Blurred Lines: Sexism Hitting The Charts?

The music industry has often come under fire for inappropriate and sometimes explicit song lyrics or particularly risqué videos. Many of the most popular songs in the charts today could be said to contain more than a hint of misogyny – although lyrics from female singers and bands can be equally as objectifying towards men, and often sadly contribute to sexual stereotyping. There seems to be a sort of one-up-manship as to who can produce the most shocking music, whether it’s Rihanna’s song S&M featuring the lyrics Sticks and stones may break my bones, But chains and whips excite me”  or Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ new song Blurred Lines featuring derogatory lyrics and an unrated music video with models strutting around topless.

I’m not a complete killjoy. In fact, aside from the lyrics and confused music video, I really like the catchy tune of the song – it sounds summery and upbeat. What I dislike however, is the message and tone of the song and the video. Three beautiful women strut around a plain white set wearing nothing more than skin coloured G-strings, toting farmyard animals and sporting bright red pouts. The men – needless to say – are fully clothed, and don’t seem to be able to take their eyes off of the beautiful females’ nubile breasts. Whilst scantily clad women are nothing new to music videos, this poppy/chart style song is pretty mainstream – there are no dirty hip-hop beats or dancehall anthems here. Both the men and the women in the video look awkward and at times confused as to why they are there, and what exactly is going on. The women don’t speak, only dance, writhe around, ride exercise bikes (what?) or pose naked on all fours with various pouty expressions. At one point, Robin Thicke puffs on a cigar and blows the smoke into one of the model’s faces, causing her to cough and splutter.

In trying to play devil’s advocate, perhaps the women are actually liberated by their freedom from clothing and bras, and enjoy marching around the men – after all, it’s only boobs, right? But if this argument was valid and nudity should be embraced and de-sexualised, why are the men fully clothed? The lyrics don’t clarify things either, and although most pop lyrics should be taken with a pinch of salt nowadays, combined with the images on screen (such as a wall full of giant balloons spelling out the sentence “ROBIN THICKE HAS A BIG D**K”), they create a sense of confusion and unease.

The premise of the song, from what I can work out, is that men are confronted with female characters who present ‘blurred lines’ – they conform to sweet and innocent ideals, but they secretly “want it” and “must want to get nasty”. Lines like “You’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature” and “you the hottest bitch in this place” may be meant as flattering, but frankly just demean and objectify girls. Worse still, I was appalled by the phrase “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” – a pretty disgusting image that although not literal, implies a kind of sexual violence which may make some listeners uncomfortable. I’m aware that these lyrics are tame compared to other material out there, and some people may say that that such a view on a mere pop song is prudish. But considering the recent Everyday Sexism Project, the lyrics and video to this song further support the embedding of sexist values into everyday culture. It’s shocking enough to hear young girls and boys singing along to the racy lyrics of Rihanna, Jay-Z and Eminem, but perhaps even more disturbing is hearing them repeat the insidious sexist values legitimated by something as normal as a song on the radio.

Photo Credits: www.soundisstyle.com, www.cultureandlife.co.uk, www.iamboigenius.com