2013 – The Year Robin Thicke Made Me A Feminist
Sam Griffiths looks back at this years most controversial moment in music, and the impact it's had on the gender debate in the media
Whether Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ video is a joke, a true representation of a night out for him, or as Tricia Romano put it, “kind of rapey”, it worked. The biggest selling single of the year, and a Youtube viewership of over 293 million is generally classed as a success. Yet, as a society, should we not be worried that something which warranted Romano’s description, has become such a huge hit and a way for someone to make money?
I think we should. However Thicke defends the video, claiming it was meant to push boundaries for example, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that the video was made. With efforts to objectify women in a way that hasn’t reached such ridiculous heights before, he shows an immaturity which shouldn’t be there. If the video was intended as a feature film for cinematic release, I wouldn’t be surprised if it received an NC-17 rating by the MPAA in America.
Though often criticised for their views on nudity and swearing, the film would have a limited audience of adults, more likely to understand the joke if that is what is intended (or find it “rapey”). But it isn’t. The video is accessible content which is easily watched on websites like Vevo. This expands the potential viewership to everyone, including an ever expanding technological generation of young children. Yet the content seems to get a free ride simply because it’s a music video.
Yet, from a career point of view, it’s easy to understand why Thicke (or anyone else for that matter) would make a video like this. For someone who had only one previous hit in the US Billboard 200’s top 50, it must have seemed like a great idea. It may well still to this day. Monetary wise? Yes. Morally? No. I refuse to accept that something which causes such a purposeful stir in the feminist community is a good way of making money though.
The big thing that opened my eyes to the problem of misogyny in music was reading an article written by Lauren Mayberry, the lead vocalist of electronic band CHVRCHES. Mayberry writes about reading each and every message that the band receives on Facebook, and is continuously told that she will be attacked sexually. This isn’t about feminism. It is about the basic treatment of women.
For someone to have to read such vile insults in order to reach messages from genuine fans just isn’t acceptable. For someone to open their e-mail every day and be repeatedly told that they will be raped, is downright disgusting. There is definitely a difference between people’s behaviour online and in everyday life. It’s almost as if they truly believe there will be no consequences from their online personas.
The first place to go for this kind of sexism is to read the comments on the Youtube page of the ‘Blurred Lines’ video. The sexism is stifling. Toward the models in the video, who effectively put themselves up for abuse by agreeing to appear in the video, and anyone who argues against what Thicke has done. There appears to be a feeling that people can say whatever they like there, and hide behind the video. It’s worrying how the video has almost given life to the vocalisation of these views, which had limited publicity before the video.
What pushed me further on the subject was the reaction to Lily Allen’s video for ‘Hard Out Here’. It’s not just intended as a parody, but a response to Robin Thicke’s video. A way for Allen to suggest that he’s got it wrong whether it’s a joke or not. Other female artists applauded Allen for the displeasure she voiced, not just at Thicke, but the whole music industry. Laura Mvula said it made her “cry with happiness”. The original reaction was good, but then claims that Allen had racist undertones in the video were made.
The original message Allen was making was completely glossed over. Obviously, if the video did have racist elements, then that is completely unacceptable, but I find it hard to believe that she would release a video that was so strongly against sexism but yet be racist at the same time. The criticism basically removed any impact that the video was able to have. Thicke’s critics just gave him more publicity, where as those criticising Allen damaged her message.
My anger isn’t solely at Robin Thicke. His video is fuelling sexism and abuse, and is bringing more people to believe actions like that are acceptable. Yet sexism in music lies deeper than just the release of ‘Blurred Lines’. I do think however, that he’s an unnecessary cog in a problem which shouldn’t exist in the modern day, and in reality, he just needs to grow up.
P.S. The performance with Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s was just ridiculous.