“Blurred Lines” and why your anti-sexist rants are getting awfully sexist, ladies.

Every summer we get to indulge ourselves in dozens of new, sparkly pop songs. They dash up and down the charts, their videos and melodies pervade our radios, newsfeeds, and televisions all in the hope of being the big hit of the summer. The song we’ll all remember.

Perhaps the song that’s stirred up the most controversy this year (and by that measure beat the controversial competition, sorry Miley) is “Blurred Lines.” “Blurred Lines” is an oddly languid pop song with barely discernible lyrics by Robin Thicke, featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams. However, upon some investigation and help from the video, it becomes apparent that it’s a song about a man speaking to a woman who has previously not been encouraged to express her sexuality or desire. The speaker urges the girl toward her desires, and generally encourages her to go with her instincts, which presumably will result in him getting laid. The song repeats references to these “blurred lines,” but it’s unclear what that is exactly referring to. Don’t get me wrong, this song is in no way feminist, it’s a pretty typical, fantasy-driven pop song.  There are certainly things to find irritating about it (who does this guy think he is? Why does he get to do the liberating?) but it’s not worthy of all-out feminist frenzy.

Today I had the good fortune of reading a “feminist take down” of the song and anyone who would dare enjoy it by Elizabeth Plank at Policymic.  While the article was logical, it was also predictably belligerent. Ms. Plank takes great offense to the assumption on the part of a male speaker that he might know what a woman wants, even if that assumption is liberating. Further, the video is offensive because the women (models) are partially clothed while the performers are fully clothed, also the women engage in overt, objectifying behaviors.

She heavily cites an interview with Robin Thicke where he (somewhat misguidedly) confirms that the video is degrading to women, and maintains it was “making fun” of something. Perhaps Robin Thicke doesn’t have the delicate hand to negotiate unspoken humor about the objectification women in 2013. She further cites comments make by the video director,  Diane Martel, a woman, who denied that there was an issue. Of course, as far as Ms. Plank and the feminist take down is concerned this woman’s opinion is irrelevant, despite actually producing the material. Diane Martel is, after all, only a woman working in music industry, can’t imagine what she would know about sexism!  Finally, the article references comments made by one of models in the video, Emily Ratajkowski, who expresses her ideas that women’s bodies on screen can be empowering, that the video was playful, and that she thought it was confidence-inspiring. It’s a fine example of post-postmodern feminism illustrating that some women’s opinions are valuable, some clearly aren’t. In this case, the women who produced the object do not have valuable opinions about it.

The introduction of the model is particularly interesting. When she’s introduced into the article, this parenthetical comment appears: “Emily Ratajkowski (who I wouldn’t recommend looking at unless you’re ready for a dramatic drop in your own self-esteem.)” Wow. I think it’s really crucial, while discussing how visible women’s bodies are being leveraged in a sexist way in a pop video, to emphasize that people should not look at Ratajkowski because she’s so pretty she’ll destroy your selfconfidence. Don’t even look at beautiful girls. Their existance in your field of vision is sexist, and they’re going to make you feel more insecure. One comment that boils a woman down to her appearance alone is all it takes to devalue an entire position.

Effectively, what is emerging from a lot of criticism of the song and video in various places is a total inability to grasp satire. The video involves a stuffed dog corpse, T.I. brushing someone’s hair, Robin Thicke sexily eating an ice cream cone. It involves a lot of silly dancing and not a lot of sexy touching. No actual nudity, no simulated sex acts, no grinding, there’s alcohol – but no women consume it, no violence, even playful, toward the women, while Thicke gets slapped at one point. There are nun-chucks and string of sausages though, clearly a piece of cultural commentary to be taken very seriously. The lyrics voice a little more violence; some hair pulling, and rough sex. At one point T.I. says: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” which is a pretty brazen thing to say unless he’s referring to an enormous dildo, and yes, it’s questionable, but it’s not enough for this outrage.

In thinking about what the “blurred lines” refer to, the general consensus seems to be that dangerous area where men have a hard time extracting consent (awful), but could also refer to the “blurred lines” between the “domesticated”, “good girl” the woman in the song is expected to be, and the “animal” she could be in the speaker’s fantasy.

…and with the fortitude of a concrete rhinoceros.

Today my best friend, Nicole sent me this article. It’s about the cultural archetype of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and more importantly, one very smart woman’s experience of buying into the desire to be this stereotype and then finding herself on the other side of it, realizing that she is far more than the manifestation the brooding men of modern cultural production would have her be. The article is sharp and familiar for any woman who’s felt constrained and constructed by media narratives and other people’s opinions and more so, anyone who has abandoned those limitations in favor of a self-authoring approach.  

The article got us talking about Manic Pixie Dream Girls. For those of you who don’t know, this is the type of girl introspective, artsy, alternative guys seek in movies. She’s Jessica Day, Ramona Flowers, and that character Kirsten Dunst was in Elizabethtown (this was were the term was coined). She’s the sort of girl that seems like a “realistic compromise” compared to the glamazons, ingenues, Final Girls, femme fatales, and succubi who have often occupied the media landscape, but she is no more real. MPGD has been for many young women of the Millennial and Y generation, a desirable role. However, despite being a clever, quirky sort of girl this is a designation that I am not allowed to participate in because MPDG’s are little

It is this what I am interested in. A terrific amount is tied up in women’s littleness. Littleness is often considered valuable, appealing, sexy, sweet, delicate, and perhaps most complicatedly, feminine. There are a plethora of positive associations for little girls, and not just little petite, or little skinny girls, but little curvy girls, and even little fat girls. This isn’t about weight though, it’s about bigness. I am a very big person, in addition to being enthusiastically obese*, my thighs are like small countries. I’ve realized many of the negative connotations for larger women aren’t just for fat girls or women as big as I am, it applies to women of many sizes, the 5’9, the size 10, the athletes, the broad shouldered, and wide of rib cage, the long legged, and big footed. However, after much consideration and the my committed goal to think through things positively I’ve realized there is real privilege in being a larger-than-average woman. 

There is a particularly poignant Louis CK bit where he talks about the sheer insanity of dating for heterosexual women. He ardently asserts, “there is no greater threat to women than men. We’re the #1 threat to women. Globally and historically, we’re the #1 cause of injury and mayhem to women, we are the worst thing that ever happens to them.” Women learn very early on in life that this is a dangerous world, and that it is simply and sadly just not safe to be a woman in this world. Domestic violence, systemic misogyny, rape – the list goes on. These are all very scary realities. However, I can honestly say while I am aware of these dangers, aware that men could pose a very real threat to me physically, I am not intimidated.

By being a larger woman, I am, in some ways, insulated from some of these threats (not all, by any means – especially considering the prevalence of date and acquaintance rape.) I am also insulated from a great deal of misogyny, it’s simply more difficult to patronize someone who is eye-to-eye, it’s more difficult to belittle someone who physically dominates a space. I don’t feel like men are talking down to me, or encroaching on my physical space. I rarely, if ever, feel physically threatened because I know my body has the outward appearance of a kind of substance and strength women are not often afforded. 

While there is no cutesy, make-believe movie character for me, and many things feel alienating, it’s important to remember that in a world where men’s physicality is so often used as a weapon, that women who are able to stand up to that are lucky in some way. It also brings to light how important it is that we move toward a space where a woman doesn’t have to be 6’something with the fortitude of a concrete rhinoceros to be able to safely walk to her car at night, or ask someone to leave her alone in a bar.

 

*Enthusiastic obesity, or jubilant obesity refers to fat people rejecting the death fat condemnation of our ol’ faulty friend, the BMI index. Go home BMI index, you’re drunk and stop yelling that I’m going to die on the way out. 

Dear Men of The Internet

Dear Heterosexual Men of The Internet, 

Unfortunately the time has come and I have to inform you that I will no longer tolerate your nonsense. I have heard many a woman discuss openly, practices of instiutionalized misogyny. Nasty, unacceptable behaviors promoted by the patriarchy. Until recently my life had been blessedly free of such incident, but in the past 3 weeks you have taken shit to new levels. 

First, an important fact:

I realize many of you seem to think there “aren’t any real girls online”. I regret to inform you that this is simply untrue. There are many “real women” (I know what exactly you mean by this, and yes, I am offended by it) on the Internet. I am fully allowed to be online and represent myself in any way I choose. 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I like the Internet, I particularly like meeting people on the Internet. Not always to meet in real life, sometimes just to chat with. Why? Because the Internet is a vast and interesting place full of interesting people. And frankly, most people find me too tall to approach in public. In order to do this, I employ profiles of a selection of amusing websites – some of them mainstream, some of them not. 

The case I wish to draw attention to today is Okcupid. Okcupid is a fun, playful, free dating site. (Should I be embarassed and unwilling to admit that I use this website? No. It’s 2012. Grow up.) However, in the past three weeks I have noticed some disturbing trends in the way men initiate contact with me on this website. 

1. I do not care what it says in my profile, it is NEVER okay for you to use misogynistic language toward a woman you do not know. Honestly, it’s not okay if you know her either – but I’ll accept there’s a time and place for everything. 

2. I do not have to like you or message you back, I don’t even have to look at your profile. The Internet is not a bar. If you walked up to me in a bar and said, (and I quote) “Wanna hookup?” I’d smile politely and say, “no, thank you.” However, we are not in a bar, and part of the reason for this is that I don’t want to have to be polite to you when you’re being an idiot. 

3. I have every right to use whatever personal selection criteria I choose. You do not get to argue with this. I am certain you all have your own criteria. If I choose not to message you back because you are too young, old, fat, thin, short, tall, married, or honestly ridiculous – that’s up to me. Of course, I am also not required to share my criteria with you. 

4. Keep your fucking sense of entitlement in check. I am not required to like you, I am not obligated to you at all. I am not required to tolerate you treating me badly because of what you perceive as rejection. 

5. Keep your goddamn insecurities in check. If I don’t message you back, it’s not because you suck, it’s because I’m not interested. It might not even mean that, it might mean that I’m busy. If I don’t respond well to your witticisms or your comments – perhaps I’m just not feeling it. But let me assure you, there are LOTS of girls in the world who might, so write out your full sentenced responses and fight the good fight. Those of you with degrading, inane, 2-3 word comments – I don’t respond because you do suck. You should feel bad 

6. For the love of 75-point words everywhere, pay attention to your spelling and grammar. If you are writing a message to a woman who CLEARLY articulates an affection for literature and writes in full sentences, you may want to spell check, you may want to revert from your lizard brained text speak and try something a little more elevated. No promises, just a thought. 

I am not overly sensitive, I understand that you’re not all out looking for love, but understand this: I am not an object, I am not something you can barter for, I am not something you can buy, or trick. I am self-aware.

If you come at me with some nonsense I find unacceptable and deplorable and I am silent, go back and read what you wrote. Then take another look at my profile. Do you seriously think I’m interested in “tak[ing] a look at your cock”? Do you really think I’m interested in something so shallow? Just think about it. I’m not asking you pretend to be something you’re not, or want something you don’t. (Yeah, don’t you lie to get me into bed, I am smarter than that, and it really annoys me.) Just do it with some sense of decency. 

I realize men are no longer allowed to behave openly like misogynist pigs (that doesn’t stop you in offices, on public transit, in classrooms or street corners) but this does not mean you can throw your bruised egos and desperation at me on the Internet. 

Finally, and I mean this, if I come at you and tell you I find what you said to me offensive, don’t you dare withdraw into your 3rd grade cocoon and call me names. Don’t you dare call a girl who didn’t message you back fast enough, or warmly enough a slut, whore, bitch, or cunt. Just don’t. 

Affectionately,