I’m a 22-year-old woman who loves hip-hop and R&B music. And while I understand that if you have to say something out loud it usually means you’re lying, but for the sake of this article, you can assume I’m pretty hip, I have a rather large collection of Nikes…basically I know the difference between “cool” and “uncool”.
That said, I need to ask Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke one small question regarding their now-banned explicit music videos “Blurred Lines” and “Tunnel Vision”: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?! I know these music videos are really just a form of your artistic expression. Totally. I get it. But when did it become acceptable to have topless-almost fully naked-women in music videos? Trust me, I’ve been around long enough to know that most other hip-hop music videos feature scantily-clad women dancing around a fully-clothed, exceptionally attractive gold-toothed rapper. While we are not crazy about the blatant objectification of women in those videos, the centerfold antics of Thicke and JT have stepped over the not-so-Blurred Line, leaving many female fans more than a little uncomfortable with the “rape-y” and problematic lyrics that go along with them.
The majority of Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” (think about the meaning of that for just a moment), featuring Pharrell and T.I., has the singers creepily whispering the chorus line “I know you want it” repeatedly into a woman’s ear. Other lyrics include “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” (Click here for more fun lyrics).
All three of the women are wearing nothing but nude-colored thongs and red lipstick. The entire music video features T.I., Pharrell, and Robin Thicke in suits while the bare-breasted women awkwardly dance around with a banjo, a Styrofoam finger, and (yes, believe it) a baby goat. In response to some harsh criticism after the video was released this past March, Thicke so eloquently stated in a GQ interview:
We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.”
People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”
Thicke’s response has received some criticism of its own, to say the least. Tricia Romano, of the Daily Beast, wrote that the subject of the song is enough to make female fans uncomfortable, “The song is about how a girl really wants crazy wild sex but doesn’t say it — positing that age-old problem where men think ‘no’ means ‘yes’ into a catchy, hummable song.” Another writer for the Daily Beast, Canadian model Amy Davidson, was also offended by the music video, “The women are clearly being used as objects to reinforce the status of the men in the video. The men have all the control and status because they are not vulnerable-they are completely covered. Whereas the women have no status and are totally open to be exploited, ogled, and used.” Yep, just like old times.
Also featured in the video is a clip that reads “Robin Thicke has a big dick”. Remember when I said if you have to say it, it usually means you’re lying? Just saying.
On to Justin Timberlake. Now, I’ve loved JT since the moment I first saw him dance across the stage with NSYNC – all gelled, bleached curls and that incredible smile. While Timberlake is a much better dancer than Thicke (I’m a bit bias), the explicit and recently banned from YouTube music video is problematic in a plethora of ways. While Timberlake is never in the same shot with any of the three naked women featured in his video, his face is often transposed onto their bare breasts (yes, you read that correctly).
One of the most confounding parts of the video is in the lyrics when he boasts of having tunnel vision for one woman, while surrounded by multiple fully naked women (mind you-none of which are his actual wife, Jessica Biel). Similar to Thicke’s creepy “I know you want it” chorus, JT doesn’t get much more creative as he coos “I know you like it” for the majority of the video. Oh Justin, these lyrics are not – shall we say – Grammy material.
While we could call JT’s video more artistically inclined compared with Thicke’s (the bar has been set very low), both pop stars are blatantly degrading women and blurring the lines (hah-get it?) between music and misogyny. We could shrug this off and say, “What’s the big deal? We’ve seen worse.” (“Tip Drill” by Nelly and “Monster” by Kanye West). Unfortunately, while sexism and rap music are often one-in-the-same, “Tunnel Vision” and “Blurred Lines” have opened a new chapter in the continuing subjugation of women in media and pop culture.
Take a look-see for yourself:
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I.
“Tunnel Vision” by Justin Timberlake
Mod Carousel just came out with a gender-swapped version of “Blurred Lines”. Besides the fact that the only (seemingly) straight guy is the thick-legged white one, the video is awesome. Check it out. Feel weird yet?
- Is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Video Sexy Or Sexist? (venusfrommars.wordpress.com)