Blurred Lines

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I am a feminist. This entails being against the objectification of women; the positioning of women in society as sexual playthings. Only an idiot would publically say otherwise. I disagree with strip joints, lap dancing clubs, page three and prostitution. If this is starting to seem dry and you’re tempted to stop reading, don’t. A big ol’ but/t is coming up. Not yet though. Music and music videos often cash in on the female form, whether the artist is a woman or not. Half naked ladies prancing about is not an uncommon feature, neither are lyrics referring to them as bitches etc. My feminist values tell me that I should disapprove of this sort of thing. What if a child saw these sorts of videos and thought it was how women do, or should, behave? Wont somebody please think of the children?!? But… (there it is) I don’t always disapprove. I enjoy the songs, I enjoy the videos. It used to be Hot in Herre by Nelly. At the moment I have what is bordering on an addiction to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. I consider it to be guilty pleasure. But should I?
No, after some thought I’ve decided I shouldn’t. I feel like there is a misconception about feminism/feminists. The issue is with sexism and women being considered and/or treated as if their primary purpose is to serve the carnal desires of men. Sex itself is not a problem. Women enjoy sex. That is a pretty important pillar in my own particular brand of feminism. The idea is to establish that women are not just brainless sex objects, not to rinse them of desire. Female sexuality should, in the right context, be celebrated, not swept under the rug lest it be deemed un-feminist. Caitlin Moran echoed the sentiment, or rather I’m echoing hers. She is talking about porn, which I’m not suggesting theses videos actually are but they’re in the same ballpark: ‘The act of having sex isn’t sexist so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynistic’  And this is where I find my permission to watch the Blurred Lines video on repeat.
The video, (there are two versions, I’m talking about the more explicit one) is Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. standing against a white back drop while three models dance around them. The girls are wearing nothing but flesh coloured thongs; about as close to naked as it’s possible to get without actually getting your vadge out. They stand next to Robin looking seductively at the camera while he sings ‘I know you want it’ into their ears. It’s a very sexy video. It is easy to watch and brand it sexist and exploitative. The women are sex objects. But here’s the thing. In certain contexts, women are sex objects. So are men. Humans are sexually motivated creatures. The line ‘you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature’ is making that point, it’s about innate female sexual desire. The song is about sex and sex, as Caitlin Moran pointed out, is not sexist.
The fact that the women are pretty much naked while the men are fully clothed is a difficult one it get round. I don’t want to feel like I’m making excuses. The fact the women are so exposed, it has a sort of honesty about it. There’s no shame. There’s no skimpy outfits. There’s no split seconds of girls writhing around in glitter a la Britney. The models strut about exuding uber-confidence. Aside from the confidence and honesty I think the video has a modicum of parody, as if it is mocking videos in which women wear tiny outfits, by just having butt-naked girls. The scene in which the phrase ‘Robin Thicke has a big dick’ is shown spelled out on the wall with huge silver balloons, proves the video is not taking itself too seriously. Or at least you’d hope not. And even if the balloons speak the truth (you can’t help but wonder), Pharrell Williams tells a sheep its the hottest bitch in the place, so that’s some definite humour right there.
I think perhaps it’s due to the slightly postmodern tone that this video in particular has struck a chord with me as not something that should have Emmeline Pankhurst spinning in her grave. There are some videos where the women bounce their asses in the men’s faces and I find it kind of disgusting, because it’s being done too seriously. The context of some videos, in a club or a house party, they’re too set-in-the-real-world. Blurred Lines isn’t really set anywhere; a white room scattered with random props. It’s not meant to be a snippet of real life. I also think the subject of the song justifies the nakedness. You often see female singers dressed in next to nothing but not really singing about sex, as if skimpy clothes is just the default dress code for a music video.
I mentioned in the first paragraph the concern of children watching this video or others like it are having ideas planted in their innocent little heads. This something the concerns me. But then you have to hope the children have other influences, other templates of the male-female dynamic. I think it is more worrying that a child might see a piece on the news about British politics and notice that it is dominated by men. Then hear a report on how there is still a pay gap. And besides, this video is for adults and adults, you’d hope, have minds of their own. I can a watch a music video featuring naked women and explicit lyrics and still know that I’m an intelligent person with more to offer than just my lady parts. I don’t become convinced that I’m all I’m good for is strutting around naked for men’s enjoyment, not that any men would necessarily enjoy that. I enjoy the video for what it is, an expression of sexuality, then get on with my day. Or watch it again.
I am not trying to say that women being objectified is a concept that should flood media and mainstream society. I think women should be afforded more roles of authority, and that progress towards that will only be hindered if the idea that women are just sexual playthings is perpetuated. But that is not to say that we should pretend that men don’t lust after women, that women don’t lust after men, that women are devoid of sexuality; that is just as harmful. There is a time and a place and a way of doing it, and I think Robin Thicke got it right.
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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anon
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 14:11:03

    But where do you draw the line?
    You justify the video at length, yet you “disagree with…page 3”.
    So on the one hand, an almost universally accessible video of three almost naked girls prancing around three fully clothed, smug looking men, to lyrics such as “you the hottest bitch in this place” is acceptable. On the other hand, a completely static picture of a topless girl, in a tabloid with age restrictions on who can buy it, with little overtly sexual commentary, is unacceptable in your eyes.
    I agree with you on the video itself, the video justifiably celebrates the female form and is honest about sexuality. But if this video is acceptable, then so is page 3.

    Reply

  2. rainbowcolouredpaint
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 23:21:46

    It’s about context. The song is about sex, about female sexual desire, nudity is relevant to that. Page 3 has no context, it’s not about anything. It’s just an image of a naked woman in isolation. Tabloids are trash but they’re still allegedly NEWSpapers. Boobs aren’t news. A music video needs to be sought out a little more. You don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to, it’s not staring you in the face when you’re just trying to read a newspaper.

    Reply

  3. Anon
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 09:48:50

    “It’s about context.”
    – Well yes it is partly about context. But one of your cited reasons for your feminist values is the effect on children, so surely it’s also (and in my view more) about accessibility. And as I argued above, this online video is much more easily viewed by children than a tabloid, which has legal age restrictions on purchases. (By the way, it is notable that in tabloids, the topless pictures are on PAGE THREE, not the front cover, so they are not on display in shops.)

    “The song is about sex, about female sexual desire, nudity is relevant to that.”
    – The creators of almost every other music video based on such topics have managed to illustrate their points without almost naked girls. You can very effectively demonstrate sex and “female sexual desire” (not that the song is about female sexual desire by the way) with at least partly covered girls. It seems to me that, while I still see no harm in the video overall, nudity was not necessary. A good example of this would be the non-explicit version; it is still a damn good video conveying the point effectively, but there are no boobs in sight.

    “Page 3 has no context, it’s not about anything. It’s just an image of a naked woman in isolation.”
    – Exactly! Surely a static image of a topless (not naked) girl, with almost no commentary is less detrimental to your feminist cause than a 4 minute video of topless girls dancing around, with the implied intention to please and satisfy the three men.

    “Tabloids are trash but they’re still allegedly NEWSpapers. Boobs aren’t news. A music video needs to be sought out a little more.”
    – Not quite sure what point you are trying to make here.

    “You don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to, it’s not staring you in the face when you’re just trying to read a newspaper.”
    – Your point about not having to watch the video is valid. But if I understand you correctly, you then imply that the readers of tabloids are somehow victims, by being suddenly subjected to this surprise image that no-one’s ever heard of before. Page 3 is a well established feature of tabloids such as the Daily Star and the Sun. Readers, and even new readers, know what they are getting into when they buy them. I speculate that even the editors of tabloids would argue that if you were looking for in-depth, serious analysis of the news, broadsheets are the way to go. Furthermore, page 3 only exists because there is a demand for it, tabloids aren’t just forcing them upon us.

    Reply

  4. Roberta
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 10:07:00

    Anon- are you a page three girl?

    Reply

  5. rainbowcolouredpaint
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 10:41:41

    ‘The creators of almost every other music video based on such topics have managed to illustrate their points without almost naked girls.’ – I don’t think that’s true at all to be honest.

    The naked version of the video is only accessible if you have a youtube account. It’s not impossible for a child to create one but they would need an email address and a determination to see the video, they couldn’t innocently stumble across it. They could innocently open a newspaper on a shelf in a shop, or on the table in their home.

    The boobs aren’t news comment. My point is that there is absolutely no need for a topless woman in the context of a publication that is supposed to report what is happening in the world.

    ‘Page 3 only exists because there is a demand for it’. I don’t mean to be rude but I think that’s quite a naive view. I don’t think people ever wrote to the editor of the Sun complaining about the lack of nipples in the newspaper. There are plenty of magazines specialising in photos of naked ladies, page 3 does not need to exist, it’s no-one’s only source of titilation.

    Reply

  6. Anon
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 11:54:50

    Roberta, no I’m not a page 3 girl and nor do I even buy tabloids, why is that relevant?

    Rainbowcolouredpaint, how is it not true? You yourself cite Hot in Herre as an example of a good video of a song about sex, without completely topless girls.

    Google “blurred lines explicit” as I have just done, and you will see that the first result is a link to vevo.com, where you don’t need an account. Plus, that determination to see it is promoted by everyone talking about it in the media! Plus, it takes much less effort, risk and determination for a child to google something, or even make a youtube account, than to go into a shop and awkwardly buy/look at a tabloid.

    But the point I was trying, perhaps unclearly, to make is that tabloids don’t claim to be reporting serious news events; they are more openly light-hearted and that’s their niche in the market.

    Just because people possibly haven’t written in about not enough boobs, demand for page 3 exists in terms of people power. If tabloids withdrew page 3 from its features, one can safely speculate that sales would plummet! Tabloids such as the Daily Star are known mainly for 2 things, page 3 and celebrity journalism, and their readers willingly pay money in exchange for these 2 services. If either were withdrawn, the price paid would exceed the perceived value of the service provided, and demand would therefore fall.

    Reply

  7. Anon
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 12:36:06

    Also, I just wanted to clarify out of interest, do you approve of pornography? Or even just lads-mags? It’s just that you say “There are plenty of magazines specialising in photos of naked ladies, page 3 does not need to exist, it’s no-one’s only source of titilation.” Thanks.

    Reply

  8. Lindsay
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 16:00:45

    Anon, searching the phrase “blurred lines explicit” is not innocently stumbling across it. She’s not saying it can’t be found, she’s saying you’re less likely to come across it when surfing the net than you are when you’re browsing in a shop or it’s lying around in your house.

    Reply

    • Adam Yates
      Aug 02, 2013 @ 18:45:26

      I don’t agree with page 3 simply cause they can’t call themselves a newspaper run by journalists if they give us that. Saying that I loveeee seeing titties.

      Reply

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