Thursday, October 17, 2013

You Wanna Hug Me? What Rhymes With Hug Me?

And they're, like, it's better than yours. 
A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article regarding Robin Thicke's hit single, "Blurred Lines" asking what I thought of it. You can read the full article here, but here's a summary for those who don't feel like reading the entirety. This article contrasts the initial feminist interpretation of the song and suggests that the feminist parody of the music video is actually more offensive than backwards than the original song and video, which this particular author finds at least somewhat progressive.

For those of you who haven't heard the song or watched the video (and, might I add, I need to loofa my eyes after that video), it is essentially four or five women strutting around topless while Robin Thicke and two cronies sing about/to them, and intermittently we see a message on the wall that "Robin Thicke has has a big dick." Oh, the cleverness of you. Perhaps the most problematic part of the whole video for me is a girl on her hands and knees, booty-tooching like crazy with a miniature stop sign posted on her butt. You don't have to read too far between the lines there.

Anyway, let's start at the very beginning - that's a very good place to start. The first time I heard the song I enjoyed it. It's got a good beat, it's catchy. The first time I saw the video, well, suffice to say I was unimpressed. Firstly, as I've already explained, it's just a handful of half naked women walking around, so their only allure is that they're conventionally beautiful and half naked - uh, congratulations? - and I think, for the purposes of this video, nobody was really looking at their faces anyway. I didn't have any sort of feminist meltdown or strong reaction to it, but I did (do, really) tend to think that things like that aren't empowering or progressive, but I will get to that later. After I read the article, I started to read more articles and I watched the feminist parody of the video, which was pretty shaming and made me think that, although we'd definitely seen the same video, we might have heard different songs. Then I watched the original video again. It was then I realized that I've heard more or less the same thing at every single bar ever. It's a pick up song, and Thicke actually uses some relatively empowering language like, "You're far from plastic" and "That man is not your maker" and "Just let me liberate you." But here's the feminist punch in the groin: I didn't need you to give me that power. It is mine implicitly.

Which brings me to my next point: feminism. It took me a long time to identify as a feminist. For many, many years, my vision of feminism was a bunch of Neanderthal women who didn't shave, convening around a cauldron, conspiring to rid the world of men while they cooked one for dinner. But then somebody told me that was stupid. And he was a white man in an average to above average socioeconomic bracket, so of course I had to believe him. Feminism is about choice and the ability and freedom to make that choice. I can choose to shave my legs and wear makeup, and other women can choose otherwise. I can choose to flirt with you all night and then not go home with you, and you can be annoyed or angry, but it is my body, my life, my right. But you don't have to have a college degree to see the disparity apparent between the sexes. It is truly a man's world, and, in my opinion, Thicke's video is a prime example of that.

There is an argument among the feminist movement as to whether nudity, sex, porn, and other related things widely available to the public can be feminist and empowering. I really struggle with this concept, because I see a little of both sides, but can't fully grasp either. On the one hand, throughout history, sex has been truly a masculine activity. Women were married off, rape was considered a right for raiders, Victorian women who enjoyed sex were thought to be psychotic, the list goes on. When I think about these things, all I can ponder is how utterly backwards that is. But when I think of public domain nudity and sex being empowering, here is where my mind goes: A staple of the feminist movement is that women are more than just sexual objects to men. But parading around topless or feeding into that fantasy recognizes the fact that many men just see women as sexual objects. So feminists are using an exploitation that they readily complain about as an advantage - totally hypocritical - and as I've said previously, hypocrisy is ugly. But then what's a woman to do? Closet herself in an unseemly burlap sack and never acknowledge the fact that she is sexual? No, that's stupid, too. And then it cycles.

I mentioned before a problematic area of the video - the woman on all fours with the mini-stop sign on her butt. A very problematic area of the lyrics for me, considerably more dubious than the video frame, is "You know you want it." Why, you ask, does this pose a problem? Well, because this is classic power-hungry, victim-blaming language. You asked for it by wearing that short skirt. You told me it was okay by flashing me some cleavage. You shouldn't have been walking home by yourself. It's your fault because you brought this on yourself. RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG. It is never, ever, ever, ever, EVER okay to blame the victim. If a child on the playground gets beat up for having glasses you don't say, "Well, you should get rid of the glasses." So, this whole idea of "You know you want it" doesn't sit well with me. BUT and this is a but that's bigger than mine, all the women in Thicke's video, despite being objectified by nature of what they're doing, are not in any sort of submissive positions or roles where they are depicted as being anything less than confident.

So here's what it comes down to. Do I think Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is contrary to feminism? No. Do I think it's empowering and female-friendly? No. I think it's a pick up line in verse form with all the qualities of a man who means well but doesn't quite get it. But truly, I think we're all missing the point. Given on the hype surrounding his song, you'd think he'd be a more adept lyricist, yet he wants to know "What rhymes with 'hug me?'" and here are some answers for him.

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