The issue of rape culture has become a hot topic for those who have seen the trials of it in their everyday lives. Initially, one thinks of rape culture as a niche subject, something limited to feminist liberals who have an overactive sense of political correctness. Rape culture, however, isn’t an underground phenomenon nor is it something that can be ignored. It subversively is in the mainstream media, reflecting a culture that is still not aware of the true subtext that lies within. An example of this is a song most of us know all too well, “Blurred Lines”, by recording artist Pharrell Williams.
In November of 2013, Pharrell Williams, known by first name Pharrell, producer of Billboard.com’s Song of the Summer Blurred Lines, released his song “Happy” for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, which has topped Billboard.com’s Hot 100, a list of the most popular songs of the week. In April, he released a new album G I R L. While recently Robin Thicke’s popularity has stagnated, Pharrell’s popularity has increased, who headlined at 2014’s Coachella Music Festival.
Now, we all know the song; with a catchy 1970s-era disco beat, Pharrell’s ‘oohs’ in the background, and T.I. rapping. Blurred Lines by R&B artist Robin Thicke, has been named the Song of the Summer 2013’ by Billboard.com. However, since its release in 2013 many organizations have attacked Blurred Lines, calling it a song about date rape.
Lisa Huyne, author of Feminist in L.A., felt that the subject matter and lyrics of the song were not about drugs, dancing, or partying. Rather, the song was about rape. It also includes countless rape-based innuendos within the lyrics, like: “The way you grab me; must wanna get nasty”, “I hate these blurred lines” and “I know you want it”. Thicke’s X-rated music video for the song featured topless models, and was banned from Youtube shortly after its release. Backlash against the song’s implications of rape have led to accusations of its endorsement, which have not subsided or been easy to dismiss.
Thicke defended his song in an interview on the Today Show, saying that “Great art stirs conversation and makes us talk about what’s important.” and “[referring to a line from the song] That man is not your maker, it’s actually a feminist movement in itself, it’s saying that all men and women are equal.” Thicke’s answer wasn’t quite what the feminist community was looking for. Blogs and other news outlets were angered with Thicke’s justification for a song about rape. And they certainly do not believe that the song is a feminist movement in itself.
Why are they so angry? Many media outlets feel that songs like Blurred Lines are implying a justification of rape culture. According to Marshall University’s Center for Women rape culture is “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” The women’s center also lists examples of rape culture such as: blaming the victim, and lyrics like those mentioned above exemplify just what the Women’s Center is warning against. Marshall University also lists trivializing sexual assault, assuming that only “weak” men are raped, and teaching women to avoid getting raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.
Take the Steubenville, Ohio rape case for example. There was a large public outcry of support for the two boys who raped a drunk girl at a party and distributed pictures of the act on Facebook and other social media sites. The public backlash against the accusations was based on the fact that despite being minors, they would be tried as adults and classified as a sex offender would go on their permanent record and be detrimental to their future lives. Others blamed the victim because she was drinking underage, and therefore could not make good choices. These arguments, while perhaps true, are clear examples of blaming the victim of a crime and allowing rape culture to influence the media, popular culture, and society.
In short, allowing songs like Blurred Lines to become mainstream, reach the #1 spot on the charts, and be named the song of the summer for 2013, is only perpetuating rape culture, and placing blame on the victims. The public’s support and approval of these artists and songs condones and helps to propagate rape culture in society, and should be a cause of concern.