The yr was 2013. ‘Twerk’ and ‘selfie’ had been added to the dictionary, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed their first little one, and a pop tune set off a feminist bomb, dividing partygoers each side of the Atlantic.
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ smash hit Blurred Traces was launched on March 26 and shortly grew to become the best-selling single of 2013, with 5 weeks because the UK primary and a monumental eight months on the Billboard Scorching 100.
The uncut model of its music video noticed suited males dance with topless girls carrying nude thongs, as Thicke purred ‘I do know you need it’ to the digital camera.
Aged 21, it marked mannequin Emily Ratajkowski’s first main reserving, although she’s since known as the video the ‘bane of [her] existence’, and claimed Thicke groped her on set – an accusation he has by no means publicly responded to.
By the summer season of 2013, the four-minute tune had been banned in no less than 20 British universities, together with Derby, Chester, Brighton, Leeds, Gloucestershire and West Scotland.
Kirsty Haigh, a 19-year-old worldwide relations scholar on the College of Edinburgh, led the cost, together with her campus changing into the primary to ban the Blurred Traces tune and video virtually 10 years in the past.
Livingston-born Kirsty was her scholar union’s vice chairman. However why, even again then, was it such an necessary trigger to her?
Kirsty Haigh at college, the place she labored to get Blurred Traces banned on campus (Image: Kirsty Haigh)
A decade on, she tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Blurred traces so clearly exemplified the rape tradition and sexism which exists inside our society.
‘It promoted damaging messages about intercourse, consent and attitudes to girls. Consent has no blurred traces and intercourse with out consent is rape – it’s so simple as that.’
Kirsty, who now works as a chef and runs a social enterprise, says the tune went towards ‘a lot of what we had been attempting to advertise on campus.’ However banning it sparked some optimistic conversations round consent – a legacy she believes stays until at the present time.
Emily Ratajkowski and Robin Thicke in Blurred Traces (Image: YOUTUBE @robin thicke)
‘The actual fact the choice sparked, and continues to spark, discussions round informal sexism and consent is an enormous success,’ says the now-29-year-old.
‘Each one in all these conversations helps alter the boundaries of what’s acceptable in our society.’
For Kirsty and her fellow scholar campaigners, it was necessary to deal with the ‘damaging ideology’ that marked popular culture moments like this as ‘only a little bit of enjoyable’.
‘Folks say that this one tune gained’t flip individuals right into a rapist, and which may be true, however it clearly sends out the fallacious messages and feeds a tradition the place individuals suppose it’s okay to behave that method.
‘Assaults don’t occur in a vacuum.’
Kirsty Haigh, a decade later (Image: Kirsty Haigh)
‘Too typically in our society, severe points are let slide in social settings because it’s “only a little bit of enjoyable”. It may well’t be a little bit of enjoyable once we nonetheless have such shockingly excessive rape statistics,’ she says.
On the time, she did encounter some resistance when the union banned the tune from its venues, from those that ‘didn’t initially perceive the choice’.
‘That’s the factor, we stay in a society the place misogyny is so ingrained that it has turn into normalised to numerous individuals. We’ve to collectively unlearn sexism.’
Pharrell Williams has admitted to having a change of coronary heart himself.
‘I didn’t get it at first,’ he mentioned in a 2019 interview, when requested in regards to the tune’s controversy. ‘So when there began to be a difficulty with it, lyrically, I used to be like, “What are you speaking about?”
‘I realised that there are males who use that very same language when making the most of a girl, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behaviour.
‘My thoughts opened as much as what was really being mentioned within the tune and the way it may make somebody really feel. Though it wasn’t the bulk, it didn’t matter. I cared what they had been feeling too.’
‘It’s not intercourse and nudity that was the issue again then – and it’s not the issue now’ (Image: YOUTUBE @robin thicke)
Williams mentioned there are songs he wrote up to now that he’d by no means write at the moment, however has the broader panorama actually modified?
Sarah Mengede, a professor at Newcastle College researching girls and music, thinks we have now made progress, however pop music will at all times be hyper-sexualised.
‘It’s essential to spotlight that there have been some advances within the music business, [but] visible media is typically a little bit bit behind feminist advances in wider society,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘If we have a look at sure forms of media, pictures or music movies, we nonetheless typically see that particular stereotypes about girls are used, as a result of intercourse sells.
‘Ladies nonetheless really feel that their gender, representing a selected kind of femininity, is highlighted greater than their precise skills as musicians, for instance.
‘That’s one thing that’s nonetheless the case typically, it’s extra delicate now, however it’s nonetheless there.’
Professor Mengede says that it’s not intercourse and nudity that was the issue again then – and it’s not the issue now.
‘Nudity itself will not be an issue. The issue is energy,’ she says. ‘Every time we have a look at the media, particularly music movies, we simply must ask ourselves questions on management and company.
‘So who’s in cost? Who advantages? Who speaks? And who acts?’
No less than 20 universities banned the tune (Image: YOUTUBE @robin thicke)
Within the Blurred Traces video, she notes that Emily Ratajkowski and the opposite girls are ‘not carrying a lot’, whereas Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke are totally dressed.
‘We should always ask ourselves, why that’s? Why are the ladies bare and the boys aren’t?’ she says.
‘If this can be a video about intercourse usually and playfulness then all people can be bare, however it’s simply the ladies.’
Professor Mengede additionally references the groping allegations directed at Thicke, maybe extra stunning whenever you be taught that this video was filmed with an all-female crew and director.
‘It’s very attention-grabbing that the video was filmed by a girl, Diane Martel,’ she says.
‘So at first it seems like girls are in cost and in management, however then Robin Thicke’s alleged behaviour confirmed us that ladies weren’t in management, what made him do it?
‘Clearly we will’t look into Robin Thicke’s head sadly, it might most likely be very attention-grabbing, however what it tells us is that he didn’t see her as a colleague or an expert who is the same as him.
‘He noticed her as an object that he may simply contact, so he should’ve felt considerably superior to her simply primarily based on her gender. Gender is a device of energy typically, it’s used to manage individuals, typically girls.’
It’s 10 years because the Blurred Traces music video (Image: YOUTUBE @robin thicke)
What made Blurred Traces stand out amongst different songs or the period?
Professor Mengede believes it was the mixture of video and lyrics, plus the later misconduct allegations that solidified its notoriety.
She says: ‘In that music video it’s the interaction between the visuals that we see, the ladies being bare the boys being totally dressed and the lyrics and the non-verbal ques that may make us suppose that sure, sexual assault is considerably glamorised and glorified or normalised.’
A decade on from her scholar marketing campaign, Kirsty doesn’t consider a lot progress has been made for gender equality within the public eye.
‘The music business, the media and society as a complete are nonetheless filled with harmful stereotypes about girls and blatant sexism,’ she says. ‘Songs are always being produced which promote harmful attitudes towards intercourse and ladies.’
She provides that some within the media ‘frequently publish tales the place they check with rape as intercourse, paedophilia and the rape of minors as intercourse, and the place they record the males’ achievements earlier than their crimes and the place the ladies are merely an afterthought within the story.’
However Professor Mengede is hopeful that the conduct and messaging exhibited in Blurred Traces wouldn’t essentially ‘fly’ now, although she agrees there’s work to be completed.
‘We all know there’s nonetheless an issue within the music business and there’s nonetheless sexism, however it’s necessary that we problem that,’ she says.
‘I’m optimistic relating to the long run as a result of, sure feminism remains to be mandatory, however we have now undoubtedly superior from 2013 and there have been enhancements over the previous 10 years and extra girls are difficult gender oppression.’
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