or in any way implies that she 'wants it'. So many women wear clothes to feel sexy but not to have sex with someone.
      I believe I have already addressed your bit about the song not being about consent. Again I appreciate your honesty. I don't know if any of my arguments have convinced you but I hope I have clarified my position at the very least.

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  2. You need an editor.

    That being said, this song disgusts me on a very visceral level for most of the reasons you addressed. The video certainly doesn't help it, however, and that brings in some other critiques I think you could touch on.
    The director of the video, a woman, apparently viewed the video as subversive. She directed the women to openly mock the singer, to be in on the "joke."
    Robin Thicke.... disagrees with that.

    As for Miley Cyrus, I don't know how much of a choice she had for that mashup. Record labels tend to mandate that kind of thing, and the performers are forced to agree.... or at least persuaded to agree because of contractual reasons. So I'm not sure how much of a say she had in the VMA performance.

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    1. Yea, I probably do...I also should probably just avoid writing posts so late after having some hard cider.

      I haven't read about the director of the video but I don't see that as making it much better at all.

      My problem with saying that Miley didn't really have a choice is that seems to be taking away some of her own personal agency. I certainly recognize that she could have had pressures coming from all around her so I can't say how much she had in this decision but I would like to think that she has some.

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