(N.B contains a couple of moderately offensive words & pic – you’ve been warned!)
As a woman I don’t think I’m supposed to like the lyrics to Blurred Lines. I definitely don’t think I’m supposed to like the video. I’m talking about the banned version where all three girls are naked and basically submissive throughout. (It’s very easy to find on the internet by the way). OK, let’s get down to it – when I look the lyrics up – I don’t like them. The premise of the song is simple – man thinks he can liberate a ‘good girl’ by having rough sex with her. Oh and she gets called ‘bitch’ a fair bit. Let’s look at the premise of the banned video (well it’s actually less ‘premise’ and more ‘blatant’) – three models dance naked – boobs and butts out, for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams who are dressed in power suits. The girls have their hair brushed by the men in a weird, controlling way, they light their cigarettes for them and they crouch on the floor while the men’s toy cars are pushed over their naked backs. Mmmm – it’s just plain sexist and misogynistic isn’t it? So why do I have the song on a constant loop in my head, and why did I just happily watched the naked video twice before remembering that I was supposed to be angered by it?
I think it might be because I’ve become a little bit sexist myself. Not on purpose of course. I am the first to defend women and the first to moan about girls who can’t be bothered to vote. I hate the fact that ANOTHER study just told us that women are earning way less than men right from the day they graduate, despite having the same qualifications and experience. And it really annoys me when talented women in TV seem to be let go as their age creeps up, while their male counterparts enjoy newfound career paths as ‘silver foxes’. But as much as all this riles me, I mean – really makes my blood boil sometimes – I’m also getting immune to it. We may be in a seemingly more equal society than our mothers before us – but some days I genuinely experience so much sexism it’s like it’s just become par for the course. I work in the media – an industry I believe to be inherently sexist, on all levels. From the dominance of men sitting on boards at the top, to the belief that still runs rife that girls are nothing more than ‘sidekicks’ – it’s something I think a lot of us women have started to internalise. And this, coupled with the fact that we’re bombarded with millions of sexist images every single day has made it almost the norm to watch things like the Blurred Lines video, and not be upset by it.
It’s not just the media industry of course. Most of my girlfriends actually work in high powered corporate jobs in the city. Tales of the after work culture of female secretaries waiting in swanky bars to be picked up by a high powered male exec (who usually has a wife and kids at home) are commonplace and the norm. Not too dissimilar to Robin and his pal Pharrell actually is it?
But while there was a time when I would attempt to fight every sexist remark and joke that was thrown my way, I’ve sort of got so used to them now that I can’t be bothered. Just last week a male ‘friend’ (for the purposes of this piece) casually said to me ‘Why don’t you just get yourself a nice little part time job and let your other half look after you?’ Yes it did make my blood boil, and my hackles did go up. But as I attempted to formulate a witty, sharp feminist retort in my head I just thought ‘what’s the point – it won’t change him, or other men like him, or the sexist world we live in’. I also recently overheard another conversation between two male ‘friends’ – who were debating whether or not to employ a woman who had her first child 11 months ago. After a few drinks the conclusion was NO – because apparently she is ‘too into her baby’. This time I just laughed to myself – knowing that although these two clowns will never be bought to task over their disgustingly sexist decision, the woman in question is actually the winner in this situation. What company wants to employ a woman who ISN’T into her baby?! Surely that is normal and natural? She is better off out of it – and I’m sure she’ll find a job that appreciates her for everything she is.
Here’s where I am going to get really controversial though and say – I think at times, even the sturdiest feminists among us adapt the way we talk, dress, act, walk – to play up to a man. And usually it’s a man who is in a more powerful position than us. I know full well that while I’m more than comfortable to sit here and discuss the gross disparity in pay between men and women – I’m just as comfortable putting on a tight dress and a pair of killer heels to help me win approval in a male dominated meeting. Just next week I’m going to be filming a pilot for a TV project. I will almost definitely make sure that I have the right balance of cleavage, leg and intelligence going on – knowing that it will most likely be male producers who see the tape and decide if they want me.
I know I am going to have women screaming at me at their computers right now. Accusing me of letting down the sisterhood, and making a mockery of what the Suffragettes went through. But that’s not it. I am just being entirely 100% honest. I think as women it’s about not being seen as a confrontational feminist – but finding a level we are happy with, within ourselves. I think it’s ok to watch the video to Blurred Lines and be both horrified and intrigued in equal measures. If I’m a million per cent truthful with myself (and with you) there was a part of me that wished I had a body like those models. Not necessary so I could cavort in front of Robin Thicke and pals – but who knows maybe if I had legs that came up to my armpits and a washboard stomach – maybe I would?! What’s more likely is that I’d pretend to be in the video in the privacy of my own home in front of the mirror – but the premise is the same.
I think the important part of being a woman in a very sexist world is being aware of it, and taking some of it with a huge pinch of salt. A lot of it is a vicious cycle, and indeed a cycle that we as women sometimes help to perpetuate. But personally, as long as I can sleep at night knowing that I am the strongest woman I can be in the perimeters of my current circumstances – then I am happy. And I will carry on humming the line ‘Just let me liberate you – Hey, hey, hey’ – knowing full well that it’s downright wrong and plain sexist – but also annoyingly catchy and I like it.