I’m sure by now, if you’ve left your house at least once this summer, you’ve heard Robin Thicke’s latest hit “Blurred Lines.” It’s been ceremoniously deemed the song of the summer, and for good reason. It’s catchy, with that warm backyard cookout type feel. For my R&B aficionados, think Marvin Gaye.
Recently, people have been attacking the video for the song, as well as Justin Timberlake’s video for his song “Tunnel Vision,” for the displays of topless and naked women. Timberlake’s video, which is objectively more “artistic,” is still up on YouTube, however the unrated version of Thicke’s video can only be found on Vevo, having been removed from the site. Women everywhere have been criticizing both videos for being “degrading” to women and “insulting” to the female form.
Personally, I think the lyrics are more problematic than the dancing, flaunting women. Without adding context to the song, I do think “Blurred Lines” is a conversation about consent. But, that doesn’t seem to be the subject of ridicule on this video…
Why is it that when we see a woman photographed in some state of nudity, our instant reaction is that it’s tasteless and wrong? Or worse, that she’s a slut or whore? (Especially when the song is about consent, and it seems as if the male singer is the one who has control over that, even if it’s in a playful manner…)
We’ve turned female nudity and further, sex work, into a crime, so that even willing nakedness is seen as being “objectified” or “wrong.” The modesty of women is always sought after as something that’s meant to be protected, and that instantly implies that something is awry when that modesty has been breached in the form of music videos, etc. Granted, objectification is a thing that happens, but we can’t blur (see what I did there?) it with women who willingly enjoy being nakedly on display.
It’s so easy for people to be body positive, but not nudity positive. I should love my body, but not ever show it off, because the second I do, I also open myself to be shamed and ridiculed. If you don’t think so, ask the hundreds of girls who confidently sent a partner a topless photo that came back to haunt her on a public scale. Ask Vanessa Anne Hudgens, ask Hailey Williams, ask Kat Dennings. THAT, my friends, is degrading. That’s objectification. There lies the difference between the two: consent.
The censorship of the female chest, but not the male one (anatomically the same) has instilled a predetermined sexualization of the female form, which is why everyone is quick to snap to the claim of objectification. My breasts offend you, but the bare chest of the man next to me does not. We’re saying that naked female bodies are provocative, and we encourage modesty and censorship as being paramount, and the opposite as subordinate. It’s to the point that women can’t even breastfeed in public without someone having something to say, or being forced into a restroom to feed their child.
Recently, a Seattle-based boylesque (I’ll google that for you, it’s incredibly interesting) troupe called Mod Carousel, did a gender-swapped parody of the Blurred Lines video.
Their commentary offers an interesting point; in most gender-swaps, the male is ridiculed in a comedic form, ignoring the idea of just how sexualized the female version is. Mod Carousel however, celebrates all sexuality of both men and women in the video, with the objective of “present[ing] both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.” The viewer is even able to witness some gender bending, where characteristics of gender aren’t screaming “cis!” This “parody” definitely offers an entirely different conversation than the original Blurred Lines.
In addition, women in Manhattan are making moves to be more topless in public, but to mixed reviews. They are breaking no penal laws, but many social taboos. But where is the objectification in wanting to be nude? What is degrading about wanting to take your clothes off?
The women in these videos consented to nudity. They willingly took their clothes off and exposed their bodies, engaging in a form of sex work, and reclaiming one’s body through sex work is not wrong. It’s exercising the right to choose and the right to consent.
So if you choose to take your clothes off, do it! Your body, your choice!