Speaking of Women's Rights: You should quit singing along to this song.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

You should quit singing along to this song.

by Beth Leonard

This summer’s pop hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke continues to generate controversy as well as copious air time. Despite accusations that the song is an anthem celebrating rape culture and sexism, I still seem to hear it whenever I turn on the radio.  Every time I hear the sounds of the song’s catchy beat, I am struck with the realization that the song’s publicly debated rape culture infused lyrics have not slowed down its popularity in US pop culture.  Are we all in denial about the song’s messaging, do we not care what the message is, or are we celebrating the message?

Criticism of Robin Thicke and Blurred Lines emerged as the song first hit the airwaves. The images in the song’s video, fully dressed men and half naked women, have received negative attention as well as the song’s lyrics themselves.  Upon a close listen, it becomes clear that the “Blurred Lines” being sung about refer to the boundaries between what a women says or does and what a woman wants. Robin Thicke seems to be suggesting, especially when he refrains “you know you want it” throughout the entire song, that people that say no, meaning people that are good girls, actually want to have sex despite what they say.  As many people know, this idea, that women want to have sex even when they say no, is the centerpiece of rape culture.

Potentially even more upsetting than the content of the song and the video is the manner in which criticism of the song has been received. Robin Thicke has staunchly defended the song as being pro-women, claiming that the song promotes a woman’s choice and celebrates their beauty. Additionally, Mr. Thicke went so far as to say that the song could not be a part of rape culture or sexist, because he and all the other men who made the video are married. Essentially, he is claiming that married men are anti-sexist and all respectful of women, and  that marriage is a cure for rape and sexism.  This claim would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive.

But all this being said, I think the most telling part of the “Blurred Lines” controversy is that we all still hear the song despite the strong criticism. It is on the radio every day, which means it can be heard in the background at the grocery store or at the dentist’s office, and its catchy tune is stuck in our heads.   What’s troubling is how true it is – rape culture and sexism are all around us, and even though we sometimes notice and criticize it, the awareness does not stop us from collectively singling along. 

Beth Leonard is a recent law school grad and new lawyer. She is currently the Project Coordinator for Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project. 

Creative Common photo credit here.