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In defense of "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke and the Indiana University Marching Hundred


By Dane McDonald




Chances are if you were in spitting distance of a radio over the summer, you heard Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” a catchy R&B tune featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams.

The song immediately sparked a slew of controversy, justifiably when you consider the potentially misogynistic lyrical content and the overtly salacious music video.

If you were at the IU football game against Mizzou this weekend, you heard the Marching Hundred play ”Blurred Lines.”

In our neighboring state of Ohio, the Ohio University Marching 110 came under fire for practicing the same song.

Given the geographic proximity of the Steubenville High School rape case to OU, it’s understandable that they came under fire for practicing the arguably sexist and “rapey” song.

It didn’t help things when pop princess Miley Cyrus twerked on Thicke during his performance of “Blurred Lines” on this year’s VMAs, a routine that placed nearly all the controversy on Cyrus and not Thicke.

That is a sexist problem that speaks to the hegemonic culture in America. “Blurred Lines,” as a song, does not.

But the lines aren’t nearly as solidly rape-y as some bloggers and media critics suggest. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but my ears hear a groovy little song about sexual tension, not sexual assault.

I’m not saying the song doesn’t have its problems in light of rape culture and sexism.

And I’m definitely not here to wholly defend the music video, which features Thicke, T.I., and Williams fully dressed while female models strut around in various states of undress.

But to me, a feminist supporter who believes in gender equality down the line, “Blurred Lines” is handing the power over to the ladies.

Thicke coos in the first verse, “Maybe I’m going deaf / maybe I’m going blind / maybe I’m out of my mind.”

This describes a man under a woman’s spell, whether that was her intention or not.

Early in the song, it appears the female in question holds the power in this sexual
dynamic.

Thicke goes on to sing, “OK now he was close / tried to domesticate you / But you’re an animal / baby it’s in your nature.”

Here is where the lines truly do get blurred.

It seems the lady in question may be involved in a relationship in which she is unable to be herself sexually.

The blurred lines then become lines of morality.

Is it okay for the lady to cheat with Thicke if he promises to liberate her?

This may not sound like an equal trade-off from sexism, but it still keeps the power in the woman’s hands.

Thicke may be acting as a temptation, for which he may be rightly ridiculed as a douchebag.

But he isn’t assaulting this woman. He’s just giving her the option.

In fact, many of the song’s lyrics imply it’s up for the ladies to choose whether or not the sexual tension can proceed into the bedroom.

T.I. raps, “So I just watch and wait for you to salute.”

Thicke sings, “Go ahead / get at me.”

These are the men putting it on the line that they want a certain lady, but the ball is in her court. They’re responding to mixed signals and letting her know where they stand.

She can choose whether or not she reciprocates the sexual sentiments.

There’s no lyric where Thicke, T.I., or Williams imply the female wasn’t giving consent and they were going for it anyway.

“Blurred Lines” is hardly blemish free from undercurrents of sexism, and the video was truly a missed opportunity to play with gender roles in society.

But give the guys a little credit here. They simply know what they want and hope the ladies feel the same.


­— wdmcdona@indiana.edu
Follow columnist Dane McDonald on Twitter @W_DaneMcDonald.

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