A month or two ago, driving alone on my evening out, I heard for the first time the new and catchy pop song penned by Robin Thicke. I'm sure you know the song I'm talking about...it's hard to miss it these days. I couldn't understand a single lyric during that car radio rendition, but I was bopping around the driver's seat as I drove because the music was rhythmic and fun and upbeat. I had no idea who sung the song, or even what it was called, until a day or two later when I clicked on a Jimmy Kimmel version of a song that people were posting all over YouTube. It was called Blurred Lines. Hearing it for the second time, I still understood virtually nothing of the lyrics (I'm a little slow in that department) and I thought it was a really cute song, especially when accompanied by a group of men playing children's instruments in that Kimmel version.
But I began to wonder a bit about it because the words that I did catch were "b*tch" and "I know you want it." That prompted me to do a google search for the song's lyrics...and after that, I decided that, despite the catchy tune that still echoes through my head, I didn't want to be a party to that song any more.
To be honest, the lyrics struck two specific and different chords in me:
First, some of the lyrics just didn't make sense to me...and that bothers this English-loving, grammar-conscious, mostly-well-spoken woman. For example, the first few lines say "...If you can't hear what I'm trying to say...Maybe I'm going deaf, Maybe I'm going blind, Maybe I'm out of my mind." So, how does that make sense? If you can't hear what I'm trying to say then maybe I'm going deaf or blind? Huh? Later on in the song, he repeats other lyrics that just don't make sense: "...Can't let it get past me/You're far from plastic/Talk about getting blasted/etc..." Again, huh? Seriously, dude, it you're going to admit to writing lyrics, at least have them make sense. Mr. Thicke has been very vocal of late in expressing how incredibly much money he has spent on mood altering drugs; I'm thinking that he would be wise to invest his money elsewhere because let's be frank, it's not just his mood that is being affected.
The second thing that bothered me quite a lot more was the more obvious (to anyone familiar with the lyrics) and controversial aspect of the song: It's hard to imagine how the lyrics could be interpreted in any other way than the objectification of women and sex, and the paternalistic stereotyping of both. It's just gross on this level, from my perspective. It shocks me that we have, in so many respects, come so far in our society in the celebration of women and the pivotal role we play in society...and yet we allow ourselves to be subjected to popular song lyrics that throw all of that progress into the toilet. Seriously.
"Ok, now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature
Just let me liberate you,
Hey, hey, hey...."
Since when do I need someone to liberate me, and why would I be looking to a man to domesticate me (whatever that means)? Do I not have a voice to be able to speak to these issues myself? And if by animal, he is referring to women as sexual beings, well of course that's in our nature - it's part of God's creation of us, male and female. And yet these lyrics make it seem as if our sexual nature is something animalistic (and thus, by implication, bad?), or something that needs liberating rather than an inherent part of who we are as women. I don't get it. And why on earth would the writer of these lyrics assume to be the man to know so much about me and what I, as a woman, want, and to assume that he should do the liberating? There's also something annoying and demeaning about the juxtaposition of a woman as domesticated vs animalistic in nature.
How 'bout this lyrical treat?
"What do they make dreams for
When you got them jeans on
What do we need steam for
You the hottest b*tch in this place..."
Really? It's still ok for men to be objectifying women like this, to be judging them this blatantly on their appearance, and it's still ok for a man (I refuse to call him an artist) to be celebrated for this kind of perspective? And it's really ok for men to call women b*tches? Have we not progressed at all beyond the 50's?
And then there are these oft-repeated treasures:
"I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
But you're a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty..."
Over and over we must hear the line "I know you want it, but you're a good girl..." Assuming that 'it' refers to sex, in what way does wanting it in an appropriate context make me a bad girl? And if I don't want it, then the answer's clearly a 'no' and there's nothing blurry about that either. What on earth is blurred other than the songwriter's sense of appropriateness?
There are other lyrics that I find just as bad and worse and even more explicit - I shudder to think that society's children are listening to these words. And let's not kid ourselves by thinking that the message of this song isn't subliminally sinking in! Music has a huge influence on the culture of our day, and this song barely falls short of glorifying violence against women.
I have also heard that there is an unrated version of the video for this song in which the male singers are fully clothed and the accompanying models are topless (as in naked from the waist up) and essentially present for the amusement of the men. Topless. Present for the amusement of men. I don't even have words to say how much this offends me. How much longer do we have to wait for this kind of misogyny to be intolerable?
Who are we as a society that this song has become one of the longest running hits on billboard charts this year? I get that it's a very, very catchy song - I was drawn in myself, until I began to understand and then read the lyrics.
Should this not concern parents of boys and young men who hear Mr. Thicke singing about something that sounds, at the very least, like the objectification of women and, at its worst, remarkably like an affirmation of non-consensual sex? Should this not concerns parents of girls and young women, who are referred to as "bi*ches" and who are objectified throughout the song and about whom men are told to think that good girls really still do want sex regardless of what they say? Hmm...doesn't sound much different from the definition of rape.
The fact that we as a society have brought honour to this song and wealth to its creator by jacking it up to the top of billboard charts, quite frankly says something about the blurred values and morals that we as a society live by despite our apparent progress.
We like so often to think that there are a lot of gray areas in society. In our efforts not to offend anyone, we have come to believe that there's not really a right or wrong to be had and that it's all a matter of one's personal, private perspective. Well, that's simply not true and the bottom line for me is this: If the popularity of this song is an indication of the morality of our society; if the lines of our values are truly so blurred; if our view of women is really still so archaic and demeaning and offensive and paternalistic...I'm alarmed. This is not ok. There are no blurred lines here: It's not ok.