Blurred Lines, Not So Much: Double Standards at Play for Women in Music Videos
Tsion Abera is a freshman at Dartmouth College and one of RH Reality Checkâs youth voices.
Date rape, nudity, sexual objectification, and the hottest song of the summer: In March, Robin Thickeâs âBlurred Linesâ music video, featuring Pharrell and T.I., was released on YouTube. The song is said to perpetuate rape culture by rejecting the concept of clear sexual consent.
The songâs lyrics include âYouâre an animal,â and âI hate these âBlurred Linesâ / I know you want it.â Rather than viewing women as actual human beings, Thicke portrays women as animals starved for sexual gratification; the âblurred linesâ between consent and rape prevent intercourse.
The video has received even more negative attention from feminists and others, because in it three topless women are seen dancing and posing, while the three menâThicke, Pharrell, and T.I.âare seen well-dressed, in suits. The video demonstrates a clear power dynamic, in which the men are dominant and the women are treated simply as sex objects.
In response, law students Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock, and Zoe Ellwood created a parody of âBlurred Lines.â âDefined Linesâ is a feminist twist on the tune that calls for social change and respect for women. âDefined Linesâ reverses the roles of sexual exploitation and promotes womenâs empowerment rather than submissive objectification of the kind seen in the original video. The âDefined Linesâ video features three shirtless men in boxers who are dancing and serving three dressed women while they deconstruct the notion of male dominance.
In early September, âDefined Linesâ was removed from YouTube after being flagged as âinappropriate.â Though the parody was later returned to YouTube, the damage was already done. The removal of âDefined Linesâ sent a message that the idea of women dominating submissive men is unsuitable because of societal gender roles that portray women as submissive to men. Thickeâs âBlurred Linesâ video sexually objectifies women and includes topless women dancing. The âDefined Linesâ parody mirrors Thickeâs video with male dancers. So why was âDefined Linesâ taken off YouTube, but âBlurred Linesâ wasnât?
While objectifying women in music videos is socially acceptable, the same standard held toward men is âinappropriate.â The objectification of women in the music industry has become a widespread trend in society. Hip-hop and pop videos include racy clothing and actions. These music videos often demonstrate a misogynistic gender dynamic. Oftentimes, women are seen dancing on men as the men sing about wealth, sex, and power. Too many male artistsâmany of them at the top of their genresâjoin Robin Thicke in being notorious for the objectification of women in their music videos.
In addition to male artists sexually objectifying women, female artists use their own sex appeal to increase viewers and profit. A study by the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science concluded, âIt has been known that music videos featuring male artists often sexually objectify women, but our study shows that many female artists are objectifying themselves in their music videos.â
To this I say, a womanâs body is her own. Women have every right to do with their bodies as they please. Women have every right to wearâor not wearâwhatever they want. Even so, the double standard of power dynamics in music videos is troubling.
In particular, the double standard is blatantly obvious with the temporary removal of the âDefined Linesâ parody video. Male domination in music videos has become a social norm in which men are seen as powerful and women are seen as submissive sex objects. This social norm is reflected in music lyrics such as those sung by Robin Thicke, who, in his song,blatantly promotes date rape. In temporarily removing the âDefined Linesâ parody, YouTube reaffirmed the dangerous idea that women are submissive objects while men are rightfully dominant.
The fact that the âDefined Linesâ video was removed even for a brief time is a clear indication of how welcoming music videos are to the idea of women in charge.