I tried all last week to write a blog post about Miley Cyrus and her performance at the VMAs. I ran into a few problems, though. Do I discuss the slut shaming that came after the performance? It is, after all, a major aspect when considering the impact of her performance. Or do I discuss how racist the whole act was? It’s everywhere in her performance and her life, from the use of black women as both props (literally objects) and as animals (teddy bears? Really?), to her appropriation of ratchet culture by way of twerking.
But I just couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t do it not because it didn’t deserve to be discussed. It does deserve discussion. It deserves hours of discussion, loud discussion, in public and private places both. It deserves to be used as a tool to enlighten the masses on the injustices done both TO Cyrus and BY Cyrus, as well as a conversation about others who have done the same.
But what I think deserves more attention is how LITTLE attention is given to Robin Thicke.
That’s not a typo. Nineteen. One-Nine. That’s exceptional—but it’s far from something that I’m pleased about, for a few reasons.
First: the line “I know you want it” that pervades the lyrics. It’s repeated over and over, mimicking the use when someone is pressing sex on an unwilling partner. It’s the height of rape propaganda and something we can’t help but find completely counter to our concept of consent. It’s a phrase that consistently “perpetuates the idea that women don’t really know what they want and just need to be taken by force.” More than anything, it just emphasizes how much of this song is really about rape, and the blurred lines between rape and consensual sex in situations involving drugs and alcohol (as indicated by the lines “Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica / It always works for me…/ No more pretending”).
So, the first thing that angers me about Thicke and his song is that it’s a rape song, and we as a society are tacitly agreeing that it’s okay through our continued listening and support. There’s a reason I don’t listen to Chris Brown. Time to add Thicke to the list.
The second issue I have is his video. Not just the video with half naked women dancing around fully clothed men. No, I take issue with his other video with topless women dancing around (surprise!) fully clothed men (link not included because it disgusts me. It’s on vevo if you care to look for it). The type of video is very common to rap and hip hop songs these days, but it in no way absolves Thicke of his objectification of women. It’s videos like this, and our societal support of them, that keeps pornography as a multibillion dollar industry and consistently disrupts our attempts to counter the impression that women are just here for man’s use.
More than that, however, I take issue with the double standard in media. After Thicke’s video came out (and his NSFW version was removed from YouTube but his “safe” version maintained), a Blurred Lines parody created by a group of feminist law students from Auckland University appeared—and was subsequently removed for violating YouTube’s terms and conditions by displaying sexually explicit content. This is definitely a double standard as the only difference in visual content was that the women were fully clothed and the men were dancing around in their underwear. Why do we think it’s okay for Thicke to do it, but when social commentary occurs and women are empowered, we take it down? Happily, after a public outcry, the video is back up. I definitely recommend that you watch it; the parody is intended to be taken as a bit of a joke, as most commentary is, but it definitely sends a far more positive message than Thicke’s gratuitous video (it is, obviously, not safe for work, but it’s amazing and worth a view or six).
The last issue I take is with Thicke himself, and this…this I present without comment:
“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, what do you think?
EDIT (9/3/13): There’s a petition on change.org to remove the music video for Thicke’s song from YouTube for being misogynistic and inappropriate. If you’d like to sign it, you can find it here.