August 26, 2013

There Is Nothing Blurry About It

Does Miley Cyrus' performance of Blurred Lines at the VMAs Cross the Line, or is it just another example of sexism and policing women's sexuality?

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Blurred Lines

Blurred Lines

A number of people asked me what I thought about Robin Thicke’s song, Blurred Lines, this summer. As a Sexuality Researcher who studies sexual consent, I had plenty to say! Of course, like other feminists, I cringed while watching the video and reading the lyrics. But so many other people were already commenting on the song and the video in much more eloquent ways than I could, so besides sharing my thoughts with a few friends, I didn’t really have much to add to the conversation that wasn’t already being said. However, after the horrifying reactions to Miley Cyrus’ [and Robin Thicke’s—how quickly we forget to mention him!!] performance at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) last night, I feel very strongly about weighing in.

The Sexual Double Standard is Not Blurry…in fact, it’s Quite Clear

Miley Cyrus has been (and continues to be as the day goes on) horribly criticized over her “provocative” and “slutty” VMA performance, which includes a dance duet with 36 year old Robin Thicke to his summer hit, Blurred Lines. People’s negative reactions regarding Cyrus are not only frustrating and downright hypocritical, but they are also completely misdirected.

I find it interesting that the same people praising Thicke for the catchy summer jam are the ones ripping Cyrus to shreds. I would like to point out what her critics seem to be missing– she looks just like the women in Thicke’s music video (this is the VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS after all, how did anyone miss that?). So, I am confused as to why Cyrus’ performance it is terribly wrong, disgusting, offensive, etc., yet Thicke’s song and corresponding music video performance are catchy and fun. Look closely, (in fact, just watch about 30 seconds of the video and the clip for the VMAs) and you will see strikingly similar images.

 Blurred Lines Analysis Interlude

If you haven’t heard it yet (how could you not?), Blurred Lines is the bouncy, catchy song being played non-stop on the radio and TV—Jimmy Fallon even performed a version of the song with Thicke on Late Night. In fact, it has been designated this summer’s hot new hit!

Let’s be clear though, because there is nothing blurry about it, this song is about promoting non-consent and then calling it Blurred Lines! For example, Thicke repeats the line, “I know you want it” several times throughout the song. That line is frighteningly familiar…where have I heard it before? Oh, right–it’s the line rapists use when they are justifying rape—“well I know she wanted it.” Interestingly, early in the song, Thicke admits that he is going both “blind” and “deaf.” As such, I am curious to know how he could be so certain about what someone else wants if he cannot hear or see them?

Nevertheless, in the music video, Thicke sings, “Good girl, I know you want it,” over and over again into the women’s ears while they dance around, wearing very little clothing, and pout seductively, all the while he and T.I. (the other male featured in the song and video) are fully clothed. If this wasn’t eerie and frightening enough, his lyric, “Talk about getting blasted, I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it, but you’re a good girl, the way you grab me, must want to get nasty,” raises so many red flags, I don’t know where to begin. Besides calling into question consent, he is also promoting the good girl/bad girl story line—good girls don’t want sex, bad girls are nasty. Come on Thicke, been there, done that already. Try something more creative!

Well, he does–given that the women in the video are being told they are “good girls,” Thicke takes it upon himself to “liberate” them. Hooray, I always find it really liberating when someone tells me what I want over and over again!

If anyone should be criticized for this song, it should be Thicke.

 It’s not Blurry to me!

It is very frustrating that Cyrus is the one being criticized in such drastic ways for the Blurred Lines performance even though Thicke was there too (fully clothed, speaking to the gender inequity presented), and dancing “provocatively” with Cyrus. In fact, people have criticized Cyrus for simply dancing with Thicke (who else was she supposed to dance with?) because he is married and a father. Tweets such as:

Robin Thicke is someone’s dad, Miley just ground her [expletive] on someone’s [expletive] dad, What the [expletive] Milely

really confuse me because they are completely one-directional. If someone believes this behavior is problematic, why only criticize Cyrus? Why not comment on Thicke—he is dancing along with Cyrus and more importantly, it’s his song! (a song that borders on promoting rape, might I add).

The answer is very simple—we continue to police women’s sexuality, but do not feel the need to police men’s sexuality. I am not an advocate for policing anyone’s sexuality, but I do believe it is important to highlight this gender difference.

If you don’t like Cyrus’ performance because you think she is a poor dancer or you are not a fan of stuffed animals, that is fine, critique her performance until you are blue in the face. But if you find Cyrus’ performance offensive and inappropriate, I urge you to consider the source of your feelings. Isn’t a song promoting Blurred Lines (aka rape) much more offensive than a 20 year old woman dancing in a bikini (which is the image we see over and over in music videos across music genres, including Thicke’s Blurred Lines video!)?

Blurred Lines is just another example of media that glorifies and sexualizes non-consent and rape. Cyrus’ mimicked performance of the music video is the least of what needs to be critiques about this song.