This piece was the winner of the Best Student Article in the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards 2014.
The reverberations of Edinburgh University Student Association’s decision to ban the infamous ‘Blurred Lines’ have been felt across the UK. Six universities have already supported EUSA in their decision, rejecting ‘rape culture’ and Thicke’s skipping sexualisation of the female body.
Where will it end? Recently, Journal writer Sukey Scorer praised EUSA’s decision, stating that it was “a step in the right direction” for university unions. A step it is indeed, yet the rungs on the music ladder are regularly riddled with inequality.
Banning ‘Blurred Lines’ is a substantiated stab at the popularity and proclamation of a perverse piece. It does not however, completely obliterate the sexualisation of campus society. By dismissing Thicke, do we also condemn Justin Timberlake, Jason DeRulo, even the female entrepreneurs of sex, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus?
Take one of the United Kingdom’s most recent Number Ones. Jason DeRulo’s chart-crawling offering ‘Talk Dirty’ raises deeper questions than ‘simple sexualisation’ of the female body. With 19.5 million views on YouTube and a continued British chart presence, DeRulo’s brassy beats provide another infectious hit, acclaim which owes more to its musicality than its lyrics. Yet what DeRulo’s ‘Talk Dirty’ offers is a radical opinion of the foreign female body as an even more accessible object than the native.
The song’s premise is that of language and the barrier it presents (or doesn’t, in this case) to those demanding sexual affairs. DeRulo’s argument is that a “booty don’t need explaining” and linguistic incomprehension is a mask for desire. Underlying this is the expectation that foreign females unceasingly “talk dirty,” rendering even their rejections as come-ons.
Like Thicke’s Blurred Lines, DeRulo’s piece also features a rapping interlude, in this instance from 2 Chainz. Previously known by the alias ‘Tity Boi,’ his sexual offerings to the song are hardly surprising. Explicit and disgusting, his female foreigner (who remains nameless – ‘Big Booty’ is hardly a justified definition) is told to pleasure him orally before he complements her physical flourishes.
The sexuality of this song is just another example of the continual imagery inherent in the current charts – writhing, naked, available bodies are a given. Yet ‘Talk Dirty’ also lords the domineering anglophones over the ‘stupid’ foreigners they control.
Both the official video and radio cut conclude with the racist portrayal of an Eastern female stuttering: “What? I don’t understand!” The continuity of stupidity and race is exemplified in DeRulo’s YouTube video which sees barely-clothed dancers sporting Spanish skirts and native feathers. The underlying implication is that non-anglophones are ‘game’; they may not “speak the [English] language” (though the musicians don’t speak theirs either) but their status as the ‘inferior’ race undermines their female assertiveness. Even if they repeatedly denied their superior’s advances, their speech would be classed as ‘dirty’, not pure, not English, incomprehensible, then sexually converted to engage the male’s desires.
Blurred lines, curved lines, backwards lines. The University of Edinburgh, along with its mirroring compatriots, is taking a vital step. This cannot be denied. How else to defer the disgusting direction of the modern media? Questions of censorship aside, if establishments choose to boycott the musical objectification of females, the inherent rape culture and the near-pornographic intent, go for it. It can only be contributing to a more equal view of society. Kirsty Haigh, EUSA Vice President Services (VPS) at the University, said, “[The ban] has sparked a debate which will hopefully readjust the boundaries of what is acceptable. This is the only song which has been banned in this manner.”
However, the prohibition of one melody – arguably the most infectious of the year – opens the unions to further examination. Attaining irrefutable equality means extending Robin’s restriction to Jason, Rihanna and all the other chart darlings who objectify women to garnish their own ‘dirty’ desires.