Edinburgh University has decided to implement a campus-wide ban on Robin Thicke's worldwide chart topper ‘Blurred Lines’ because it’s purported to promote rape culture. For a university, a move like this should be considered dangerously naïve.
According to the Edinburgh University Students’ Association: “EUSA has a policy on zero tolerance towards sexual harassment, a policy to end lad culture on campus and a safe space policy - all of which this song violates.” That’s certainly a reasonable argument. The song is laden with such poetic lyricism as: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, and anyone who’s seen the video can attest to its provocativeness. So, with that policy in mind, the university has been mercifully cleansed of the first and only RnB song ever to insult someone. Or maybe not.
Okay – allow me to be the first to graciously welcome you to the world around you, Edinburgh University – because like it or not, sex and degradation sells. We can sit around the campfire all day and argue whether the lyrics of this one song are offensive to women, and that the accompanying video depicts them as objects rather than human beings. Yet it’s foolishly duplicitous to ban Robin Thicke’s blatantly sexist song without banning all popular media full stop.
Has Miley Cyrus, the world’s latest former Disney star turned sex-crazed PR machine, been expelled from Edinburgh’s campus for twerking on every camera lens in existence? Are students still allowed to wear Rihanna shirts, and watch her sing about S&M? Apparently the world has already forgotten about Akon and R. Kelly – but what about women’s mags like Cosmo, which encourage women to go on diet after diet or try new, uncomfortably bendy sexual moves in order to attract a man with perfect abs? Hypocrisy is a cruel mistress.
No one can blame Robin Thicke for the fact that there’s innate desire amongst young people to lose their dignity amidst a storm of promiscuity. If anything, telling students they shouldn’t listen to a dirty song will only make them want to listen to it more – it’s textbook, Tom Sawyer reverse psychology. Censoring something hardly ever renders the desired result, and if anywhere in society should be devoid of censorship, it’s university. A university campus is supposed to be filled to the brim with cutting edge academics who think outside the box. So, shouldn’t they know that banning one song on one student radio station won’t protect women from being raped? This is where bright young people should be exposed to new ideas, and where they’re meant to contrast and debate the prejudices they may harbour. Yet it’s pretty damn hard to debate the sexist nature of something you’re not allowed to hear.
Make no mistake: feminists absolutely must continue to campaign for equal gender rights. After all, there are plenty of chauvinists out there degrading women, and plenty of glass ceilings that need broken. Yet a university policy enforced by double standards is nothing but a self-inflicted shot in the foot. So, some people think a song is offensive – life is offensive. Let’s talk about it rather than shove it under the rug and pretend everything is all sunshine and daisies.