Unblurring the Lines

by April Gregory, ’13

A recent onslaught of tits-in-your-face (TIYF) music videos has catalyzed much hullabaloo in the blogosphere. If you haven’t seen Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision,” or The-Dream’s “Pussy” (yes, just “Pussy”), you may wish to view them now. On Vevo or Vimeo, though, because they were pulled from YouTube. And not in a place where your supervisor might drop in to give you some Chobani coupons, because they are very, very TIYF.

To start, I should make one thing exceedingly clear: for years I was a more or less passive acceptor of the contradictions inherent in my favorite music genres. I love hip hop and R&B. LOVE. I love booming bass and releasing my inner Bey on the d-floor whenever possible. Consequently, I had — and still have — a tendency to ignore the often unsavory lyrics that float atop said booming bass. “She eyein’ me like her n***a don’t exist / Girl, I know you want this dick,” to name a recent favorite.

At Stanford I had the opportunity to learn from and connect with some of the world’s foremost hip hop scholars, who dropped more knowledge on me than I knew what to do with. They encouraged me to engage more critically with the voices in my earbuds, which in turn inspired some original musings about hip hop and feminism. The more I thought about the dissonance between my personal ideologies and the hot misogynist mess that is mainstream hip hop and R&B, the less passive I became.

Coming to terms with a genre that, as the fabulous Joan Morgan so aptly wrote, “repeatedly reduces me to tits and ass” has been a long and arduous process. “Sex positivity!” one of my many shoulder devils would tell me. “If the women in the videos are okay with it, then it’s fine!” Sure, but to what extent and on whose watch? Should we assume that video girls are formally debriefed on the risks and implications of their on-camera exposure? Unlike a Snapchat of my repulsive tailbone bruise, those images won’t disappear into cyberspace.

What I feel compelled to investigate, however, is not just the fucked up gender and sexuality politics of the music video industry at large. I am more interested in my personal, visceral reaction to these TIYF videos. I have few to no qualms with nakedness and consider myself quite supportive of women’s sexual freedom. But there is something about the broader context of our contemporary moment that makes these videos exceptional.

It’s been a bad year for women. Law after law and soundbite after soundbite, we have been told that we don’t know what’s best for our own bodies. It’s relentless, it’s exhausting and it’s infuriating. I’m still not even close to getting over Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” fuckery.

So perhaps I am not alone in feeling that in a writhing, naked woman superimposed on Justin Timberlake’s face is sufficient reason to release my feminist kraken. Roxana Gay’s article in Salon brilliantly exposes the unsettling parallels between Robin Thicke’s treatment of women’s bodies and, say, Rick Perry’s. In one of her many snaps-worthy moments, Gay describes the omnipresence of misogyny in this American life:

“It’s hard not to feel humorless as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening, it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.”

So in the same way I feel sick when I hear Texas State Senator Bill Zedler call Wendy Davis and her supporters “terrorists,” I also feel sick when I watch an extraordinarily beautiful woman prance around in front of big silver balloons that spell out, “Robin Thicke has a big dick.” Naked.

I feel sick because the female director of the video tells me it’s “very, very funny and subtly ridiculing,” and I want to believe her so badly. I really do. But no degree of subtlety can flip the pervasive script we witness in the video: objectification and exploitation of female bodies for male pleasure and profit. Even if she claims the girls in the video “are in the power position” because they’re looking directly at the camera. Even if she says the video is “meta and playful.”

I feel sick because I know millions of men (and women) are watching this video, listening to Robin creepily croon, “I know you want it,” and thinking the whole thing is just so awesome. I feel sick because regardless of the director’s intentions, the women in the video will inevitably be perceived as human equivalents of the balloons celebrating Robin’s penis: decorations that exist only to adorn and endorse a man’s sexual prowess. There’s nothing fucking “meta” about that.

(For the record, both “Tunnel Vision” and “Pussy” were directed by men.)

The women in each of these music videos are not the problem; patriarchy is the problem. To me, the fact that these videos have proliferated now, in our precise political moment, is no mere coincidence. The unprecedented exploitation of the female body we witness in the videos is symptomatic of a much bigger, much scarier reality. After all, art imitates life.

I will not pretend to be blind to the absolute insanity going on around me, because frankly, I just can’t anymore. I will talk about it with my mother, my friends, and all the precious women in my life. I will not entertain the idea that perhaps I am overreacting. And, like Roxana Gay, I will not tolerate being told to “lighten up.”

I will also act an absolute fool whenever “Fuckin’ Problems” comes on in the car or at a party. But do not mistake my ability to recite Kendrick’s verse verbatim as an endorsement of its content. I will have it both ways, because men have been having it every which way for quite some time.

To me, the lines between agency and exploitation are not as blurry as we pretend they are. Whether it’s rape culture, abortion legislation, or something as seemingly innocuous as a music video, we owe it to ourselves and the women we love to unblur those lines and call bullshit whenever we see it. We deserve better, and we deserve it on our own terms.

April Gregory received her B.A. in American Studies less than two months ago. She is moving to New York City in August to teach second grade.

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41 thoughts on “Unblurring the Lines

  1. David Lancaster says:

    I love your article, and I agree with many parts of it (okay, pretty much all of it, I’m still thinking the rest over). But I’d like to ask a small favour. I know you don’t owe it to me or anyone who asks (and here I have to state that I am a man), but could you also talk to some of the men in your life about it? I know that’s tense, and there’ll be many who don’t listen, but there are others who want to hear and talk, and whose ignorance (though our own fault) is something we are ignorant of and would shed if only it was pointed out to us. For some of us, that’s just as easy as a conversation.

    It’s hard for some men to talk to women (it’s easy for others, but a lot of them don’t treat the woman the right way when they do), and I’m starting to see more and more of how difficult it can be for women to talk to men. However, it needs to happen to fix these kinds of issues. Don’t get disheartened when you find guys who don’t want to listen. Remember that there are many out there like me who want to work on this too. And you’ll find more and more of them too.

  2. Pat says:

    Hey, I agree 100% with the article and everything that’s wrong with the video and lyrics. No argument there.

    Why though, aren’t women fighting fire with fire? Why aren’t there female artists making songs and videos that put them in power. Where they’re the ones rating and objectifying guys in a club, reducing them to choice cuts of meat? In this day and age of digital distribution, it shouldn’t be too hard for any lady singer to turn the tables and make music that flips off the patriarchy. If Gaga and Perry started teaching assertiveness and the unacceptability of male objectification, their hordes of fans would listen. They’ve got the power, but they aren’t using it responsibly.

  3. Miranda says:

    “I will have it both ways, because men have been having it every which way for quite some time.”

    This is fantastic! Thank you, April!

  4. JB says:

    Every time I hear the word “patriarchy” I know I’m in for some sweeping overgeneralizations about men. I’m a straight man and I used to be a go go dancer, and I know female dancers who are total exhibitionists, love to get practically naked in public and dance, refer to them themselves and other women as chicks, and are the most no bullshit, empowered, liberated women imaginable. However as a musician I’m offended by no-talent douchebags like Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake or a million other rap dudes who can’t play an instrument or sing in tune using hot chicks to further their pathetic so-called music careers. Madonna did a whole book of pictures of herself naked, is she, or Rhianna, somehow not perpetuating the objectification of women because they get the money instead of a dude? I’m not questioning your feelings and if you feel offended, right on, but offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder, morality is relative, and indicting an entire gender with ill-defined concepts like “patriarchy” because you’re outside your comfort zone is immature. Guys don’t like being stereotyped any more than women do.

  5. Candienziia says:

    Reblogged this on Vaginas and Video Games: Advice and Stuff for Gamers and commented:
    I’m still recovering from a very long drive, so in lieu of a personal Vag and Video posting, please enjoy this very well written article lampooning the current trends in music videos and how those trends reflect a larger problem in our society: misogyny is in style.

  6. Reblogged this on Tube Top Television and commented:
    This is a fantastic article from a recent Stanford grad on how to simultaneously enjoy hip hop and R&B, but be able to call bullshit of the misogynistic variety whenever we see it – and that this is in fact a valuable thing to do. As April says, “I will have it both ways, because men have been having it every which way for quite some time.”

  7. Human Being says:

    There are a couple of problems with the ideas offered here:

    1- The feminist notion that sexually objectifying people is the same as misogyny is straight up incorrect. Objectification is simply that– objectification. Yes, it’s ugly. And yet, everybody is guilty of it: Men, Women, Gay, Straight. We all objectify each other. It is what it is, and to be realistic about it, is unlikely to change anytime soon. True, as a part of the extreme culture of ancient patriarchy, women *were* objectified and devalued as human beings. But that is not the same type of objectification we see today. Objectification in this day and age is not expressed as a culture of dominance as it was in the past, but as the fetishizing of an individual’s power, including their sexual power. Men and women both are objectified in this way in the media. In these same videos the “star” of the video is also being objectified– though it perhaps seems less insidious because they’re men– but either way objectification is simply what it is. It does not necessarily imply or equal a dislike or hatred towards women. Far from it. It’s often a form of idolization.

    2- Patriarchy in it’s modern guise is no longer a part of why women experience repression. In fact, for modern american women, there is little to no repression on women that still exists based on their gender. Think about it– we are all repressed in various ways in this dominator culture. But that has little to do with gender anymore. Sure, it’s tempting to adhere to the conditioning of feminism’s voice and blame patriarchy. But there are enough women in power to prove that it’s not about patriarchy anymore. The antiquated patriarchy of old did indeed hold women down in repression. But that’s no longer the case. It’s now an antiquated argument to blame patriarchy. If you feel as a woman that you are experiencing repression, I challenge you to look honestly at yourself and the world around you and ask yourself if perhaps you’ve bought into a bias and viewpoint that is distorting your perception? Are women in the west still subject to repression? Not that I can see. Are women subject to *discrimination* ? Sure. But so is everybody else.

    As an example, people who were raised with the notion that they are poor will continue to pursue wealth, even if they have in fact already have achieved wealth. Scarcity consciousness is different, and often louder than the physical reality of being poor. At some point you’ve got to wake up and see that you already have what you’ve been taught to seek. If you’re still feeling oppressed, don’t blame patriarchy– that’s the easy way out. Instead, examine the existing nature of power structures in general as a way of living, and while you’re at it, examine the conditioning of feminism’s ideas in your life and see if they are in fact, TRUE.

    Other than these flawed notions, your article was an enjoyable read that brought up some really good points.

    • 1 – Objectification is inherently a dominance relationship and here is why. When we objectify someone we discount all of their attributes other than their physical form (if we regard anything else eg. emotional attachment, we are simply being attracted to the other not objectifying them). When this occurs, we reduce the other to physicality and so create of them a sub-human. This innately means we place ourselves as better, indeed more human, than them by this action. In this way, we have asserted dominance on the other based on their value to our sexual desires. I think it is therefore reasonable to conclude that objectifying a woman is misogyny and objectifying a man is misandry. Idolization is a type of dehumanization and doesn’t mean sexism is absent. Indeed, idolization is often a key indicator of sexist views in my experience.

      2 – The problem with what you say is twofold in my view. Firstly, you say that everyone is discriminated against, so it must be fine and normal. I completely disagree. Discrimination is wrong no matter who it is aimed at, and if that discrimination is sexism then I think it is perfectly legitimate to complain (I find your part about, “if you feel repressed maybe it is your fault” pretty disgraceful to be honest). Secondly, you state that patriarchy is ended pretty much. Well if I was you I would go and check out the gender pay gap statistics. I think it is indeed a good sign that more and more women are gaining higher power roles in society. However, that doesn’t mean that equality has been reached and patriarchy has ended. It just means that there has been some movement towards that. Simply casting a blind eye to continuing issues in society and culture based around gender is a complicit position. Idealism shouldn’t be ridiculed because it isn’t workable now, it should be lauded because we might one day reach true equality.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There are a couple of problems with the ideas offered here:

    1- The feminist notion that sexually objectifying people is the same as misogyny is straight up incorrect. Objectification is simply that– objectification. Yes, it’s ugly. And yet, everybody is guilty of it: Men, Women, Gay, Straight. We all objectify each other. It is what it is, and to be realistic about it, is unlikely to change anytime soon. True, as a part of the extreme culture of ancient patriarchy, women *were* objectified and devalued as human beings. But that is not the same type of objectification we see today. Objectification in this day and age is not expressed as a culture of dominance as it was in the past, but as the fetishizing of an individual’s power, including their sexual power. Men and women both are objectified in this way in the media. In these same videos the “star” of the video is also being objectified– though it perhaps seems less insidious because they’re men– but either way objectification is simply what it is. It does not necessarily imply or equal a dislike or hatred towards women. Far from it. It’s often a form of idolization.

    2- Patriarchy in it’s modern guise is no longer a part of why women experience repression. In fact, for modern american women, there is little to no repression on women that still exists based on their gender. Think about it– we are all repressed in various ways in this dominator culture. But that has little to do with gender anymore. Sure, it’s tempting to adhere to the conditioning of feminism’s voice and blame patriarchy. But there are enough women in power to prove that it’s not about patriarchy anymore. The antiquated patriarchy of old did indeed hold women down in repression. But that’s no longer the case. It’s now an antiquated argument to blame patriarchy. If you feel as a woman that you are experiencing repression, I challenge you to look honestly at yourself and the world around you and ask yourself if perhaps you’ve bought into a bias and viewpoint that is distorting your perception? Are women in the west still subject to repression? Not that I can see. Are women subject to *discrimination* ? Sure. But so is everybody else.

    As an example, people who were raised with the notion that they are poor will continue to pursue wealth, even if they have in fact already have achieved wealth. Scarcity consciousness is different, and often louder than the physical reality of being poor. At some point you’ve got to wake up and see that you already have what you’ve been taught to seek. If you’re still feeling oppressed, don’t blame patriarchy– that’s the easy way out. Instead, examine the existing nature of power structures in general as a way of living, and while you’re at it, examine the conditioning of feminism’s ideas in your life and see if they are in fact, TRUE.

    Other than these flawed notions, your article was an enjoyable read that brought up some really good points.

  9. Señor Can't(Won't) Say says:

    All I can say is: Thank God I have a penis!

    A few premises before I lay my conclusion on the table:

    The ‘f’ movement is allowing or enabling women to be viewed as equal with men

    A ship rarely functions well with two captains.

    When two people are pushed towards leadership usually one will try to dominate the other

    Men are naturally dominant for the majority in a purely physical sense.

    It matters more to know where the car is going then to be the one driving.

    All that to say, your shot at making any real change is education of women(issues like rape, abortion(yes I believe in dual parent consent, equality is a two way street), ect. Unfortunately, as long you push to move a women out of protection, and into competition with a man, you force her to resort to tactics of manipulation to gain control, win, or influence the other. Tactics of manipulation include the above referenced naked dancing.

    Nature set the order, it’s just a shame you have to push against it so hard. Try pushing for the concept someone else who was very in favor of equality pushes for: that all persons would be judged on the merit of their actions. Gay, minority race, majority race, women, or some sort of ridiculous halvsie… Your actions should influence leadership position, pay grade, ect. When you try to blanket claim equality for any group of individuals those that truly aren’t equal hold the rest back.

    Merit of actions. (but having a penis helps)

    • All of your arguments here could be used to argue that women don’t deserve the right to vote.

      Having more upper body strength is negligible in today’s society. Why should a man be dominant just because they are on average taller or wider than women? What relevance does that have to make business, leadership or political decisions?

      None.

      I’m a male and your post made me cringe like crazy.

  10. If there was an equal amount of videos displaying the naked torsos of men as there are of women, It wouldn’t be so blatantly offensive to feminists, or anyone for that matter that is some what uncomfortable with explicitly sexual videos. It comes down to how open we are as humans towards sexuality, and how much we are willing to openly learn and honestly teach about sexuality. The freedoms as well as the inequality’s of sexuality should be more openly and honestly discussed from an early age. No matter how open we say and act as though we are as a culture of humans towards sexuality, were actually far from it in my opinion. As honest as we think we are about it, as we act or show we are as a society about it in our videos, songs, literature, art, etc were actually not being open and honest at all with ourselves and others around us. For the most part whenever sexuality is shown in music videos it usually tends to be overly biased towards the opinions of the straight male, making it inherently unequal towards straight women, homosexual males, trans-gender folk, and bisexuals. women consist of over half of the worlds population. Wouldn’t you think that straight women would like to see male sexual expression just as much as straight men like to see women sexual expression? while were on the topic… shouldn’t sexual expression be equal and free to every human gender on earth. forgive my grammar I was typing fast:)

    • questioning says:

      ” Wouldn’t you think that straight women would like to see male sexual expression just as much as straight men like to see women sexual expression?”

      No not really. Or, in a completely different way.

      just look at the droves of women drooling over the Boston Marathon bombers. So much so that Rolling Stone even featured one of them on their cover.

  11. John Smith says:

    This will all end as soon as there are no extraordinarily beautiful women left willing to take a paycheck to dance naked in a video. No one is putting them in these videos at gunpoint. Who are you to label them or their actions?

    • j says:

      She very explicitly isn’t labeling them or their actions. She’s talking about a cultural environment that lends itself to video after video exploiting the female form for the enjoyment of men. It isn’t one of the incidents, it’s that it’s everywhere all the time, and it’s what that says about us, and how that affects us.

      • matthewtheninja says:

        You mean the same cultural environment where TV newscastors openly joke about castrating males, where men are conditioned to care less about their own health than of those around them (see the disposable male), where women are the majority of college graduates and where men make up the majority of both the prisoner and homeless population, where men are much more likely to die in the course of their jobs?

        No, you’re totally right. It’s the females that are being oppressed, and these videos of them being sexy is absolute proof of that.

  12. Kitty Elizabeth says:

    Who knows, maybe if we feature a woman’s body more in art, such as music it won’t be as oversexualized. We as people, men and women, oversexualize a woman’s body. Women should have the freedom to wear whatever they want to wear without people being concerned about their safety or other judgement. We should be seeing it as natural. They go topless in European beaches and art is displayed that portrays naked women.This is a pretty radical thought, but I would be interested in a response.

  13. Harlemizer says:

    Wonderful Eyeopener, but please consider word-choice and profanity-inclusion when writing these. Somehow, it can be improperly received as ‘more of the same’.

  14. james says:

    Although I agree with some of the sentiments expressed in this article, her argument is not presented very well in detail and many of the points she makes through the piece are unrelated to one another

    I can completely understand why people(especially women) may be uncomfortable with video as she says ,”..I also feel sick when I watch an extraordinarily beautiful woman prance around in front of big silver balloons that spell out, “Robin Thicke has a big dick.” Naked…” Things like this and the content of the video throughout I can understand can make many people feel uncomfortable. But it seems like she is trying to express some sort of immorality about the video itself. But the video is no more or less moral than a bunch of guys at a bachelor party hiring a female stripper or a bunch of women hiring a male stripper for a bachelorette party. Which maybe following her logic would be immoral and if this is the case I don’t agree with at all.

    Concerning her main thesis “But no degree of subtlety can flip the pervasive script we witness in the video: objectification and exploitation of female bodies for male pleasure and profit”. I think the usage of the exploitation is pretty ridiculous and implies non-consensual activity, but aside from that, she needs to present more detailed and contrived argument in terms of what is immoral about the video itself. Objectification in itself is not immoral , especially when the person being objectified wants or agrees to be objectified such as in the case of this video, even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

    A larger point could’ve have been presented about how media’s portrayal of women is unbalanced due to how the majority of the content producers are men and how this video might reinforce that concept(even though the director was female), but that point was never expressed. Categorizing this to Todd akin however to me really degrades the feminist narrative, there is no reason why a video showing tits should be mentioned alongside a person trivializing rape.

    • Jen says:

      I don’t think morality came into her equation of this.
      The issue with objectificaton is that one woman can choose to prance around naked and still be fully empowered within herself. But that doesn’t matter on a larger cultural context. The larger cultural context of objectification matters. She can do whatever she wants for whatever reasons she wants, but those reasons don’t really matter once it’s public because the public views it from their own lens. Some will see it and say “fuck yeah, look at that empowered lady!” and some will be it and say “fuck yeah, I’d love to fuck her” and some will see it and say “fuck…this is kinda awkward.”

    • I think hiring a stripper is not a good thing. Is it not just a type of prostitution? I certainly would feel very uncomfortable around a stripper.

      Also, I find your views on objectification pretty odd. If you objectify someone, you are taking the view that nothing matters about them but their physical presence. Why should that be ok? You will note the people that appear in these videos were paid to do so. That is one form of coercion surely? There is a big difference between sexual display to attract a mate and commercial objectification.

      FYI, exploitation has more than one meaning. It can also mean to display someone as behaving in a way that in not representative of their normal behaviour. In that sense, these videos are very much exploitative. They present women as indiscriminately sexually available to any voyeur. As I hope you might of noticed in your life, the majority of women are not like that. People that are indiscriminately sexually available (whether they are male or female) tend to have some pretty major problems. It isn’t normal human behaviour.

      • Anonymous says:

        hiring a stripper is prostitution? that doesn’t make any sense. even if it was their is nothing inherently immoral about prostitution either.

        I’m not saying stripping is a good thing, but its not inherently an immoral thing.

        A couple details about your argument against objectification
        1) If people of consent want to objectify each other, although there is nothing inherently moral about this, there is nothing wrong with it either.

        if two people get into a “one night stand” or become “fuck buddies”, 99% of the time they are just reducing one another to their looks aka objectifying one another. This isn’t “immoral”

        If your definition of coercion includes in it a significant form of agency and free choice, in this case the choice to choose not to be in the video and deny the money, then the definition of coercion is meaningless.

        This video isn’t supposed to be representative of women, nowhere in this video is there anything to suggest ALL women behave as the girls do in the video.

  15. And what about Justin Timberlake’s new song, Take Back the Night? Apparently he is blissfully unaware that his song title is the name of an organization that fights against sexual assault and domestic violence.

  16. questioning says:

    This is a pretty good piece but I think you should have discussed really entails “unblurring the lines” more than taking shots at the abstract boogeyman feminists so fondly refer to as “The Patriarchy”

    Attacking “the Patriarchy,” from my perspective, seems like the squelching of male desire. And while you might think this has been a bad year for women, men haven’t had it that that great either for the past TEN years – between boys being drugged up with ADHD medication just for being “normal boys,” and the 2008-2009 financial crisis being called the Great Mancession ( http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mancession.asp ) as men took 50% more job losses than women.

    Having gotten back from a music festival where the majority of the women had no qualms putting some (or all) of their valued assets on display for every male (both wanted ones and unwanted ones) to ogle, it really did some quite like these lady festival-goers were all FOR blurring the lines as much as possible.

    Me and my friends certainly had no issues with this, every woman has her choice to exhibit her body in any (legal) way they want, plus it was great eye candy to straight males like myself to complement the amazing music.

    Where I did have a problem was that some of the OFFICIAL photographers for the event would walk through the crowd and thoroughly video tape the most attractive(and most scandily clad) women. They would walk around the girls dancing by themselves filming at all SORTS of angles, and I made sure to make goofy faces at the camera whenever I was in the shot.

    I grew steadily more disgusted at the fact that some of them would even aim the camera directly at a girl’s ass as if this were an intro to a cheesy porn flick….to the point where I stopped my friends from raging to ask “Are these girls really okay with this?” And it seemed like they WERE, blowing kisses to the camera and shaking their asses right in the frame. These girls were not being paid for this, you know, voluntarily providing plenty of *free* footage of their ladyparts being accessible to any horny dude with an internet connection…..

    Which brings me to my point: if, as an (articulate) speaker for Sisterhood, you really think you should call bullshit and unblur those lines, you should start by correcting the behaviors of your own kind. Men will always be men, and if women put their assets on display you have no right to be angry at them for looking at them. One thing I dont understand about this third-wave feminism is that it argues for gender equality yet holds men and women to completely different standards.

    • Do you know, it is funny how often blogs that are talking about a feminist issue get a response like yours. As if somehow it is actually women’s fault that objectification and denigration take place on a constant basis.

      It tends to be from men who complain about a perceived assault on the male gender. It is quite an indictment of the biased views that some men have towards women and equality. I find it quite sad.

      • Jared says:

        As an egalitarian I agree with neither of you. There is absolutely no reason men need to look at pictures of beautiful women to listen to a song just as there is no reason women need to look pictures of beautiful men to buy an outfit. (Think Hollister bags) But yet it remains an incredibly effective business tactic that toys with our subconscious. Do I think society will move past it? No, I do not. Society is moving toward a more open and accepting culture. Women already have the right to look at this just as men do, they even have their own songs. Literally every boy band. The difference is that men don’t bitch at women for checking out a cute guy while women will never give a man the end of it. So although I think feminists have a point, they have to recognize that male rights that are getting completely trampled upon by the same people for advocate for these same rights for the other gender. If you don’t want this kind of song, you need to look at what kind of rights we need to take away from women, not just men.

      • Well your’s is a muddled reply. You say you are egalitarian but you are more interested in taking away rights than giving them…

        When are male rights trampled upon out of interest? Is it when we are being paid more for the same jobs? Are our rights stepped on when someone argues that rape can never really happen? Or is it when men occupy a position of dominant cultural hegemony that our rights are curtailed?

        I think objectification is indeed a strongly used advertising technique. That doesn’t make it ethical, nor does it mean that people shouldn’t be weary of the extremes of objectification and the inherent dominance relationship implied. (with regard to either gender)

        Also, I have heard plenty of men get very angry with their spouse for checking out other guys. Indeed, jealousy goes hand in hand with domestic violence. Just FYI.

      • questioning says:

        “It tends to be from men who complain about a perceived assault on the male gender. ”

        Yeah that sword cuts both ways, sister. It tends to be from women who complain about a *perceived* assault on the female gender.

        I find it even sadder that instead of even making an ATTEMPT to refute my main point like Jared did below, you make claims of “bias” and generalize my comment with other blog comments which I have not read.

        Just last weekend a group of bachelorettes howled for me to strip for them at a club. I take 100% blame for unbuttoning my shirt and showing them my abs. Mea Culpa. As John Smith said above, these girls were not putting a gun to my head, I did this on my own volition.

      • Well, your comment was so generic it felt only right to reply with generalizations.

        You make two points if I boil it down. 1) that men’s rights are being curtailed more than women’s and 2) that women ask for objectification in their behaviour.

        So my response is this: 1) With regards to the “Mancession” you mention – women tend to occupy part-time jobs more often than men and part-time jobs are less likely to be lost in recession conditions (people can simply have their hours dropped). If anything the disparity between men and women here is an indictment of our societal expectations of how women ought to behave in work i.e. to not have a career. This is a problem that is quite damaging in the UK at the moment with 0-hour contracts disproportionately removing employee protections from women rather than men. Your point about Ritalin makes you sound like you wear a foil hat to be frank… The over medication of children is indeed a crying shame in the US, but that doesn’t just go for Ritalin and it doesn’t only effect males. You could just have easily talking about anxiety treatments that tend to be given more to young females. So what is your overall point exactly? In what way have men’s rights been curtailed? The gender pay gap is still substantial, men still often receive woefully short sentences for rape charges and domestic violence is still frequent. I would say women have the bum end of the deal at present…

        2) Now this is the really nasty part of your comment I think – where you seem to say “she was asking for it in the way she dressed”. Sexual display is an important part of human behaviour for both genders – that is a given. However, the blog article is not arguing that sexual display is wrong, but rather that commercial objectification and aggrandizement of male heterosexuality is problematic. The relationship between sexual display and social status has and is often fundamentally abusive. You say “if women put their assets on display you have no right to be angry at them[men] for looking at them” But that isn’t what is happening – a commercial agent is putting women on display for male audiences. That is what makes these videos so troubling.

        The last bit you write about bachelorettes made me laugh. What a well crafted work of fiction! It’s nice to see comedy isn’t lost to the world.

      • Jared says:

        Once you realize that people aren’t out to attack you, you can start making compromises. I am not here, or anywhere, to attack the female gender. I am here, and everywhere, for equal rights for everyone. It is true that women have more part times jobs then men. That means that men who don’t want to have earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree to get a job are going to have a hell of a time finding one, or even a part time job to do so while they’re going to college. I don’t think that’s fair that women have an easier time getting a part time job than men, do you? And as far as pay inequality goes, it is not true. While it is true that men earn more than women, women earn the same amount per job as men. They just do jobs that pay less traditionally, such as a nurse instead of a doctor. However, as the younger generation of women enter college more than men, we will see this quickly turn around in the next few decades, and women will be on top and men on the bottom. And I’ll still argue for equal rights.

      • There being more women in part time work doesn’t mean that it is easier for women to get that work. It means those are the types of jobs they normally do, as you say, mostly care jobs. Is that out of choice or expectation? I would argue the later. There is still a culture that the man makes the money and the woman raises the kids. That arrangement may suit some, but I think in our society it is an expectation rather than a choice. Also, go and look for adjusted pay gap statistics. A good example is produced by the AAUW for instance. There is still a clear residual bias against women, whatever the cause. Even when you are careful to adjust correctly and take job equivalence into account. As to your prediction about the future, I wouldn’t be particularly concerned – the choice to go to university is there for men, and they are given every opportunity (indeed men have even been getting preferential treatment from college admissions boards across the US). Perhaps the reason so many women are applying and then succeeding is that they see education as an exercise in empowerment.

        I find it interesting that you only reply about stuff to do with college entrance statistics.Not in the area of child medication or domestic violence for instance. I guess you think if you can narrow everything down to one thing, that everything else will just go away? That women will simply behave how you would like, and except what they get from your version of equality.

      • Jared says:

        Yes it is true that it is out of expectation that women get more part time jobs than men. However, I do not want that to be the case. Even as men get a part time job they are usually in the back doing manual labor. How many times do you see a guy running the drive-thru at McDonald’s and a women cooking on the grille? It doesn’t happen. It’s not equal, but I wish it was. The same is applied to women being a doctor instead of a nurse. Why is it that men are laughed at if they become a nurse not a doctor? Women are seen as fantastic and accomplished if they are a doctor. Being a nurse is a big achievement but why do people expect more out of a man? The point I’m trying to make here is that we both recognize that it’s not equal. It is all based on expectation. You want to be able to do what men do and men want to be able to do what women do. We should be working together on this issue instead of attacking each other over it.

    • j says:

      Maybe consider that women feel the need to sexually exploit themselves because they have grown up in a culture where *that is what women are valued for.* They’re valued for their looks and their sex appeal. So it is still indicative of a larger societal problem that caters to men. Women have been trained to want to cater to men, and to get their validation/happiness/success from men.

      • questioning says:

        Interesting point, j.

        I could see some of these factors being at play but…..I still have to disagree. there are a few limitations you should also consider:

        1) Sex sells. This does NOT cater *unilaterally* to men, the “Hot Bod” commercials portraying shirtless hunks playing soccer and football are quite exemplary of this. There is no lack for other examples as well.

        2) Calling this a “societal problem” goes completely against male desire. Good luck ordering men to stop placing value on women’s sex appeal and looks when makeup, high heels, tight dresses, showing cleavage, are all very salient to young men at an EARLY age.

        You can’t change what an individual human being values, in fact, I find it morally egregious to dictate what another human being, male or female, should or should not value.

        3) This also asks what women should be valued FOR in the first place. And the data shows otherwise ( http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2011/gender-gap-in-education.aspx ) given that more females (25-29) have a bachelor’s degree or higher than men. Seems like the education system values a woman’s intellect just fine. And again, see point (2), you can’t order men on an individual level what to value in a woman, similarly you can’t order women what to value in men!

        4) And this one is very important: As much as this article *justly* argues for the agency of women, if women really did have the agency it argues, then your point about women being “trained” to want to cater to men and get validation/happiness from men is a moot one – No one is telling ANYONE where to get their happiness from, and REGARDLESS of your gender, if you listen to someone else tell you where to get this happiness, no offense, you are a fool, male or female.

        You really seem to be victimizing women here on a level where if they DID have agency they really aren’t victims at all. Instead of criminalizing men, why not instead empower these women with the knowledge that the female comments in this thread are blessed with?

        thank you for your input.

      • Jen says:

        This is in reply to ‘questioning’ below since I can’t reply directly to his…

        1. I always think sex sells is a cheap excuse and is just lazy advertising. Think of all the eye catching ads that have gone viral – most are viral because they are creative and surprising. no dicks or breasts necessary
        2. The ‘boys will be boys’ argument pretty much says we better give up because men are just penises with no control. I think better of men. I think men are interested in women’s bodies just like women are interested in men’s bodies. Doesn’t mean that objectification and degredation are any less of an issue. I expect more of the men in my life than being their primal urges.
        3. Yes, women are earning degrees at a higher rate. (I’m waiting for that to translate into positions of power…) This doesn’t mean the du system values them for any specific reason. It does value them for their dollar, though…
        4. You are speaking as if culture has no role in what we value and what we enjoy. It always has and it always will. Feminism wants to redirect cultural pressures to value everyone as an individual with individual talents, wants, desires, etc. instead of the current stereotypical values of women as sexy things and caretakers and men as strong, tough, money makers

  17. StillDeciding says:

    I’ve had the same unsettled feelings about these videos as well, however, one thing that only strikes me is that, these women (at least in “Blurred Lines” and “Tunnel Vision”) are technically not naked. They are wearing underwear. If a music video of a female artist came out and she had many beautiful men dancing around her and fawning over her–but in their underwear–would anyone blink an eye? Is addressing this issue of topless women in music videos creating MORE of a divide between genders? Topless men are socially acceptable, topless women could eventually be socially acceptable once the novelty wore off. I’m not 100% behind these videos and what they showcase, but I really don’t think drawing a lot of attention to the topless women in these videos is progressive to the feminist movement

    • The difference you miss, is the reality of an unequal society, where sexual objectification is mostly centred around male dominance and power. If you apply the same standards to the use of women’s sex to sell music and to men’s sex, you would also need to apply the same standard to things like rights or pay. While their is inequality on those types of issues, it is important that sexual equality is protected. While that doesn’t need to be in the hands of legislators (except in some clearer cases or in criminal issues) it does need to be upheld by public opinion and discussion.

      That is why I think the content of the above blog is an important part of maintaining a fair society.

  18. Motherof3 says:

    I understand the perspective here and I agree with it to a point, but society as a whole is becoming more accepting of this kind of thing. You can shout about feminism and misogyny, but 50 Shades of Grey was the biggest best-seller in years and they’re making a movie of it. Without that, I don’t think these videos would be so bold and “in your face”. Thicke’s video doesn’t show women being harmed, it shows them teasing the men with their bodies and, importantly, not giving in. Try as he might to declare he knows she wants it, the women are often turned away from the men, giving them their backs. I don’t like the video but I’m not entirely sure it’s not a joke as the director says.

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