Robin Thicke’s Misogyny Masterclass

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Robin Thicke is a singer-songwriter who has been around for a while now. He sang under the moniker ‘Thicke” for a while, and is known in the industry as Discount Timberlake or Douchebag Bublé. Apologies to any fans, but I hadn’t heard of Thicke until I was shown the video for his single ‘Blurred Lines’.

I had a few problems with it.

Blurred-Lines-655x360

There’s a pretty strong trend of misogyny in popular music, but this is some next level shit. For those of you who didn’t watch the video link above, it essentially consists of Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. (fully clothed) dancing against a blank background with some random props and young women (not fully clothed). I’m gonna mainly focus on the version of the video that isn’t on YouTube, which is almost identical to the mainstream version, bar one small detail.

All of the women are now topless. It’s fine though, because Thicke got ‘permission from his wife’. Seriously.

The three models from the original video are now naked bar some flesh coloured pants. What does this bring to the video, I hear you cry? What statement are they making on wider society? For one, stop interrupting me. And two, stop being naïve. It’s to bring in teenage boys, gigantic unexplained hashtags of his own name, and discomfort. And goats, for some reason.

At least farmer Pharrell was subtle enough not to make her hold a cat.
At least farmer Pharrell was subtle enough not to make her hold a cat.

It could be that the ‘daring’ video is an excuse to hide lyrics that imply Robin Thicke may not have actually seen a woman before. Consider the lines ‘Ok now he was close, tried to domesticate you/But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature’. Now I don’t know about you, but when I put on my late Victorian safari gear and embark on an expedition to bag a wench, I find that after you ensnare one with a trail of shoes, domesticating them is the hardest part.

A photo of when I captured my first wife, Jackie.
A photo of when I captured my first wife, Jackie.

Mr Thicke may allow his wife to roam free in the garden, bringing him small birds and mice when she makes a kill, but the rest of us prefer our other halves to at least be housetrained.

Obviously Thicke couldn’t allow any of these women to be too empowered for any stretch of time, so he decides to tell one she is ‘the hottest bitch in the place’ by literally screaming it in her face.

"I FIND YOU ATTRACTIVE AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND VOLUME CONTROL"
“I FIND YOU ATTRACTIVE AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND VOLUME CONTROL”

All Pharrell can do in the meantime is stand in the background and add the occasional “hey, hey, hey” like a tipsy, vaguely disapproving uncle.

Around the halfway stage, in comes T.I., changing the tempo like a pathetic, immature hurricane. For the whole duration of the video he seems to have wandered in by mistake: none of the models seem to want to touch him, and even during his solo nobody wants to make eye contact. He calls them all bitches, and threatens to slap them and pull their hair.

"Hello, Clarice"
“Hello, Clarice”

At one point, he expresses a desire to ‘tear your ass in two’. AHH?!?! What the hell, man? T.I.’s on the loose, tearing butts apart with his bare hands, presumably to add to his collection, and NO ONE is trying to stop him?! That’s screwed up. At least he clarifies all this by saying ‘Not many women can refuse this pimpin’/But I’m a nice guy’. So that’s alright then.

Post awful rap breakdown, comes the video’s crowning achievement.

Ah.
Ah.

I could’ve just left that image and not said anything, but it is fascinating. Robin Thicke must have some serious reassurance issues. The average viewer isn’t now going to think “Well, if the attractive woman said so in the video he commissioned, it must be true! I commend you on your spectacular member, sir.” All this has is the opposite effect. It’s like he paid his wife to come forward and say it was the biggest she’d ever seen. But hey, at least nobody else uses the platform of music to boast about their sexual prowess.

The whole thing would be slightly bearable if the women at least looked like they were enjoying it. Unfortunately, they all look dead behind the eyes. I don’t blame them.

They were paid in the souls of lost children.
They were paid in the souls of lost children.

I’ve since heard the argument that the title is a deliberate reference to how nudity and sexism are portrayed in music. Colour me stupid, but if that’s the case, that incredibly subtle notion sailed over my head, and the whole thing stinks of ‘let’s cover our asses’ (or not). But hey, maybe it’s not all bad. Who am I to argue with the lyrical genius behind the line “You wanna hug me?/What rhymes with hug me?”.

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Editor and MA English student. Follow on Twitter @SamEverard1

Discussion48 Comments

  1. avatar

    Funny thing is that Robin Thicke has been married for ages and even got his wife’s permission to make the video. Gotta wonder how much is him and how much is him just trying to imitate popular musical trends for commercial success. Either way, blurred lines and its video is pretty repulsive both for its misogyny and it’s crass, shameless self-promotion.

  2. avatar

    I was just thinking this as I saw the video at the gym today. I’m going to have to work out a way to prevent my potential future daughter from growing up with these girls as role models and this guy as a desirable partner.

  3. avatar

    Funny how when it comes down to it stuffy pensioners and “liberal” student feminists are both obsessed with lecturing conesnting adults on their moral choices.

    Zinfandel
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    What’s a conesnting adult?

    dude
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    Good to see you engaging with the real issues.

    Zinfandel
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    Good to see you read through your post before jumping to conclusions and calling people ‘stuffy pensioners’ and ‘liberal student feminists’. I’m sorry but I miss the relevance of your point since the writer falls under neither of these labels. Although even if he did why exactly is being a pensioner or a liberal feminist a bad thing?
    Careless, dude.

  4. avatar

    Spot on! The annoying thing is how catchy the song is… I really like it, even if the video is (like hundreds of other pop/dance videos) depressingly misogynistic.

  5. avatar
    Shit like this

    Fucking hell, since when has being naked been such an issue. Men and women across the world have fought to be able to do what they want and if they want to get their bodies out, fair enough. Being naked is perfectly natural.

  6. avatar
    The brunette is tasty

    Since when did the Wessex Scene become so leftist? It’s a great song with a great video that was number one last week. If people really thought it was misogynistic then they wouldn’t have bought the single and contributed to it – but as I said, it was No. 1 so clearly isn’t an issue.

    I’m a woman I don’t think it’s misogynistic at all. Get over yourself and stop writing for the sake of writing.

    Give a shit about misogyny – take advantage of it because those who sit around moaning trying to change the world (cough FemSoc cough) are the ones left behind and are the laughing stock. Changing attitudes which dont really matter to a lot of people is a waste of time; hence why these pop song videos will continue to be produced because there’s a market for them.

    tl;dr – get the fuck over it and stop whining.

    bored of revision
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    Its the writers OPINION, respect it and put forward reasonable arguments against it if you disagree. But don’t launch an ad hominen attack just because you happen to disagree with someone’s view.

    ahh
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    Whipping out the ad hominen argument. Telling someone to get over themselves isn’t really that much of a personal attack. Also has it also got to the stage where people aren’t able to criticise journalistic points and reasoning? Have fun living in a dream world where there are no meanies because when you leave uni you are in for such a surprise

    bored of revision
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    “Have fun living in a dream world where there are no meanies because when you leave uni you are in for such a surprise”

    I do medicine. I’ve met and talked to more drug addicts, criminals, psychopaths and child abusers in my degree so far than I think you ever will.

    bored of revision
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    Also I said go ahead and put forward reasoned criticism toward the piece by all means, however I don’t feel personal attacks is really ‘criticising journalistic points and reasoning’ is it now?

    sara
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    bored of revision- they are incapable of reasoned criticism, as is evident in their arguments, so they resort to petty name calling and “I know you are, but what am I” arguments and also making SWEEPING generalizations about who they think they are arguing with. thank you for being a doctor and advancing the human cause, even if some others would rather watch jiggling boobies and waste time defending some a##hole that would sell them down the river faster than you can say mo’ money.

    blimey
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    Wow, you make me so ashamed to be the same gender as you. Kindly leave the gene pool and hand in your ability to vote at the door.

  7. avatar

    Why do you need to swear so early on in this? Is Wessex Scene really the place for unnecessary and casual swearing? It’s very off putting when you’re expecting to read an intelligent opinion piece.

    As for the actual video. I’m not entirely sure its “next level”. I’m not a massive fan of ‘bitch’, but its pretty widespread and doesn’t really set it apart from a lot of other casually misogynistic songs.

    With the nudity, they’re consenting adults. It seems a bit patronizing to assume that any woman who bears her breasts is being exploited. Unless you entirely abstain from all pornographic and titillating material (which is statistically unlikely) then it’s very hard to take the moral high-ground over nudity.

    “You’re an animal” is a fairly common sexual metaphor, used for both men and women. Sexually suggestive lyrics do not automatically indicate misogyny, and never seem to draw accusations of misandry when women sing similar lyrics.

    Sam
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    Agree with this, especially third paragraph. I expect very high levels of hypocrisy with this.

    Sam Everard
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    I swear because it’s the Pause section. It was never intended as an ‘intelligent opinion piece’.
    Your argument that bitch is ‘widespread’ holds no water. So what if it’s said in a lot of other songs? I can still disapprove of the use here.
    I have to disagree with you Simon (and Sam) here. I never said they don’t have the right, and of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch porn. The problem here is the culture surrounding the nudity. The women are just there in the video to be naked. They don’t add anything, and nor does the fact that they’re topless. All that does is attract the hormonal teenage market who are watching and buying the song to see boobs, and that’s what I have a problem with.
    As to the ‘animal’ point, this article wasn’t entirely serious. You may have noticed. I seized on things for effect that usually I wouldn’t bother with.

    Simon
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    I don’t agree with the use of the word either. I just don’t understand why this song has got your goat over so many explicitly misogynistic songs and videos.

    If you watch pornography you are being hypocritical. There’s no consistency in your feminism. This objectification is bad but gonzo bukake gang bangs are fine?

    I’m sorry I didn’t realise it wasn’t supposed to be a serious article. It is quite a serious issue though–I don’t think wide-spread misogyny should be made light of, it makes it seem like you’re bot actually all that fussed about respecting women. When you hyperbolise a sexual metaphor and suggest you are offended by it, it undermines the argument and is clutching at straws. I don’t honestly believe you are offended by “he/she is an animal” and I’d put money on you having said worse at one point or another.

    Sam Everard
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    It’s not the fact that they say bitch in this one song. That’s only part of a bigger picture. My main problem with this whole song was the pointless explicit video.
    So you can’t watch porn and also want equality? Boy, have I been off all this time. That’s a pretty close-minded approach. Also, interesting choice of porn there! Glad you could take enough time away from your gonzo bukake gang bangs to comment.
    You’ve changed your tack here completely. First comment and I’m taking it too seriously, and now I’m not taking it seriously enough? Think you need to focus a bit. Also, as pointed out previously, this article was NOT an argument. It was supposed to be humorous. If I failed at that, fair, but you can’t claim I undermined an argument I never posited. I seized on the animal line for comedic effect. And what a cynical last line, seems like your argument is veering into ad hominem there?

    Simon
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    Sorry Sam, at first I thought it was a serious article on sexism. Then you said it wasn’t so I read it differently the second time. I don’t think watching porn excludes you from the gender equality debate; however, if you feel that this is exploitative, then surely you’d feel that pornography is exploitative and then indulging it would make you complicit in the exploitation of women. I feel this video has more artistic merit than pornography.

    I personally feel that you have to take people at face value, and that it is patronizing to assume that women can’t make an informed decision about entering the adult entertainment business–although I accept that this,unfortunately, is not always the case.

    I’ve watched this video a few times and there are several reasons why I don’t feel its particularly misogynistic. The main reason being that it is directed by a successful female director whose previous work leads me to believe that she wouldn’t simply be using women as objects. The women aren’t taking submissive roles, and from the choreography, cellophane outfits, #tags, postmodern slogans and blank stares I think there is some irony at play. The props aren’t random and I believe the video to have artistic merit. It reminds me of the work of the CANADA production team who also engage in sexual politics.

    I was confused due to you stating genuine grievances in the first couple of paragraphs and then jokes in the second half. I didn’t think you were taking it too seriously, I simply disagree with your interpretation of the video.

    It really wasn’t supposed to be ad hominem. I meant it as in I’ve said worse than that and I suspect most people have. Sorry if it came across as cynical, it was universal not personal.

    Simon
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    Actually, if you watch CANADA’s video for Ice Cream by Battles, you can see that Diane Martel may have directly referenced their work and subverted gender roles (in the ice cream scene). Which to me suggests some political and artistic engagement.

    I just feel that your reading it as a “pointless explicit video” is overly simplistic and reactionary.

    sara
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    question here: do you think that women should be treated like the above video in real life? For example, how the douchebag, oh excuse me, “thicke with the small d$ck” blows smoke in her face? ive actually seen several douchebags do this to women, yes blow smoke in the face of a woman that was sitting beside them, then turn to their sunglass wearing douchebag friends and smile- is this ok? just asking, since this is not a sexist video…what’s the point of blowing smoke in her face? what does that imply? And if you are using the argument that this is fantasy and fantasy has nothing to do with real life, then what is the point of blowing smoke in a woman’s face in fantasy land? Also, why the f$ck is a goat in this video? that’s just messed up.

    Simon
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    Nope, you shouldn’t blow smoke in anyone’s face. It’s a douche move. I don’t think it’s fantasy, I think it’s pastiche.

    LOL
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    “Obviously I watch porn, but this is just objectification”

  8. avatar

    This video is pornography, but not because it has naked women in it. It’s a shameless effort to drum up internet notoriety, the hashtags are embarrassing and undermine any artistic merit the video purports to have. I’m so glad you clarified that this was not a serious opinion piece because this song is such an obvious example of cynical gimmicks that it doesn’t deserve one. If Robin Thicke really wanted to be outrageous he’d have been naked in the video himself, and then he wouldn’t need to spell it out in balloons that he’s got a big dick.

    Simon
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    Do the garish #tags not strike you as parody rather than pastiche? And do you really think this video was the sole vision of Robin Thicke, trying to dream up the most outrageous video he could? How can #tags be so outrageous to you?

    Just do the most basic research on the director and actually watch the video. It’s full of visual metaphors and seems obviously ironic. It’s not pornography. There are many reasons to show naked people and its not always to titillate.

    Patrick
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    What is it parodying?

    Simon
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    Modernity,

    Patrick
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    So is the whole thing an elaborate joke then? Are they laughing at the people who bought the record?

    Simon
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    I don’t think it’s a joke as such. But in interviews Thicke has likened the video to a Benny Hill sketch and has stated that its intention is to overstep boundaries. It is also stated that the nudity was Diane Martel’s idea.. Unfortunately, Thicke does seem like a bit of a moron, but I’m fairly sure the video’s director had a firm idea of what she was trying to say and do.

    Also, Martel is a choreographer who has done cool stuff like Shiny Happy People by REM. So I think the choreography and the examples of female sexuality and female sexual power it shows are important.

    I’m not saying that this is some feminist masterpiece, but I think if you actually watch the video carefully a few times and start to assign values and intemperate what you’re seeing then it begins to look a lot less misogynistic.

    Also things have been misquoted in the article a bit. He actually shouts “You are the hottest bitch in here” at a goat rather than a woman.

    Simon
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    This is a good and fairly balanced review of the video: http://www.policymic.com/articles/44891/robin-thicke-blurred-lines-video-blurs-the-lines-between-nudity-and-sexism

  9. avatar

    Actually, you just helped a few more thousands to know about Thicke. His Marketing worked.

    sara
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    “Thicke has likened the video to a Benny Hill sketch ” wow, he really compared himself to a legend- such arrogance. Also, re: a woman directed the video: it’s a common calming tactic (trick) – when trying to deflect criticism about something that is attacking a certain group, always make sure you say that the person who wrote the piece/directed the video is of that group. so, for you guys out there still staring at the boobies, if an article was published that attacked, say … bumble bees, then make sure that everyone knows that a bumble bee wrote the article. there, just deflected criticism. got it??

    Simon
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    Benny Hill wasn’t a legend though was he, he’s retrospectively considered an awful misogynist. And it’s a bit different from the bee thing as it was actually directed by a woman–although I think its irrelevant as on balance and on an artistic level I don’t believe it to be anti-women, in spite of some misogynistic displays. Postmodernism, irony, blablabla….

    sara
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    no, it’s not different. the video is displaying sexism (several elements are obvious)- people are calling out these elements as sexists- pr gets into gear and says, “oh look, a woman directed it, so it’s not sexist.” same thing. different players. “I don’t believe it to be anti-women, in spite of some misogynistic displays.” it’s either sexist or not- one cannot be a “little pregnant” you are either pregnant, or not. you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

  10. avatar

    I’m finding it difficult to decide whether the video itself is misogynistic given that the women obviously chose to be in it and were not forced to be topless. But the video aside, there is no argument which can say the song itself is not misogynistic; the lyrics read like a rapist’s fantasy. The lines “The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty” are absolutely vile. No, no that doesn’t mean she MUST “wanna get nasty” and the fact the song is called Blurred Lines seems to suggest that women are teases who make it “difficult” for men to understand their intentions. A lot of the critical focus seems to be on the visuals rather than the disgusting message the lyrics are sending out. I can sort of accept people saying the song might be a parody or ironic but when the fan base for Thicke is probably young teenage boys I wouldn’t be surprised if, like you said, such subtle (and probably non-existent) irony went over their heads.

    marco
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    “I’m finding it difficult to decide whether the video itself is misogynistic given that the women obviously chose to be in it and were not forced to be topless” you see, that has nothing to do with the fact that it is, or is not misogynistic- ok. you are mixing fantasy (the video) with reality (free will of the “models” to prance around naked). the video is “portraying” something, an idea, whatever (that is fantasy), fantasy has nothing to do with the free will of the models- wrong argument. take a deductive logic course (advanced one) and try again.

    Bex
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    Good point, but there’s no need to be such a patronising douchebag about it.

  11. avatar

    The word you’re all looking for is ‘sexist’ not ‘misogynist’. Misogyny means ‘woman hating’ – quite an extreme notion. Acid attack, female circumcision, rape. Strong stuff. There is no ‘woman hating’ going on in either Blurred Line’s video or lyrics. I’m not saying there aren’t problematic elements, but specifically hatred of women – not a chance.

    Sam Everard
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    I only used ‘misogyny’ because it alliterates. Like I’ve said in previous comments, it’s not a serious article. I was in search of a catchy title.

    Malcolm
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    This wasn’t a criticism of you specifically, Sam, more the commenters and the way people talk about sexism in general. For some reason the comments here peaked my frustration at this enough to comment. It just winds me up how the word misogyny is bandied about so freely when in reality it is a very serious accusation and implies an active denigration of women, when more often than not it’s an unthinking, uncritical demeaning of women that goes on. Perhaps I’m just debating semantics, but I still think it’s important to get our vocabulary on this correct.

    Also, I think people are confused as to how serious this piece is because sexism is serious subject and many of your points are valid, making the ‘it’s not serious’ defence seem strange – it’s hard to tell which are legit and which are non-serious.

    Bex
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    Do agree with you, but Thicke was quoted in an interview in GQ on the video as saying “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 there’s definitely some misogyny hidden in there. But yeah, sexism and misogyny are terms which are often confused.

    Malcolm
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    Surely he was being flippant with that comment? If not I don’t know what to say.

    marco
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    ““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”” if that is a real quote from him, then why the f$ck are these id$ots defending him? he just admitted for himself it is degrading (I guess blowing smoke in someones face is respecting them?)- wtf is wrong with people.

    marco
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    he’s being attacked (probably by those that are hired to defend small d#ck thicke- cant’ imagine anyone else caring), which may be why he is not standing his ground, or perhaps he was not serious and it is just not coming through. Although to be fair, I can see where he is serious and where he is not, quite clearly actually.

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