About a week ago, thinking that I had finally stumbled onto a song before most people (a rare occurrence, given that I live in a country where things generally are released later and am not the most musically-inclined person in the whole world), I took to Twitter to announce my great enjoyment of the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines,” in what I imagined to be a fairly innocuous Tweet:
so basically i'm just going to listen to blurred lines over and over until i completely ruin it for myself ok
— Chelsea Fagan (@Chelsea_Fagan) July 12, 2013
Beyond just receiving responses like this, from other women who made the mistake of professing their enjoyment of the song:
@Chelsea_Fagan – I have been branded unfeminist for not being offended by that song! Someone actually said I had 'betrayed the sisterhood'
— sam (@samtaztic) July 12, 2013
I also had the pleasure of being inundated with requests to explain myself, to respond to the controversy surrounding the number, and to apologize for enjoying something that was so clearly awful and reprehensible. I, too, was even branded “unfeminist” for unconditionally bopping around to the undeniably catchy tune. Apparently, there was a controversy surrounding this song that I had up to that point been blissfully unaware of, and my feeble attempts to respond to the backlash (as seen in the second Tweet above) were largely insufficient. As a woman, it was my job to get on board with being offended, and to get on some sort of internet pedestal to spread the gospel.
Now, here are my actual feelings on the song:
To me, the lyrics seem no more offensive to me than the vast majority of pop/dance/R&B music out on the radio today. It mostly seems cheeky, and reminds me of my nights out with a guy I was interested in but wasn’t yet sure whether or not I was going to kiss. While there are definitely some words in there that I am not a huge fan of, in no way did it strike me as particularly egregious on first listen.
As it happens, I have been a long-time Robin Thicke fan, and actually find him (on a personal level) to be amongst the more respectful and genuine artists out there when it comes to women. His love, admiration, and care towards his wife is endearing (he even featured her in the video for his most romantic song because, as he said, it made her cry). His lyrics often come across as very sincerely passionate and almost awestruck when it comes to the women in his life. And he has always come off a gentleman in the interviews and public appearances I have seen of him.
As for the video (which I actually didn’t know had an uncensored version until I was bombarded with the link), it did not shock me. As I live in a country where bare breasts are a constant — from public television to your local beach — it seemed almost charming to finally have an American music video where the whole breast is finally shown. After all, so many modern music videos are entirely centered around women with the most bare-minimum amount of clothing possible, performing the most provocative dance moves man has yet to discover, so the addition of a nipple struck me as more quaint than anything else.
And the girls in the video — whom I took the time to research after seeing them — are as beautiful as they are successful in their field. I have no doubt that they greatly enjoyed their time filming the video, are lucid of the incredible exposure and opportunities it is bringing them, and sleep on a pile of money earned from their various lucrative modeling deals. If I looked like they do, I would be naked all the time. I have no pity for them, and I don’t think they need anyone to come rushing to their honor. If a woman wants to shake her boobs in a Robin Thicke video, I will be there with the baby oil, making sure they look as nice as possible for the camera. You go, girls.
At the end of the day, though, none of this should matter. Because I can understand clearly where some people might object to the content of the song or the video, even if I don’t. I can respect their opinion, and have no desire to foist mine on them. Yet somehow, as a woman, it is my job to be offended by things which toe the party line, and to explain to others why they, too, should be on the bandwagon. It is apparently my job to be disingenuously bothered by various things which some nebulous arbiter of what is and isn’t feminist brands me as either “good” or “bad.”
This attitude — and, if you can believe it, some of it even came from men who clearly think themselves better and more knowledgeable as feminists than many actual women — is, above all, incredibly condescending. And if there is one thing that my version of feminism hopes to eradicate, it is the condescension that drips from every word when we tell women what they should do, how they should think, and how they should feel about something. The idea that we are here to monitor one another, and to speak for the good of the team is as cloying as it is ridiculous.
I have my opinion, and you have yours. I consume plenty of entertainment that certain people might deem “degrading.” And while I appreciate their input, I am doing just fine living my life, deciding what I am and am not okay with. We do not need to be instructing women to be offended, or to take stances, or to support a cause. If I am happy listening to a song you perceive to be oppressing me, leave me alone to decide for myself what makes me happy. And let me Tweet about said enjoyment if I so choose.
Women are not a homogenous group. We are not a hivemind. We are bound to enjoy, dislike, and be offended by a thousand different things at any given time. And that’s fine — in fact, it’s a lot of what makes life so interesting and beautiful. So if you believe that some divine power has given you the novelty-oversized rubber stamp of “Good Feminist” and “Bad Feminist,” you must return it to its shelf, because no one wants to be labeled with your nonsense.