Saturday, 17 August 2013

Blurring gender lines

I really disliked the Robin Thicke video. I felt it was misogynistic. It was a real problem to me that so many people seemed to think it was fine.

What didn't I like?

Firstly, the massive power differential in the video. The fully dressed men, with the women, skimpily dressed or near naked, parading around, having their bodies played with. It didn't seem sexy - the women don't look interested in the men, but it didn't seem fun either.

Secondly, I didn't like the lyrics, especially 'I know you want it', with all the implications therein for women's sexual agency. It is deeply unpleasant to see a man in a powerful position claim to know better about whether a woman wants sex than she does. To me it suggests rape.

However, I wasn't sure if I was overreacting, so I wondered if anyone had done a role reversal cover. They have :-D  it's a slightly odd watch, and a lot of the comments on it question the sexuality of the men, which I don't think has happened about the women in the original, so that's interesting.

The power differential is still at play. The comments about the men's sexuality are no doubt inspired by their makeup and heels (both of which are generally female signifiers in our society at the moment, but don't have to be), but maybe also by how uncomfortable they look at times. They don't look like they want it. However, neither do the women in Thicke's video.

In this version, I didn't find the lyric 'I know you want it' half as disturbing as in the original. Rather it seemed playful, and a bit sexy. But that might be a power differential, and of course, it is damaging to presume consent whatever the gender of the person.

I guess if we get to live in a society wherein abused girls aren't described as 'predatory' by judges, and women aren't advised on how to modify their behaviour to avoid being raped, then the Thicke video might be playful too.

We don't live there yet.

Have you seen the videos? What do you think of them?


Update! 

There's a new video out there - a feminist parody (so they've changed the words as well as the video).  I think it's rather marvellous, and I'm not feeling grossed out or uncomfortable about anything.  What do you reckon?


Actually, to be honest, there's a lot of new video's out there.  The debate has really opened up, despite lots of people trying to close it down by saying that women who voice concerns are being 'over-sensitive'.  The Mod Carousel video (that's the role reversal one) has been criticised for simply switching places, and feminising the men, but surely to be feminine doesn't necessarily mean subservient?  Personally I found the Mod Carousel video a really good way of thinking about the problems in the Thicke video.  However Nico Lang is not enamoured with it, and she's got a different feminist version in her article, which is definitely worth checking out.

Of course, Mr Thicke is not the only sexist pig around at the moment, there's plenty of nonsense helping make the world a nasty place for all of us.  Anyone else you'd like to name and shame?