In the past few weeks, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines has been banned from the campuses of five UK universities. Despite being labelled Billboard's Song of the Summer, controversy has followed the song since its release, from the video being banned on YouTube, to featuring in Miley Cyrus' much-publicised performance at the VMAs. However, it is the connotations with misogyny and sexual violence that have prompted the university boycotts. Social media is now rife with shouts of "censorship is not the solution" and "it's just a song" but I for one would absolutely support my university in banning it, and strongly urge them to do so.
When you first hear Blurred Lines, it seems relatively inoffensive. Catchy, even. However, when you really listen to lyrics, deeply sinister undertones begin to surface; it features lines such as "Do it like it hurt", "I hate these blurred lines" (a reference to sexual consent), and the now infamous "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two". One lyric that is particularly poignant is the repeated "I know you want it".
Photographer and founder of Project Unbreakable, Grace Brown, began working with survivors of sexual assault two years ago, photographing them holding boards displaying the words of their attackers. One photograph features a woman holding up these very words that we are supposed to dance to on a night out. Consent is not something that is 'blurry', and when a woman says 'no', that is what she means. Robin Thicke himself has said: "What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman". In short, the song perpetuates rape culture, and therefore has no place on our university campuses.
Furthermore, why should a song be supported that has the potential to trigger victims of sexual assault? According to statistics, one in three people will experience rape in their lifetime, and one in seven students will experience serious sexual assault during their time at university. The lyrics of the song, and the connotations behind them, have the ability to at best, seriously offend, and at worst, cause severe panic attacks, for these survivors of sexual assault.
University campuses should be a safe space where anyone can go without fear of being distressed. That is why I disagree with the use of the word 'censorship' when discussing the ban. It is not 'censorship', as it is not an attempt to hide anything. It is an attempt to protect students from any unnecessary stress when, frankly, many of them have already been through enough. In the same way that we would expect any racist material to be banned from our universities, we should also be preventing our students from being exposed to this kind of harmful media whilst on campus.
Many have also said that to ban the song will not actually achieve anything, or solve the wider issues of sexism and misogyny. We live in a culture where these issues are rife, and we are supposed to go along with it. Student nights have themes such as 'CEOs and Office Hoes', rape is seen as a 'joke', and 'lad culture' plays a dominant role in our everyday lives, for both men and women. A study of students at Southampton University found that 14% of students had experienced sexual abuse as part of society 'hazing'. However, I don't believe that anyone is claiming that refusal to play a certain song at the SU is going to solve this. No one thinks that Robin Thicke is single-handedly responsible for sexism and rape culture. If only it were that simple! Most universities now run Zero Tolerance campaigns, and in the wider context of these campaigns, to ban Blurred Lines sends a strong message that sexism and misogyny, and everything that comes with them, will not be tolerated. It might seem like a small step, but that is not to say that it wouldn't mean a lot to many people, or that it doesn't have the potential to make a big impact.
That is why I believe that the student unions that have banned Blurred Lines have made an admirable decision. It is an inspirational move that shows the power that students have to make an impact, and to send the message that this song, and more importantly everything it stands for, is completely unacceptable. Universities, particularly the student unions, are meant to support their students, and we should also be supporting each other to combat sexism. If you still don't agree with me, consider this: if you must, you can listen to Blurred Lines as much as you want in your own time. Is it going to ruin your night out if it isn't played? No. Could it ruin someone's night if it is played? Yes. Go and perpetuate rape culture elsewhere, because if student unions have any sense, it is not going to be welcome there.
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