So seriously, am I about to do this? Is the thing about to pull me out of my writers block funk seriously going to be fucking Blurred Lines? Only weeks after probably every other feminist with anything useful to say about this phenomena already said it way better than I'm about to say it? OK, I guess that is where we're going.
First I think I need to give a brief explanation for why this is so late: I'm old. Yes, I had heard the song. Yes I had grooved on it and felt guilty for enjoying it with all it's terrible rape culture undertones. Yes I had seen the censored video that I didn't realize was just the censored version until last night, and I thought "now who do they think they are, throwing around hashtags like that?" A friend of mine turned me on to the gender swap version of the video, which made everyone feel a little better.
But have you seen this video?!
I saw it last night for the first time when I decided I was actually going to like this song and own that I liked it and was looking for the youtube video so I could get my Thicke on, and discovered this uncensored version.
What the fuck is going on in this video? You may think I'm about to pull out a bunch of jargon about how degrading and offensive this is to watch as a woman, how it's disappointing that they didn't use several representations of different female body types, how charming it is that he thinks he has a big dick and wants to talk about it with cheesy balloon art, etc etc. And I mean, yes. All that and more.
You know what though? I'm into it. I can't decide if I like it because it's like watching some sort of sexual/ gender politics train-wreck unfolding, or if there's something deeper going on here. And that second idea is what I want to try to talk about, and something I don't think I've seen many sex-positive feminists talk about with this video.
Did you know this video is directed by a woman? I didn't and definitely assumed it wasn't, until I looked it up. Her name is Diane Martel and here's what she has to say about it (via this huffpost article):
"I wanted to deal with the misogynist, funny lyrics in a way where the
girls were going to overpower the men. Look at Emily Ratajkowski’s
performance; it’s very, very funny and subtly ridiculing. That’s what is
fresh to me. It also forces the men to feel playful and not at all like
predators. I directed the girls to look into the camera, this is very
intentional and they do it most of the time; they are in the power
position. I don’t think the video is sexist. The lyrics are ridiculous,
the guys are silly as fuck. That said, I respect women who are watching
out for negative images in pop culture and who find the nudity
offensive, but I find [the video] meta and playful."
I'm not sure I feel that she succeeded in her goal of making the women in this video seem powerful. But there is something just wonderfully... blase about the way the professionally trained model/ sexpots behave here. They definitely seem to care very little about these terrible, creepy leches chasing them around and acting like idiots. They look like they just showed up to the party because they wanted to dance naked, and really who could blame them for that? They know they look good. They know these idiotic frat boys want them and they could care less. And there's something I find very delightful about that.
This video is a far cry from being sexually liberating for women, as Robin Thicke would want you to believe it is. But I do agree that it has ignited conversation. This video has gotten people talking, and mostly saying really good things about how fucked up it is. I'm going to go out on a perhaps misguided limb here and say that I think it is unintentionally empowering to women in one particular way: casual nudity. While the way the casual nudity of these women is presented in stark contrast to their heavily clothed male costars is highly, highly problematic, it is also wonderful to be able to just see female nudity in media that is sort of not porn and is accessible to most people (in the USA at least). I feel like this is a first step, albeit and extremely misguided one, towards boobs and topless female bodies being less shocking. I really don't think we have Robin Thicke or Diane Martel to thank for this, though. This is yet another achievement in sexual freedom that has been won my the phenomena that is the Internet, and not the fucked-up ideas of female sexual liberation that those two seem to have.
Now let's just remove the bottoms as well, and while we're at please remove the clothes on all the men and just make this a naked party already.
Luckily there is a silver lining to your complicated self-hatred for liking this song/ video:
You probably don't need me to tell you all the reasons why this video is better. I will say, though, that I don't think it's just as simple as swapping the genders and reversing the rolls and turning the tables. The boys in this video are sexier, to me, and so are the girls. Even though it is nominally heteronormative, it's clear that several of the people involved are queer and are playing with the rolls rather than living them. And most importantly, they actually seem like they're managing to have even more fun at their crazy party than the Robin Thicke crowd is.
All and all, I would say you win Mod Carousel, and thank you for sharing.