2013 has been an interesting year for the singer Robin Thicke; his song “Blurred Lines”, which has probably been played on Radio 1 more times in the past year than the total amount of units it has actually sold, has been crowned Playlists’ Song of 2013. However, “Blurred Lines” also bagged Thicke the less coveted title of “Sexist of the year” by The End Violence Against Women Coalition which is made up of over 60 women’s rights groups as well as the song being banned in over twenty Student Unions in the UK.
The reason why “Blurred Lines” has caused so much outrage is due to the belief that the song promotes rape culture, with lines such as “I hate these blurred lines”, “I know you want it”, and T.I’s line (who the song features alongside Pharrell Williams) “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” coming under fire.
However, despite all the controversy, “Blurred Lines” is still played in Loughborough Students’ Union, and this is something, despite being an avid advocate of women’s rights, I am not against. Over the summer I spoke to a victim of rape and regarding “Blurred Lines” she told me that in regards to the lyrics trivialising sexual assault “I have to agree” but at the same time believes that Thicke did “probably not” realise that his lyrics could be seen as supporting the act of sexual assault.
This is something I agree with, and is why I’d go as far as defending Robin Thicke. Yes, when I read the lyrics of “Blurred Lines” I can completely see how the song can be seen to trivialise and support sexual assault. However, at the same time I’m aware that Robin Thicke is a man who has been married for many, many years and actually had his wife’s full support regarding the song and the video. I find it hard to vilify a man who ran everything by his wife first; as a result I’d call the song being a case of bad judgement rather than him being an advocate of sexual assault.
The victim of rape I spoke to said regards to banning “Blurred Lines” that:
“There is such thing as freedom of the press, and I’m all for that. We aren’t a fascist nation, after all. However, I do believe that people with such a high influence should be more careful as to what they’re implying is acceptable.”
This is something I find interesting, because many people first heard of Robin Thicke this year when they heard “Blurred Lines”, but the album he released this year entitled “Blurred Lines” is actually his sixth album. Thicke’s back catalogue consists of songs entitled “Lost Without U”, “Wanna Love U Girl” and “The Sweetest Love” which are all tender love songs that show nothing but respect to the subject of the song. Yet people have failed to recognise these songs, and chosen to focus on a song which is wildly open to interpretation.
Even disregarding Thicke’s back catalogue and focusing on “Blurred Lines”, it baffles me that it has been banned and the cause of outrage when there are arguably more offensive songs out there. Eminem is a worldwide superstar, but back on his 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP the song “Kim” was a murderous fantasy about his ex wife Kim who is also the mother of his child. Even Pop Punks Fall Out Boy have the dubious lyrics “You can wear the crown but you’re no princess, So put the “D” in “dirt” now, baby, baby, Let’s get you wasted and alone” in the song Death Valley on their 2013 album Save Rock and Roll. This is not me making excuses for anyone, but pointing out there are a lot of songs which can be viewed as sending out the message that violence against women is acceptable, whether it is intentional or not.
Ultimately, there are two problems with “Blurred Lines”; the first is that the lyrics of the song are wildly open to interpretation which is seen by how some support the idea it promotes rape culture, and others opposing it. The second is that if “Blurred Lines” does support rape culture then that and other songs like it are a symptom of a culture, but not the cause. Simply banning songs will not change attitudes.
By banning songs and vilifying artists such as Thicke who is arguably at best misguided and worst ignorant we are pushing such issues underground and actually alienating people from discussing issues regarding sexism, which is something that can work both ways, when frank, mature discussion is what we need the most.