In defence of Robin Thicke



Like most people not who aren’t living under a rock, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the last few weeks grooving out to Blurred Lines, American singer/songwriter Robin Thicke’s apparent breakthrough single which has been hailed as this summer’s anthem.

However, this week several articles appeared online telling women they should basically be boycotting the song, calling it “rapey” due to the lyrics “I know you want it” featured in the bridge. They also took issue with the unrated version of the accompanying video, which features three models strutting their stuff in just nude-coloured thongs and some lipgloss.

Now, there’s several things wrong with this apparent call to arms. Let me begin by saying I’m an absolute feminist; I’ve spent many a (drunken) conversation defending the use of the term itself, saying a true feminist doesn’t think women are better than men, or that we should be treated as superior citizens, but just want equal treatment. I could list the ways in which we’re currently not treated equally, but sure I’ll save that for later.

I’m sick to the back teeth of being told that, as a woman, I should be offended by something. The song is basically Thicke telling a woman he thinks she’s a damn fine specimen of a human being and he’d quite like to have relations of an intimate nature with her. Having studied the lyrics (and singing along, obvs), at no point does Thicke say or infer that her consent is a non-issue and that he’ll be having his way with her regardless. There’s issue one sorted: it’s not “rapey”.

Incidentally, throwing that word around is more offensive in my view- let’s save it for the millions of cases of actual rape that occur every year around the world, shall we? Oh look, there’s something actual feminists need bother themselves about. Lord knows it bothers me.

Now the issue of the almost naked ladies featured in the video. Some mentions were made about the fact that Thicke, TI and Pharrell are all fully-clothed, while the ladies are naked throughout. Now, as a straight female, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing slightly more of Thicke (although even with his clothes on I still got lost in those eyes… right, back to work) but Pharrell’s over the top fashion choices are so LOL-inducing it’d be a waste of an opportunity to make him strip.

The three ladies involved are all professional models, all over 18 and certainly look like they’re having fun (if they weren’t, then they’re damn fine actors too). Why patronise them by saying that their decision to take the gig is “unfeminist”? I assume they were paid for their work, and unless it transpires that Thicke, TI and Pharrell held guns to their heads to make them sign the contract, people can shag off with their complaints. Girlfriend gotta pay rent, you know?

The video has already been pulled from YouTube, so it’s not as if kids are at risk of seeing it (and having their pure little minds warped by something as unnatural as, say, I don’t know, a pair of knockers?).

As I mentioned earlier there are, sadly, so many topics more important and relevant than this to get het up about when it comes to feminist issues in the world today. It’s still illegal in India to find out the sex of an unborn baby, as female foetuses are so undesirable they would be routinely aborted in favour of male babies. Rape is still happening, be it in India to an innocent young woman on a bus, or in Ohio to a 16 year old girl at a party. Of course there is still the gender pay gap (13.9% in Ireland as of this year) and the Glass Ceiling to contend with too.

Are these not enough to be getting on with for now? Let’s sort these out first, shall we?

About The Author

Lauren Halligan

Actual quote from one my teachers on parents' evening: "Lauren has loads of opinions and always seems keen to share them with the class." Her general rule of thumb is that she writes about whatever's pissing her off that week. This could be anything from current events and world news, to her old favourite topic of feminism. Just wind her up and watch her go.

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  1. Jackie H.

    Are you for real? Your reviews are whacko dude. “LOL-inducing”… seriously? Get a grip, a grip on a how to write.

    1. Doctor DooM

      Oh, you must be an excellent writer then, why don’t you provide a link to your work and let Lauren critique it? Obviously she has much to learn from you.

    2. Gareth Walker-Ayers

      Jackie, it’s a review of some of the online reaction to the content of the music video, not the video itself. Poking fun at people who take things altogether too seriously, or get offended because they’re looking for something to get offended by, generally works better when you’re not taking them (or yourself) too seriously. Otherwise you’re as bad as those who decide to get upset when something they think they have a right to be upset about shows up.

  2. Lauren Halligan
    Lauren Halligan

    This is the wonderful thing about it being an “opinion” piece- it’s always great to hear the other side of the argument too, and I’m always game for a debate. FYI, I didn’t call it a “review” at any point.

  3. Neil Markey

    Some people are saying to me they find the lyrics are the worst part. Others are saying no, it’s the video.
    Whatever your view, I find that calling it rapey is pretty damn disrespectful and over the top.

  4. Miceala

    You begin by saying that this is a non-issue since the song doesn’t explicitly describe raping a woman. To that I say, just because Robert Thicke and those other fools who’s names I don’t know aren’t singing “I’m going to hold you down and penetrate you without consent” does not mean that the song doesn’t have a violent undertone to it. It contains the lyrics – “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, “he don’t smack that ass and pull your hair for you” and “I’m a nice guy, but don’t get confused, you git’n it!” To me, it’s totally a woman’s own business if she enjoys being dominated in these ways, but you can’t really deny that sex and violence are intermingling here, and the context shows that the song is about celebrating male pleasure derived from domination. Are there really articles that contain the message “As a woman, you *should” be offended by this”? Maybe they have the message “As a woman, I am offended by this”, which the writers of said articles are perfectly entitled to be.

    Especially since, apart from male on female sexual domination, the second main theme of the song and video is female objectification. “You the baddest bitch in this place, I had a bitch but she ain’t as bad as you, shake your rump” etc. etc. Basically, it’s pretty clear (from the video, too) that in the context of this song women’s value lies on the surface. They are pretty prizes to be won and fought for with other men, since Robert Thicke is so much more “pimipin'” than they are.

    Oh, and the third theme is the old “virgin/whore” dichotomy. Which, you know, is an idea that feminists are huge fans of.

    You are apparently the type of “feminist” who argues that a woman who is paid to appear topless in a music video is “empowered” since “girlfriend gotta pay rent” (ugh, barf). I agree that women should have the freedom to do that without stigma if that is their choice. But to me, at the end of the day, that woman is playing a small part in compounding the attitude that women are primarily to be looked at and the people who asked her to (Robert and Pharell?) are playing a big part in it. It is a problem that young women are sexualised to such a dramatic degree and young people are being bombarded with that message from every angle. The result of that is probably going to be quite a few warped ideas about sex, gender and for young women, self worth. You think that the teenagers who raped the girl in Ohio didn’t listen to pop-music and watch music videos?

    You argue that there are “so many more important feminist issues” to address. I agree, but that doesn’t mean that we should let pop-culture go unexamined or shouldn’t challenge some of the attitudes we find there. I personally think it not only plays a significant role in what we see as acceptable or not, but also holds up figures that we are expected to emulate which can be very powerful.

    Lastly, you actually find Thicke attractive? To me he looks like a slimy old creep. Pharell is a huge creep too of course, he’s infamous for it, but at least he’s somewhat good-looking. Either way, the whole thing just screams mid-life crisis to me. They’re both in their forties, right? I think this song is their desperate way to reassure themselves “I still got it” before their hair starts falling out and they realise that the women they are leering at in the club are less than half their age.

  5. Miceala

    OH LOL, I’ve been calling him Robert. Just realised his name is “Robin” (much cooler name.) You go on wit yo bad self, Robin.

  6. Sean Markey

    “You think that the teenagers who raped the girl in Ohio didn’t listen to pop-music and watch music videos?”

    Fucking wow!

  7. Lauren Halligan
    Lauren Halligan

    It’s just the same thing again as blaming Marilyn Manson for the the Columbine shootings. Utterly preposterous.People are responsible for their own actions, positive or negative.

    1. Miceala

      Actually, I never blamed Robin Thicke for the Steubenville case, you mentioned that it was something to be concerned about, I presume because it’s an example of a result of rape culture in the US? And I was pointing out that pop culture shouldn’t go unexamined in it’s role of contributing to or reflecting that rape culture. Pop stars are often emulated by young people and the ideas they give out about gender and sexuality are easily internalised. Nowhere did I suggest that perhaps the Steubenville rapists listened to Blurred Lines before raping that girl, which was the gist of the argument brought against Marilyn Manson.

  8. Leon O Haodhagain

    “Lastly, you actually find Thicke attractive? To me he looks like a slimy old creep. Pharell is a huge creep too of course, he’s infamous for it, but at least he’s somewhat good-looking”

    Criticises article and music video for objectifying women……finishes comment by evaluating the artist’s looks.

    Stay classy Miceala.

    1. Miceala

      Oh, you believe that evaluating a man’s looks has the same connotations as discussing gratuitous female nudity? You think that male objectification is as much of a problem as female objectification? Hmmm, well I’ve studied gender and sexuality in culture for my masters degree and I’d recommend that you perhaps educate yourself on the very basics of those topics if you actually believe that.

  9. Sean Markey

    Oh look, an anonymous internet poster is using an argument from authority.
    That’ll show ’em.

    1. Miceala

      I never said I was an expert, I said I was educated about these issues. I’m entitled to give an opinion on this and that is what the comment section is for.

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  11. Sean Markey

    Dismissing the opinions of others based on your education on the matter is still an argument from authority, which is considered a poor debating technique.
    For all we know,Leon could be every bit as educated on the subject as you are – doesn’t necessarily mean he has to have the exact same opinion as yours on the matter though.

  12. Annoyed

    “Robin Thicke: We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.” 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.”

    Interview with GQ. Good job feminist. Because he’s married with children he can make this video and brag about it.

  13. Lauren Halligan
    Lauren Halligan

    But you quote him as implying they were taking the piss…? (“We’re the perfect guys to MAKE FUN of this”) You managed to prove your own argument wrong. Good job, annoyed.

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