Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blurred Lines Between Objectification and Entertainment

“I hate these blurred lines! I know you want! I know you want it! I know you want it!” Do these words ring a bell? I bet they do because the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke seemed to be playing on a continuous loop during the summer of 2013. The Daily Beast’s Tricia Romano described the song as “kind of rapey,” which fits the song as it has been criticized for expressing rape myths and promoting rape culture. Blurred Lines, as well as the (uncensored) video that exposes topless women, objectifies women as merely sexual objects for a man’s pleasure. The misogynistic lyrics degrade women as trying to be  “good girls” who really “want it” when in reality most of the time that is just not true. Objectification of women in media promotes "rape culture" which leads to sexual harassment, rape, and victim blaming.

Rape Crisis spokeswoman Katie Russell said,“Certain lyrics are explicitly sexually violent and appear to reinforce victim-blaming rape myths, for example about women giving 'mixed signals' through their dress or behavior, saying 'no' when they really mean 'yes'.” Media that objectifies women leads males to believe women are less than human and can be treated poorly because they are just objects for men's’ pleasure, so it must be okay to sexually harass or rape a woman. People see it all the time in media how women are used for men's pleasure. Blurred Lines is just one example of media that dehumanizes women down to just an object. Another example of media objectifying women are ads portraying them as things like this ad:

Ad for beer: Photo courtesy of Gran Imaginador


And this:

Photo courtesy of infogr.am

And this:

Photo courtesy of thesocietypages.org


I can't be the only one who thinks these are ridiculous, right?
The Gender Ads Project is a website that exposes thousands of ads objectifying women. Click on the link to view the ads.

Many people may argue that the media’s portrayal of women is free speech as well as some people’s attitudes toward victims. Mens’ rights organizations are very outspoken about their opinions on rape. But there is a line between free speech and hate speech, which is illegal. There have been incidents where men’s rights organizations have attacked victims online and accused them of false reporting. While promoting rape culture and objectifying women in media may be free speech, it still leads to rape and victim-blaming.

What exactly is “rape culture?” It is a culture where rape is normalized or accepted, even expected. We see it in our everyday lives from fraternity orientations on college campuses, to rape jokes, to not believing victims, to aiming sexual assault prevention courses at women and teaching them how to avoid being raped rather than teaching men not to rape. Even women feeling less safe on college campuses than men are is an example of rape culture. After all, 1 in 5 women have reported being raped while 1 in 71 men have reported being raped.

Now, Blurred Lines in particular embodies all of my points. I think we can all agree that the video degrades and objectifies women, but it also suggests an implication of victim blaming when the song talks about a woman really wanting it and giving mixed signals, and promotes rape culture, as the top song is often played normalizing the message it carries. If males take the message as normal, then they will actually think no means yes. With all the spectacle around women's bodies and rape, eventually someone is going to be raped. This is shown in Project Unbreakable, which is a photo exhibit online that features pictures of rape survivors holding signs quoting their abusers. Some of the photos had lines that are said in the song like “I know you want it” and “good girl.” The majority of the pictures also had quotes from family and friends that were blaming the victim. Things like “what were you wearing?” and “what did you expect?” and “you should have known better.” This victim blaming leads to people not reporting attacks because they do not want to be blamed for the wrongdoing they had no control of. A whopping 60 percent of rapes are not reported to the police because of this. Not only has this sprung from the normalized idea that women should expect to be raped or that they were asking for it, but also it underestimates the character of men and holds low standards for men. Instead of censuring the rapist, the victim is blamed. Boys will be boys right? Wrong. We can fight this phenomenon of rape culture if we stop making excuses for the attackers and stop degrading women. So next time you are watching television and come across an ad that portrays a woman as a beer bottle, or a magazine advertisement that shows a woman being used as a table, stop and think about the message you are getting. Oh, and next time you hear the song Blurred Lines on the radio? At least try to resist singing along with the admittedly catchy tune and think about what is actually being said in the lyrics. When you pay attention to the words, the message is quite shocking and it is disappointing to think that it was the #1 pop song for 6 weeks.

Bibliography

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Conclusion, updated [May 26, 2014]


My original argument was not changed by any comments and still stands. Objectification in media leads to the promotion of rape culture and victim blaming. During the process of reading blog comments I did learn more about the men's rights counter argument. I went more in depth and clarified more about what their arguments are and how they feel about this pressing issue of rape. Interesting questions came up about the men's side of this problem and how not all men can be blamed. Also some questions got me thinking about victim blaming and who does it and why it happens. It all sort of ties back to rape culture and its prevalence media. This is important to digital citizenship because a good digital citizen is smart and critical with media. A good digital citizen would look into the actual meaning of the media they are consuming and realize weather there is a good message that they want to receive, or if the message they are getting, such as in blurred lines, is not a good one. Perhaps, more importantly, a good digital citizen will see a problem in today’s media and online world and speak up about it. They will not just accept something as horrible as rape culture being shoved down their throats, they will question it and form their own beliefs and opinions. This process of blogging has opened my eyes to the problems of the digital world, and put me on the path to becoming the type of digital citizen to change it. I fully intend to stay on this path of questioning media, and I hope to bring others along with me.








15 comments:

  1. Sad indeed that "Blurred Lines" was such a huge hit, sadder that so many pop songs are so misogynistic. But to be conscious of these messages is great, and to show others how prevalent they are is good work. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Thank you! Misogyny has been so normalized in many genres of music and that needs to change! Thanks for your comment!

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  2. What a timely article! And very well presented arguments with good support. I think this article should be read by everyone.

    While I disagree with the 'free speech' defense by men's rights organizations, I feel you needed to provide more detail to support the following statement " Mens’ rights organizations are very outspoken about their opinions on rape." As a reader, this statement makes me really curious to find out what their opinions actually are, and I hoped you would have expounded on this more.

    Otherwise, awesome article!

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    1. Thank you for your comment edchenable! You are right. I probably should have expanded more, but I did not want to make the article to lengthy. Thanks for showing more interest in this side of the argument. Here are a couple of links to articles that go more in depth about Men's' rights organizations and their opinions on rape. 'Men's rights' group behind sexual assault posters
      "Men's Rights" Activists Are Trying to Redefine the Meaning of Rape
      Thanks again for reading my article!

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  3. Hey VTP,
    Wow what an interesting post! I completely agree with this. Men and the media need to tone down the degrading comments, shows, songs and even pictures that are shown to everyone. We as men need to have way more pride and dignity to ourselves, but also we need to show more respect to women because they are human beings also. I would just like all of us to think, what if the roles were switched and the men where the ones being treated this way instead of women. In response to the song issue, I would like to say that I have always hated that song because the first thing that I noticed was the lyrics and I couldn't help but thinking how pointless they were. I couldn't believe a song was written about rape. Just think about if little kids start or are singing that song, and about the messages that are being put into their heads. This article really interested me and I look forward to reading the response you have!
    -Neymar the Dragon

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    1. Thanks for the comment Neymar the Dragon! The thought of little kids singing the lyrics to Blurred Lines without understanding the meaning is very scary! I think many people sing along to the song without fully understanding what the lyrics are saying. I know when the song first started playing, I would sing along and I never really listened to what was being said. I finally realized what the song was about when people pointed it out to me. It is crazy how this song has been so popular when it has such degrading lyrics. It would be very interesting if the roles of men and women in media were switched. There are many parodies of the Blurred Lines video that have roles reversed and I think you will find them very interesting!

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  4. VTP, you have handled a very controversial and delicate topic with great care and thoughtfulness. Thank you. I am grateful that you address what this culture of "normalized objectification" does to men as well. It is enormously limiting and disrespectful to think that all men behave a certain way and are incapable of more enlightened thinking. As you define rape culture in your 5th paragraph, I am reminded of this video by college sociology students where they asked men and women on campus what they do to protect themselves from assault. The responses make it obvious that women receive very different messages than men do. Most in the video respond that they "have never thought about it because I don't have to." It's quite revealing. While it might take a long time to shift our cultural attitudes, I would hope we can start by opening our eyes to the images and ideas you have shown us, become more aware of the messages we receive in the media (and perhaps in our own homes), and I would particularly like to see a more widespread shift in how we teach and talk about consent. I asked sex ed expert Amy Lang when she was on campus this winter about consent specifically, and she said there is a concerted effort underway to change the conversation from "No Means No" to "Yes Means Yes." Clear consent removes the "blurred lines" from the equation, and all parties know what is happening. I'll share here my favorite article/resource that I have found to date on this issue. Thank you for starting this very important conversation, VPT.

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    1. Ms. Gerla, I watched the video of college students and I was amazed by how, (for lack of a better term) clueless the males seemed to be about this question. They seemed almost dumbfounded by the idea that they may need to protect themselves from sexual violence. This is a real problem because men do have a chance at being raped and may not be prepared to protected themselves if they are attacked. You may find this article about Project Unbreakable that features male victims of rape interesting. Thanks for your comment!
      - VTP

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    2. I agree, VTP! Male survivors of rape have a tough battle ahead of them, especially in a culture that, like it does for women, sends mixed messages about their role in their own abuse. When we hear the word "rape," many of us automatically envision a male attacker and a female victim, but that's simply not the case. The US military in particular has been challenged to address the staggering statistics around sexual assault among their ranks (54% of those targeted by sexual assault are male). This is a problem that deserves everyone's attention.

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  5. Hi VTP, This post was interesting and well written. Great job! As I was reading your article I started to realize that these types of dehumanizing ads are all around us. I had never really noticed all the objectification of women in ads because they are so deeply woven into our societal structure. I absolutely agree with your statement that says, "Media that objectifies women leads males to believe women are less than human." However I believe that that statement is somewhat unfair to men. It implies that men are only capable of seeing women as objects once they have seen women objectified in advertisements. I should hope that men are capable of seeing women as more than objects in ads. Do you think the same kinds of objectification in ads can also be applied to men? Overall great blog!

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    1. Hey Lynn429, Thank you for reading! Of course men are capable of seeing women as more than objects! What I really mean is, media that objectifies women leads SOME males to believe women are less than human. Thank you for pointing that out to me. To answer your question, I think that objectification can happen to men in ads, but not in the same way. When women are objectified, especially as sexual objects, it is accepted as normal and people go along with it. But when a man is objectified in a commercial perhaps, people are likely to laugh because they would think it is ridiculous for a man to be in the same position women are in ads. When women are objectified people think it is normal, but when a man is objectified people laugh and assume it is a joke. This article is about a parody of the blurred lines video that has the roles switched with men being objectified and women having the power. I think you will enjoy it!

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  6. Hi VTP, you wrote a great post! I love how you stated your opinion so clearly. It's unbelievable how many people are oblivious to the blatant misogyny as displayed in songs such as Blurred Lines. I agree that teaching men not to rape rather than teaching women "how not to be raped" is a much better tactic and would be a lot more effective. Is it more common for males or females to not believe rape victims?

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    1. Thanks for your comment Kate! In my opinion, I would think that men would be more likely to to not believe rape victims than women. I feel that because women all share a greater risk of rape, they are more likely to sympathize with rape victims knowing that it could have happened to themselves. Of course men can be raped as well, but it is not as likely. I also think that men would be less likely to believe rape victims because they may feel that men are over accused of rape and that people over react to it. Really, it is possible for anyone to victim blame and not believe rape victims. People will always ask "what was she wearing?" or "how much did she drink?" These questions all tie back to the idea of teaching women how to not get raped instead of teaching men not to rape, and rape culture in America. We all need to be more aware and change this! Great question Kate!
      - VTP

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  8. Thank you, VTP for this discussion of how "rape culture" is relentlessly promoted in the media. Blurred Lines is such a great example of the normalizing of the language and videos that objectify and demean women because it expands the audience for misogynistic music. My totally informal survey of web searches using terms "misogyny, violence, music and women" brings up dozens of articles relating to gangsta rap, hip hop culture and rap lyrics to any one on other music genres that attack women. Educator Jamie Utt talks about this in a post on his blog Change From Within, where he cites examples in country and punk music (note--not an article for the timid). Sadly, Utt doesn't have an answer to the popularity and ubiquity of misogynistic lyrics in popular music. Your suggestions that we pay more attention and try not to sing along are a start. Thank you for the post. --Ms. Riches

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