Blurred Lines: Is Slut-Shaming the True Enemy?

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Imagine you are Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese are attacking, but you don’t want to forget the internal war against the Communists. Now, you aren’t perfect yourself, but these circumstances may be screwing you over, regardless of whether it’s your fault or not. It seems war, in most cases, is never so black and white. (Note: this title is not about the “Blurred Lines” song, it’s about the blurred lines of what it is we fight against.)

There are a few debates out there that leave me asking myself, “what are we fighting about again?” Gay marriage is one, and this whole “Slut-Shaming” thing is the another. Mix in there the whole war against the “Friendzone” or the one with “gamer guys who are tired of hearing about what women think.” To me, the lack of effective communication has left things in a rather hot mess, but perhaps there are green pastures after wading through such swamps.

Why fight against slut-shamming? Is it an attempt to have slut-pride? Would it be like if I created a movement against chink-shaming? Is it supposed to ask the question of why men can act sexual, but women can’t? I ask, because it’s not clear.

Such is the swing of the pendulum, where overly-conservative Mrs. Hall gets the backlash of internet liberals for writing a piece to high school girls posting sexual selfies: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/

Someone explain to me what’s supposed to happen. Is it really bad to tell a young girl that working on her character is better than working on her sexy poses? I suspect one real question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are trying to win the right to be sluts in spite of the desires of men or that we want to be sluts in exchange for the desires of men. I don’t think teenagers completely know the difference. I’m starting to wonder whether adults really know the difference either.

Sure, Mrs. Hall is another self-victimized white woman writing from her position of privilege, but her opponents make a bit less sense this time around. The whole, Miley Cyrus shouldn’t be criticized for being slutty more than Robin Thicke is for being a douchebag could potentially be a case of two wrongs still don’t make a right.  Time will tell whether we’ll be taking a whole U-turn from this (men are sluts, so why not women) outlook on women and sexuality– I have faith that things will progress intellectually, and science and scholarship will come through with answers.

For now, I’m betting that embracing the “slut” label is not a step forward for womankind, because it’s the opposite of what we’re looking for– respect. Being a “slut” does not give impressions of being sexually well-informed, in control, and confident. That’s not to say that we should enforce modesty and chastity, or even that they are the right way to be, but to say that maybe we don’t want to be treated like men, because both men and women deserve better.

The “Blurred Lines” music video by #thicke is one of few videos I wish I could unwatch. Robin Thicke claims that he is “blurring the lines between men and women and how much we’re the same” and “blurring lines between a good girl and a bad girl.” Supposedly, some mistakenly took his lyrics as blurring the lines between rape and consensual sex. Maybe the catchy and seductive “you know you want it” lines while petting young naked women made them think that, but let’s give Thicke the benefit of the doubt and not accuse him of an absurd attempt at retroactive continuity. Here’re some lyrics:

One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass to
Go, from Malibu, to Paris, boo
Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
Swag on, even when you dress casual
I mean it’s almost unbearable
In a hundred years not dare, would I
Pull a Pharside let you pass me by
Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that
So I just watch and wait for you to salute
But you didn’t pick
Not many women can refuse this pimpin’
I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it if you get with me

Now let’s move on to what I think is a powerful contrast. What motivated me to write this post was actually the Jimmy Fallon parody of Blurred Lines with the Roots. The same part of the song gave me a double take, making me think that these lyrics weren’t that bad after all:

Good girlfriends, I had a few
But the best girlfriend I ever had is you
I thank God for my blessings, it began with you
So I put a ring on it and I married you
Come on and take a ride with me on a avenue
If you see it and you want it, you can have it boo
You have these other girls getting mad at you
Cause you got brains, looks and attitude
Cause my skill line is getting blurrier
I come home to my own Miss America
I mean this ain’t no ordinary love
Go and bring it here to my girl, hurry up
I’m watching, I’m waiting and they not you, so they hating
They just angry cause you ain’t basic
And I’mma give you a standing ovation

It turns out that these were rewritten for the parody. Seems like there are lots of people on the internet saying that there isn’t anything wrong with the Blurred Lines lyrics. If lyrics aren’t a big deal, then why not the latter instead of the former?

Like Syria now, like China then, like any attempt towards modernization, the lines are indeed blurred. Who or what exactly is the enemy? All I know is that the lyrics that celebrate character seem like progress and the lyrics that celebrate liberated sex animals sound like bull shit.

In regards to the letter from Mrs. Hall, I will end with the actions of Mr. Pyle. Probably the most rational thing I’ve read online is the a letter a man writes to his son:

I’m not telling you to not look at women.  Just the opposite.  I’m telling you to see women.  Really see them. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart.  Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.   – See more at: http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/#sthash.shJKDpds.dpuf

We can talk about progress all we want, but actions speak louder than words. I hear a lot of talk about the injustice of punishing women for the actions of men. So, thanks Nate Pyle, for being sensible enough to talk to your children, and thanks to The Roots for showing what real respect looks looks like:

6 thoughts on “Blurred Lines: Is Slut-Shaming the True Enemy?

  1. “I hear a lot of talk about the injustice of punishing women for the actions of men.” I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right here.

    This has me thinking to conversations about the legalization of prostitution I had with my radical feminist friends. Along the same vein as slutwalk and other sexual freedom advocacy, there’s the camp that it should be legal. And of course there’s the other side in that it should be illegal because of the protection of children and women. For this second group, you can always tell how someone thinks about the topic by which side they think should be illegal: either the prostitute herself is charged with the crime or (rarer) it’s the man soliciting prostitution is charged. That these laws aligns with the idea that women should be punished for the actions of men is no coincidence.

    It seems we’re struggling with trying to maintain two sides of the same coin: allowing of freedom while maintaining respect and protection of innocents – is there a compromise beyond all freedom (everything is allowed, even some bad) and all control (everything bad is disallowed, even some good)? That’s a good question.

  2. I was having dinner last night and I met a girl studying kink in sex culture in psychology who’d just come back from burning man.

    she said that the blurred lines song is actually liberating, b/c the lyrics say that “you know you want it..”…. followed by.. “Come on get at me…”… leaving the choice to the girl and giving her the ok to be a sex animal…

    I guess she made a good point about the video that i hadn’t considered.

    What’s weird is that people talk about this as if it were a black and white issue over what seems to be so many battle fronts that have been made.

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