Yukon News

Some clarity on Blurred Lines

EditorialJohn Thompson Friday October 4, 2013

Jesse Winter/Yukon News

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Kendra Willems wants CKRW to stop playing Robin Thicke's song Blurred Lines, because she believes it promotes rape.

We’re late to weigh into the Blurred Lines controversy because our conclusions seemed obvious. The dispute started with a campaign launched by a concerned Whitehorse woman who wants CKRW to stop playing a song she finds offensive. Such is her right, and it’s hard to see why some residents think that the sort of clothes she wears has any bearing on the merits of her arguments.

The radio station, meanwhile, is well within its rights to reject her plea. CKRW’s producers have obviously concluded that many of its listeners prefer to hear the song. If you disagree with them, turn the dial.

Yet there remains the small matter of what the song is about. Seeing as a considerable number of people - including representatives of the territory’s women’s groups - seem to be labouring under the delusion that Blurred Lines is a song that condones or encourages rape, we feel compelled to note that this view is not actually supported by the song’s lyrics.

Critics have described the song as “rapey” because of singer Robin Thicke’s repetition of the phrase, “I know you want it” - a line that rapists have been known to utter. But, as Slate’s Jennifer Lai has best explained, that’s certainly not what the song is about.

“Someone who says ‘I know you want it’ is probably overly cocky and presumptuous as hell by assuming you/she wants ‘it,’” she writes, “but nothing about ‘I know you want it’ is saying ‘I know you want it, and I’m going to force you to have it’ or ‘I had sex with you and you didn’t consent, but I know you wanted it.’ Yes, ‘I know you want it’ could be said by a rapist - but so could ‘Do you want to go to a movie tonight?’

“If you want more proof that the repetitive ‘I know you want it’ chorus isn’t creepy, let’s do a closer reading of the other lyrics. The end of the chorus goes: ‘The way you grab me/ must wanna get nasty/ go ahead, get at me.’ The last part, ‘go ahead, get at me’ very clearly kills any ‘rapey’ vibe. In fact, he’s putting the ball in her court by telling her to make the move and not the other way around.”

So what do the song’s blurred lines refer to? Lai offers several suggestions, but concludes it’s probably about “getting mixed signals from a lady who you think might be interested in doing the deed - then letting her know exactly where you stand so she can make the next move - if she wants.”

Blurred Lines is no ode to feminism, make no mistake. The singer’s overture “just let me liberate you” is bound to raise the response from some women that they’ll liberate themselves, thanks much. And its explicit descriptions of rough sex will probably shock or upset some listeners - provided they’re able to actually comprehend the dirtiest bits, as they’re spoken at high speed. But this is all unexceptional by the standards of much of today’s popular music - especially hip-hop and R&B, the genres to which the song belongs.

Some critics insist that even if the song is not about rape, it’s still dangerous, in that rapists could hear the lyrics and assume it validates their twisted world views. But imagine if we took this reasoning seriously.

Another of today’s hit songs describes a high school student going on a school shooting spree. We can also agree such mass shootings are horrific - so we suppose that means CKRW had better drop Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People from its playlist to start.

And consider older hits. Sting, you may recall, sang a famous number from the point of view of a stalker. We can all agree we don’t want to encourage stalkers, so the station had better drop Every Breath You Take from its list, too.

We could go on, but you get the idea. Artists often sing about the world in cryptic, indirect ways, and adopt personas that do not necessarily reflect their actual views. Artists are also sometimes simply crass. If we successfully boycotted every song open to misinterpretation, there would likely be a lot of dead air on the dial.

None of this is meant to explain away the alarming number of sexual assault that the territory sees, which is treble the national average. The territory’s women’s groups have good reason to continue to stress the importance of being clear about sexual consent - clearly, it’s an issue.

But it seems silly to go bonkers over the decision of CKRW to air a song when its lyrics are plainly being misinterpreted. Exaggerated claims only erode one’s credibility - why not save the outrage for something more worthwhile?

34 Comments

nemesis1 wrote:
8:58pm Wednesday October 23, 2013

1st World Problems FTW

mhmm wrote:
11:08pm Saturday October 19, 2013

Don’t forget why Robin Thicke’s song even exists. inspired by SOME women who lack sensibility.  Ms. Willems needs to crawl out of the rut known as feminism and see the world as it really is.

INDEED, WOW. wrote:
8:38pm Monday October 7, 2013
Wow. wrote:
3:48pm Monday October 7, 2013

@NoSurprise

“The idea that anyone should have a say in what anyone else listens to is ridiculous”

Agreed! Everyone has the right to listen to whatever they want! A radio station has the right to choose to play whatever it wants, as well! However, with that right to play whatever they want comes with it the right for them NOT to play a song. This request was simply that, a request. Clearly. She has asked a radio station to CHOOSE not to play a song. This does not infringe on anyone’s right to listen to the song. If this radio station, after thoughtful consideration, had CHOOSEN to no long play this song, because they believed it was promoting a message they did not support (which a radio station clearly has the right to choose such a thing) then listeners are more than welcome to find the song elsewhere, tune into a radio station that feels differently, download it on Itunes, buy the CD or go to the concert!

This would be an entirely different issue if this was a protest in attempt to make this song illegal, or inflict consequences if the radio station continued to play it (such as call for a boycott). If this request tried to take away an artist’s right to make this music in the first place, THAT would be an issue – but it does not.

“The irony is that more people have likely gone out of their way to listen to the song based on all the misplaced controversy over it.”

My understanding is that that is likely not the worst thing that could happen. At least now when people listen to the song, they listen to it with rape culture in mind, and agree or disagree with her interpretation of the lyrics, for a lot of people this song will serve as a reminder that rape culture exists – a concept many people in this town were unaware of up until now.

“The radfems are out in force on this one, shaming and shouting down anyone who disagrees with their dogma”

How hypocritical of you….

No Surprise wrote:
1:59pm Monday October 7, 2013

The radfems are out in force on this one, shaming and shouting down anyone who disagrees with their dogma - calling the writer a privileged white male…really, is that the best you can come up with?  The idea that anyone should have a say in what anyone else listens to is ridiculous.  The irony is that more people have likely gone out of their way to listen to the song based on all the misplaced controversy over it.

MISSED THE WHOLE POINT wrote:
11:39pm Sunday October 6, 2013

This has got to be the worst editorial EVER on the song. Thompson missed a very obvious point, which is why feminists have condemned the song’s rapey nature. The video for the song features three women dancing practically naked while the fully-clothed Robin Thicke and Pharell oggle at them. The women appear to be having fun, and at some point there’s a huge lineup of balloons in the background that reads, “Robin Thicke has a big dick.” Match the lyrics with the video and it’s pretty obvious it’s about objectification, to say the least. You should not even try to make social comment on pop culture, let along women’s issues,  John Thompson. Get off your white, privileged, male high horse first. Props to Kendra for raising the issue locally.

Hmmm wrote:
6:07am Sunday October 6, 2013

I actually feel bad for Kendra. I think she opened the window for a good conversation to take place and people are just attacking her. I’m not saying CKRW has to stop playing the song but maybe we should consider the rights of the women that are offended by it? Just telling them to “shut their radios off” isn’t a very mature response is it? I think this was a great opportunity to address the issue of rape culture.

Iain wrote:
2:37am Sunday October 6, 2013

Not sure why this is all so black and white. It’s not really about whether you like the song, censorship, what the song is “really about”, tune in or tune out. The personal attacks are clearly childish and wrong.  I would think it may slow any person from sharing, any kind of opinion, publicly period. The bottom line folk’s is this jab at a popular entity has created a lot of heated talk and discussion on a topic.  More so than most other paid advertising campaigns.

Dustin Grant wrote:
12:21am Sunday October 6, 2013

One individual will always view things differently than the way someone else views the same thing be it song lyrics or anything else. Thus you have the problem where I can analyze the entire song and see nothing hinting at rape culture in any form, yet someone else can look at it and see it as the most offensive thing on the planet. It’s all in how you were brought up, how you were taught and most importantly how you interact with others. If you react badly with others (rapist/murderer/molester etc) then a song is not going to tell you hey I should go and do that or it’s ok to do that, your going to go out and do what you do. A person like that does not seek acknowledgement/recognition or permission they are out for themselves and only seek personal gratification.

As far as the song goes I personally decided to view the song as this: A rather cocky or arrogant guy telling an attached girl that if she wants him, she has to detach herself from her boyfriend. Yes the way he goes about saying it can be construed otherwise but the bottom line is he is telling her to make the move, not forcing himself on her which as to my understanding is what rape is.

We value our entertainment far to highly and therefore “creative” artists have to find highly imaginative lyrics/storylines/etc to keep us entertained. If we are no longer entertained by whatever media happens to be in front of us then we move on.

On a side note directed to those attacking Kendras stance:
Kendras name has been dragged through the online message boards, and I’m sure the various coffee shops around town, far to much. Though I don’t agree with her viewpoint that is her viewpoint and she should be respected for having one even if you don’t agree with it. Someday when she is older perhaps she will look back and say that they way she dressed was overdoing it a little but that is not for me or anyone else to decide. She is living her life the way she wants and should be commended for such especially for doing what she believes in by standing up for others.

Bullying. wrote:
4:59pm Saturday October 5, 2013

I am very curious as to why this article has a picture of Kendra on it, and why so much of it is addressed directly at her. I understand that she initially brought up the issue (and good for her!!!!) but there has been a huge amount of people who have agreed with what she has said, and added their own point to back up her arguments. Not to mention, this song is being banned / taken off the air all over the place!! So why then does this seem to be about Kendra, more than about this song, or about rape culture?

My guess would be because all of you small minded folks feel so much more comfortable discussing people than ideas -  like it would appear you’re use to.

Shame on you, Yukon News.

Kendra Willems wrote:
4:52pm Saturday October 5, 2013

@Anonymously Anonymous
I’m not a politician, I am not required to meet your standards of “non offensive”. The fact that the person behind the idea, and how that person looks/behaves influences your opinion of the issue or idea put forth, instead of being able to see the worthiness (or unworthiness) of the idea, says a lot about your and your ability to reason.  My ideas are not worth less (or more), made any more invalid (or valid) by anything I wear or anything I do.


@hypocrisy
That’s a pretty twisted view. The point is not to get rid of anything that might cause rape, the point is to quit encouraging rape culture.  How a women dress’s does NOT encourage rape culture.  Ideas and Attitudes towards women, including the idea that we need to dress a certain way so we don’t get raped, that DOES contribute to rape culture.

If a song is enough to push a potential rapist over the edge, why wouldn’t a woman’s choice of outfit be?  Total double standard hidden behind fancy words like “misogyny” and “rape culture”.
Rape culture is a fancy word? Why? Because you don’t understand what it means?

Hypocrisy wrote:
12:27pm Saturday October 5, 2013

If a song is enough to push a potential rapist over the edge, why wouldn’t a woman’s choice of outfit be?  Total double standard hidden behind fancy words like “misogyny” and “rape culture”.

Doug wrote:
10:50am Saturday October 5, 2013

This is the dumbest shit I have ever wasted my time on. Yeah dress how you want, but when you dress like a trollup predators will see you more than they see a girl dressed classy. No that doesn’t mean everyone’s saying “you want it” it’s a predator thinking in his own twisted way. If you speed race around town you increase your chances of crashing. Everything has a risk factor.

Jackie Cromarty wrote:
10:45am Saturday October 5, 2013

I say “I know you want it” to my husband all the time.  This article is getting out of hand.

Anonymously Anonymous wrote:
10:28am Saturday October 5, 2013

While I agree that Kendra’s clothing and provocative pictures have nothing to do with the argument at hand, I can see why it keeps getting brought up. I don’t think anyone in their right mind is saying she’s asking for it…I think they’re saying she doesn’t carry herself in a professional way, making it harder to take her claim serious. This is a very valid point and it happens all the time. I like to see people who are speaking on behalf of myself and my children, looking and acting mature and responsible. Most prominent public figures have an obligation to represent themselves in a non offensive way. Image is huge and assumptions (NOT the assumption that you are “asking for it”) are based on first impressions.  I’m shocked that Kendra doesn’t understand this. It’s sad but true.
Oh and this article expresses my thoughts on the song precisely.

Sheila wrote:
9:44am Saturday October 5, 2013

While I very much agree that a song should NOT be banned regardless of it’s nature, I think it’s important not to discredit this point about the purveying rape culture.

I think CKRW is totally in the right to keep the song on the air, I’d actually be very concerned if they took it down. But to suggest that Kendra Willems-or anyone else who has raised their voice over concern about rape culture should be discredited or directed to to some other *more important* issue - that’s a problem.

Rape culture is a fascinating and frightening truth in our lives, and I think a lot of us are hearing about it for the first time. The more I read about it, and the more I recognize it’s role in oppressing me, throughout my life, and the more angry I get. The more I think it’s important to talk about. And despite what the song is actually about, it has become an effective, highly publicized venue for this discussion.

You can make your opinion without discrediting anyone. Why would the Yukon News choose to disempower this discussion?

Kendra Willems wrote:
9:33am Saturday October 5, 2013

Why is my picture used for this article??!

Why does this have anything to do me ME anymore? Sure oppose or address an opinion, but why me as a person directly?

Why didn’t you use YOUR picture for the article ...?

mhmm wrote:
4:09am Saturday October 5, 2013

Leave the musicians alones jeez….

Grateful wrote:
3:09am Saturday October 5, 2013

a couple things….first..kadi…..Kendra is a gorgeous, classy, intelligent woman, and she wears it well….your comment just confirms that so many narrow minded people mistake beauty, confidence and individuality as something to be scrutinized and judged…..it sounds as though you think Kendra is “asking for it” based on her clothing…...get real….you obviously don’t know anything about her…...second…..This young woman took a stand and pointed out how a hit song like this could encourage and justify predators to do what they do.  This song clearly is not based on any talent or depth of heart…..it’s not music, just a quick way to make a whole bunch of slimy people quick money based on shock value and disrespect.  Way to go Kendra, stay proud and true..

jack wrote:
12:04am Saturday October 5, 2013

yaaaaay…censorship.  while she’s at it, what books does she want to ban?

mlehner wrote:
11:29pm Friday October 4, 2013

“Exaggerated claims only erode one’s credibility - why not save the outrage for something more worthwhile?” Point. Exactly.

Murray wrote:
10:17pm Friday October 4, 2013

Caz - do you ever watch TV?? The stuff I see on the tube (at times when kids are up) makes that song look/sound really innocent.

wastedtime wrote:
9:50pm Friday October 4, 2013

I’m glad that this has been put to rest by someone who clearly knows & can directly communicate, without all the unnecessary big words (a ploy to through ppl of of the real topic & give false credit to where it doesn’t belong) the song n
is a song that has been terribly misinterpreted in order to gain some obvious need for attention. Which she got & I’m still not to sure why exactly. Does the Yukon news not have anything better to do with their time than to be wasting funds interviewing someone who says an r&b song promotes roe culture?? I feel like I’ve just lost two minutes of my own life posting this but at least I didn’t loose weeks trying to argue that a r&b song singing about a raw connection between ppl promotes roe culture LOL pheewf

Don McKenzie wrote:
9:12pm Friday October 4, 2013

And the swivelling hips of Elvis will lead children straight to Hell.  and the Rolling Stones is Devil’s music.  Etc, etc.  I have to wonder if someone isn’t trying to put one over on us.

Wtf. wrote:
8:34pm Friday October 4, 2013

This article just says ... Nothing.

By the way, the caption under this picture is incorrect. I believe Kendra said she thinks this song promotes rape CULTURE, not specifically rape itself. Promoting rape and promoting rape culture are two different things; and they fact that most people don’t seem to be able to figure out the difference - or what rape culture is period - seems to be a huge part of the problem.

Leanne Luvvex wrote:
7:57pm Friday October 4, 2013

What about his response to the song that it felt good to degrade women in his interview with GQ? Sure, it is just a song but this is still a conversation that needs to be talked about. Negative output such as implication that women deserve to get raped due to their clothing and behavior is what normalizes rape culture and THAT was what her intent was. Which was smart. And it is an issue. I’ve read threads written by both male and female yukoners who think women get raped because they drink or dress provocatively. And that’s not right. This is why we need this conversation, regardless whether it was started by a sing, the artist’s response or the response to her request. The responses show the problem more than this woman’s initial action.

Everyone has an opinion of the lyrics; I personally didn’t feel the lyrics represented rape. But there are people that feel that way, including six universities (and counting) that banned that song off campus because of that consensus. Let’s look beyond the song and look at the issue that needs to be addressed in our community and that is rape and sexual assault. The Yukon has a high rate of sexual assault and rapes and there are barely any resources that are available to these women, including a safe, secure shelter, mental and physical support and rehabilitation. There is the women’s shelter, but that’s one for the whole territory; and even then, they are always running out of resources for women who are in need of help. We don’t allow enough space for this conversation to happen with men: Do not rape. And we don’t allow enough space for women to voice their opinions, be taken seriously and to get help that they deserve due to lack of resources and fear. Often we turn away, allowing the sexual abuse to continue. And that is not right.

cowleycreek wrote:
7:55pm Friday October 4, 2013

You’re right Kadi! Only women who wear turtlenecks and long pants should be able to comment about songs that promote rape.  Women who wear summer clothes that expose bare shoulders clearly have no right to speak out! I mean, women like that are just asking for “it”, right? You know they want “it”, right?.

It is comments like yours that show time and time again that we continue to live in a culture that blames the victim and judges women by what they wear… can’t recall ever reading about a man being dissed for speaking out based on the amount of clothing he was or wasn’t wearing….

Becca wrote:
7:48pm Friday October 4, 2013

While I happen to dislike the song (and stopped listening to most radio a long time ago.. I normally have my child in the car, and the casual way that the swear words are thrown around in currently popular songs means that there is no point in me listening.. I would be too distracted trying to turn it down every couple of songs instead of driving), whether or not I agree with Kendra isn’t the point.

Who’s to say someone’s opinion isn’t worthwhile (being outrage or not)? I value everyone’s ability to express their opinions.. even if I don’t like them. I see no reason to bully, call down or get upset at someone when they do express that opinion. I have a choice, and I choose not to listen to them if I don’t like what they have to say.  Just like I value everyone’s right to dress how they want and if I don’t like how they dress, then I don’t look. What went on when Kendra expressed her opinion (which was a call to CKRW to remove the song because it encouraged rape CULTURE, not because it encouraged the act)  was downright shameful.

For those who think she only did it to get her 15 minutes, why do you then keep talking about it and extending that 15 minutes?

Kudos to Kendra for standing up for something she believes in, and for getting people talking about rape culture in this small town that likes to think it’s a big city.

Lollll wrote:
7:26pm Friday October 4, 2013

Haha! As if this song is worse than the other songs played on the radio. But commenting about her pics on FB has nothing to do with what her point is. If she honestly thinks the song is about rape, she has the right to be upset. She may be setting a bad example to younger people or other adults on how to dress but this has nothing to with being against rape. A man raping a woman is not the woman’s fault for dressing “slutty” if that’s what you’re trying to imply…

TakeYourOwnAdvice wrote:
7:26pm Friday October 4, 2013

Maybe your time could be better spent, not telling someone else how to spend their time, Yukon News.

Maybe, instead of writing even more on the interpretation of song lyrics you could have written an article about something you thought would actually help someone or something, like this young women has - even if you disagree her.

How have you wasted any less time writing this article than she did? At least she was actually trying to accomplish something positive. 

joanna wrote:
7:00pm Friday October 4, 2013

Better keep your children at home and cut them off from society there Caz….the radio content is the least of your worries!  Better keep them away from the tv ...way worse shit on commercials now days.

kadi wrote:
5:51pm Friday October 4, 2013

and this is coming from the girl who posts half naked pictures of herself as her fb profile pic..

Caz wrote:
5:09pm Friday October 4, 2013

Disgusting; I can’t believe that something like this is even allowed to be played on the radio especially since kids can listen to it. What is the world coming to? Do we not have any decency? I totally agree with Kendra Willems. I am glad that she stood up & said something.

marsha wrote:
3:53pm Friday October 4, 2013

why not save the outrage for something more worthwhile?  LOVE That last sentence.  My thoughts exactly Yukon News.  Was this headcase just looking for 15 minutes of fame?

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