Who does the banning of ‘Blurred Lines’ benefit?



At the time of writing six universities have now banned the infamous song ‘Blurred Lines’ from their establishments, ensuring that debate around the song continues for yet another tedious few months. The controversy around this song has persisted for far, far too long. You know when something’s gone on too long when you’re reading about the same thing in October that you did when you were finishing university for the summer. Furthermore, the hysteria caused has so far has failed to dim Robin Thicke’s success, who until this summer was relatively unknown in Britain despite having six previous albums to his name.

‘Blurred Lines’ and its grotesque accompanying video are completely distasteful and repellent but it is not the source of LAD culture. Instead, it’s a symptom of a society which too often reveres the objectification and victimisation of women. I fear that by seeking to ban the playing of the song, rather than tackle the root of the problem, the debate is being trivialised. Laurie Penny echoed similar sentiments on the issues of online pornography in the summer saying: “There’s nothing wrong with dirty movies in and of themselves – instead, we have to ask ourselves why there’s a market for misogyny, and whether censorship is really the answer.”

Perhaps debate should be focused on why women are not properly respected in our society and what can be done to stop that. If that happened maybe then Robin Thicke would be shown for the seedy married father that he is and not revered, in some quarters, as a hero against an emerging wave of preaching puritans. Similarly, without rigid consistency the banning of ‘Blurred Lines’ would only come to symbolise band-wagon jumping and tokenism in support of the greater struggle to end objectification and abuse of women.

Dina Rickman asks a pertinent question in a fantastic article in the Telegraph: when did British feminism become the movement to “ban this sick filth”? There are so many worthy causes to fight out there in the name of feminism; representation of women in senior management positions for example is dwindling, rates of pay remain staggeringly unequal and the amount of women in government and parliament is still deeply unrepresentative. So why is so much attention being focused on a sordid pop music video? These issues may not lend themselves to easy social networking messages or self-indulgent parody videos but perhaps feminism would be better putting even more effort into these departments rather than the eye-catching but ultimately ineffective attempts at censorship.

In the summer it was revealed by the Charted Management Institute that salary gaps between genders have increased and that male salaries are almost more than 25% higher than women’s when taking bonuses into account. Perhaps more energy should be focused on transparency laws or greater support for employees who wish to challenge their bosses for their unequal pay, before turning fire on a pop song. Also the 1 Billion Rising for Justice Campaign against the physical abuse of women has risen remarkably in its two-year lifespan and as a tribute to Lancaster students fundraising for the cause, students were treated to a visit from Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and founder of the campaign.  It is issues like these that connect best with the majority of people and perhaps deserve even greater focus. However, I worry these campaigns seem to be forgotten about and maybe even in some ways tarnish the good work of feminists, when fire is turned upon comparatively trivial matters.

People must not let this, in my opinion, misguided campaign for censorship be confused with the everyday struggle for female equality. Every time a female is called a bitch, referred to by their looks or paid less than their male counterparts they are victims of sexism. It was poignant to read David Cameron squirming over whether he was a feminist last week. It’s reflective of a country which has too readily patted itself on the back, because they think that now all women have the vote and laws are in place then females are treated equally. This is far from true. But in relation to this campaign, perhaps the most important question to be asked is this: is the feminist cause best served by railing against a song made by a group of seedy men? The answer I feel is no, and with more than 200 million views on YouTube and nearly nine million downloads of his single Robin Thicke will probably be the one most grateful for this prolonged campaign.

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