I don’t like feeling angry or sad. I find ‘negative’ emotions difficult to manage. I don’t like conflict and I don’t like confronting people. I don’t like being strident in my views or seeming as though I am ‘pushing’ my views on anyone. But,in the last couple of weeks I have had four friends – women who I expect would not balk at being defined as feminists – indicate that they just can’t stop listening to Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’. And, after trying to listen to the song and watch the video I am deeply disheartened and thoroughly disgusted. I am not going to link to the song in any way – I don’t want the analytics to suggest that I enjoy this song. Feel free to find the song and it’s two videos – one in which the Saran-Wrap clad women have clothes under the film and one in which they do not. And, do look up the full lyrics online as well.
Before I go on I thought it might be valuable to address the fact that I am a burlesque performer. I take my clothes off in public in theatres with over a hundred people. I don’t make my living at this, but I enjoy it. I like the artform. I find it empowering to publicly show people, other women in particular, that I have control over my body, that my body is amazing, I can do whatever I like with it and no one has the power to degrade me or make me feel badly about my body or sexuality. This is not the same as having naked women in a pop video to a song with lyrics like:
I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it/But you’re a good girl/The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty/Go ahead, get at me
(And, believe me, the lyrics just get more lovely from there.) I would equate what I do to the practice of reclaiming words – African-Americans reclaiming the ‘N’ word; feminists reclaiming the word ‘bitch’. I can take my clothes off in public because I’ve decided that it is empowering. I can call myself a bitch because when I use that word it means I am strong, capable, opinionated, I have permission to get angry and I am no man’s property. When Robin Thicke and Pharrell call women ‘bitches’ in their song and have half-starved, naked models strutting around that is exploitation. I don’t care how funky the beat is, in my opinion, as soon as a woman says she likes this song, or any similar song, she is complicit in her own subjugation. Why should the men who run the music industry, the gaming industry, the television and film industries believe us when we tell them we’re not okay with sexual exploitation and misogyny in their media when we buy it and share it?
I’m happy to hear other opinions from women who can see another side to this situation. I just can’t see how women can expect to be taken seriously and treated like humans with agency when smart, feminists buy and share this kind of blatant misogynistic bullshit. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why things don’t change. When those of us who know better laugh off the degradation and exploitation of women for a funky beat we shouldn’t be surprised when school administrators regulate the length of our daughters’ skirts and judges and juries tell rape victims they were asking for it.
Please Be Lovely to Each Other,