Let’s start with Jay Smooth’s discussion about how to tell people they sound racist. His point is that when you tell someone they are a racist person you will inevitably be drawn into a conversation about their motivations, intentions, past actions. People will ‘vouch’ for them, and you will lose what you want to say. Which is that it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, you can still say or do something that is racist. As Jay Smooth notes, “I don’t care who he is but I need to hold him accountable for what he did.
Fast forward to Blurred Lines. That link is to the wildly misogynist video. You can search yourself for the ‘unrated’ version, which is the same wildly misogynist video, but with boobs. This video, and this song, is incredibly degrading, to men and to women (it embiggens not even the smallest among us).
This is trivial of course, because we all know that the song is degrading. But what’s even better is the interview Thicke did, where he pulled a bait-and-switch from “this video degrades women” to “I degrade women.” His defense, then, goes like this:
Thicke: Well, at first it was me and Pharrell. Then I thought, who else is a grown Southern gentleman with a family? T.I. Even though he’s a hardcore rapper, he’s a real Southern gentleman. He says “Sir” and “Ma’am,” he stays cool, and he’s really beloved. Pharrell’s the same way. It was just three really nice guys having a good time together.
GQ: Some animals also made it into the video…
Robin Thicke: 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. After the video got banned on YouTube, my wife tweeted, “Violence is ugly. Nudity is beautiful. And the ‘Blurred Lines’ video makes me wanna…” You know. And that’s the truth. Right now, with terrorism and poverty and Wall Street and Social Security having problems, nudity should not be the issue.”
Just two old guys hollering at girls on the porch! It’s brash! It’s fearless! There are real problems! My wife says it’s beautiful! The video director is a woman! She says it’s empowering!
And now we’re going to have to discuss Thicke’s (and Pharrell’s, and T.I.’s) intentions. What is in their hearts. And how trivial this is compared to real problems.
But we don’t really have to do any of that. We can be concerned about terrorism, and poverty, and economic inequality and misogyny. And we can simply say that this is one of many incredibly catchy songs, with incredibly misogynist lyrics.
I’ll ask again, why is our culture so hostile to women?