The news this week is abuzz about the Blurred Lines parody that was apparently temporarily banned from YouTube for being “inappropriate” and violating the sites’ rules by displaying sexually explicit content. Which makes me laugh and raise my eyebrows given that the original song never faced such issues. If you are not familiar with the original crawl out from under your rock and turn the radio on. It is currently played approximately 50 times an hour, part of a 5 song set that also includes Royals, Same Love, We Can’t Stop, and Best Song Ever, that plays on repeat all day.
I actually like the song, it’s in my running playlist, which given the intensity of my current training is actually my most listened to playlist. It’s got a catchy beat and quick rhythm – the perfect blend for Training 3.0 (yeah I’m already on the third playlist, I get bored quickly). I never really paid attention to the lyrics. After catching wind of this parody and watching the video I became curious about what the original looked like. And I can see why it ruffled some tail feathers. I personally would like to know which “good girls” go around humping stuffed animals and hanging out in only a nude thong. Scratch that. I would like to know which girls, good or otherwise, do this.
Apparently this was the artistic vision for the video. I am not one to judge someone for how they like to dress. Or you know, not dress. But I would be kidding if I said no socially conditioned thought of looseness and sexual promiscuity crossed my mind thinking about dancing naked girls. My mom raised me as if I didn’t have a body – I was going to be something, and my body wasn’t going to get me there. So I can’t really help the automaticity of these thoughts, but when I catch them, I remind myself that there is a person behind the dancing nudity.
Watching the video made me graphically aware of the lyrics and why this song has garnered attention from the feminists, and you know, people who don’t like to be seen as sex objects and prefer for no to consistently mean no. What I don’t get though, is how this entire issue is playing out. Yes, Robin Thicke is apparently promoting a no-means-yes message. But this sort of thinly veiled sexual objectification of women is hardly new. Yes his video was a little more… um avant garde… than most. Or it must be given then kerfuffle the video has raised.
The way I see it – this artist created a song that fits into the current landscape of the music industry, or at least in this genre, it promotes the same values that are largely socially accepted, if not subtly or not so subtly propagated. The timing sucks. The recent news has been filled with cases of “well she said no, but I thought that meant yes” or “she didn’t SAY no (never mind that she was passed out and couldn’t SAY anything) so I thought that meant yes” or “I figured the way she dressed/acted she WANTED IT.” And I in no way condone anything other than purely consensual sex. And yes this song is suggests at the opposite. But can you really blame the artist for the society?
There has been massive amounts of slut shaming in the news lately, often with tragic ends. Sadly, the slut shaming doesn’t just come from the perpetrators or males in general. It often comes from females too. This could be because they don’t realize it could have been them, protected by the illusion of uniqueness; or because they do realize it could have been them and figure if they go with the masses it WON’T be them. Really regardless of the why, we as a society promote the view that it’s okay for guys to do what they want, and girls wouldn’t have to deal with unwelcome sexual advances is they didn’t indicate their apparently latent desires through dress, social activity, or consumption of alcohol/drugs.
My point? This song is bad. The video is shocking. But blaming one sheep for the activities of the herd isn’t really fair. Yes you have to start somewhere. This at least hints that these attitudes are no longer socially acceptable and we would like to change them, but criticizing ONE SONG and ONE ARTIST isn’t going to overhaul the society.
This whole debacle reminds me of a greater trend in our society though. It’s a sequence as old as time, really a more evolved version of “I know you are, but what am I?” One group or person is attacked by another, and the reaction is to attack their attackers. An Us and Them divide is created and suddenly the world becomes black and white. Coaches will tell their players that the best defense is a good offense, but this doesn’t really work so well in the real world. It devolves into a giant name-calling mess.
A few months back, I read an article about how in response to fat shaming and the “thin is in!” propaganda, people are targeting the thin. There seems to be a dual set of beliefs at play at the moment. On one hand, we have the “fat people lack discipline and self-control, they are slobs and could be thin if they weren’t so lazy,” on the other hand we’ve got the “skinny people are cold, conceited b****s.” Neither view is fair. Both ascribe personality traits to a body shape. Hardly fair. Things got personal real fast, and the mud-slinging began. There’s also the “real women have curves” argument, which is great if you’re dealing with an eating disorder, or are overweight (by society’s standards, not necessarily by BMI) and trying to comfort yourself. But consider how this affects the naturally thin? What if they’ve tried desperately to gain weight? Now because they have failed they lose their right to be a woman?
Until we as a society can learn to accept everyone as a person, not as a body, while encouraging healthy living appropriately, this kind of attacking atmosphere will continue. And it gets confusing. Really all we seem to be able to agree on at the moment, is that whatever you are, you should be the opposite. Unless you look like Heidi Klum. And let’s face it, even then you’re not necessarily safe.
Don’t look with your eyes closed.
Politics is a prime arena for this behaviour – and I will give Trudeau credit – when he came to be the Liberal leader and the Conservatives attacked him, he didn’t bite back, he just sat back and let them enjoy their regression to middle-school level behaviours. But have you ever paid attention to the political ads during an election season? It’s like a showcase of who dragged up the most mud on the other guy. It is rare to see a party’s ad simply showcase their vision and their election promises – they must first point out the other party’s flaws and mistakes, even if they have NOTHING to do with the election or politics. And we fall for it every time.
Exhibit C? Look at the issues of sexuality and abortion. These are very sensitive issues, but I retain the view that assuming other people’s choices don’t hurt me, let them be. Let them decide. And these are issues that really don’t hurt me. If you let the government decide on these issues you get a snowball effect – at what point do you draw the line, how do you make a legal decision about one group or individual without affecting the rights of other groups?
Both these issues result in people being placed in one camp or the other. Which is what makes it so problematic. Fear of being placed in one camp or another or being judged for which camp they hang out in, makes these topics so taboo and difficult to talk about.
If you approve of a woman’s right to choose, you are some sort of satanic devil worshiper. Possibly an exaggeration, but it does seem to me to be a Footloose situation – where you approve of one thing, and suddenly you approve of all immoral actions and behaviours. Regardless of whether or not those things are certifiably immoral. If you don’t approve, you are likely to be labelled as a “bible thumper” though what exactly that term means to me is a little vague. But one side labels you as a religious prude, the other as some sort of rebellious hellion. When it comes to sexuality, morality again becomes a divider, at least on the LGBT side of things. Then there’s the whole feminism vs sexist males thing.
The world went black and white and the defense became offensive. And while individuals may see more shades of grey, unfortunately, our society sort of seems to be judged by who squawks the loudest. Which is often the extremists, who do appear to see the world as largely black and white. A society is almost judged by its worst members. Which I don’t mean that standing up for your views is bad, or that if you approve/disapprove of something that automatically makes you some crazed extremist.
So now you’re like, well I see the world in greys on all those issues and I don’t attack people to defend myself! You’ve got it all wrong.
Think about your last fight with your partner or sibling. Because if anyone wants to tell me that they never sling mud in one of those fights, I’m going to have to call your bluff. I’m not saying that’s the only tool in your arsenal, but we all use it from time to time. It’s human nature.
I’ve raised a lot of issues here and tried to remain as unbiased as possible. This isn’t about my views on any of these issues. So if I didn’t bring them up to take a stance, what exactly was my point with all this talk of name-calling, sexuality, and bible thumpers?
1) Two wrongs don’t make a right (or as my mom once told me during a distracted chastising – “Two wrongs don’t make a left.” Thanks mom. Great advice.). Just because your views or actions have been challenged or called to question doesn’t mean you have to defend yourself by degrading whoever is questioning you. They are not an opponent that must be conquered. Defend yourself the good ol’ fashioned way – by discussing your strengths and supporting your argument.
2) Groups are not homogenous. They are composed of individuals with varying levels of agreement on topics, and agreement on one topic bears no weight on their other views and interests. For example? Being Catholic does not mean an individual disapproves of sex before marriage, would condemn the LGBT population, and would take away a woman’s right to choose. Nor does being Muslim mean you are a crazy terrorist. Don’t presume to know anything about anyone.
3) Respect the right to have an opinion. It is worth something. Don’t be a blind consumer, question things, but don’t interrogation. Keep an open mind, you might learn something.
4) The Bambie Rule and Golden Rule will get you through life. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. And treat others as you would like to be treated. Works in 99% of situations.
5) Don’t blame the individual for the problems of society. You can make a positive change in your behaviour and that is all you have control over. Society changes very slowly. All you can control is you.
Oh boy, things got real heavy real fast. I talked big issues and societal generalities, but this applies to everyday life as well. This is all just food for thought, something mull over while counting sheep or on a seemingly endless ride on the bus. Or you know, next time someone puts forth a blanket judging statement without considering the grey areas in between.
Put the mud down. and back away.