Durham University has taken a stance against the seven university students' unions that banned Robin Thicke's chart-topping "Blurred Lines" for allegedly promoting non-consensual sex.
The emergency debate, held on October 10th in Durham University's debating chamber, discussed the motion, 'This House Believes That The Durham Student's Union Should Ban Blurred Lines' before ultimately deciding that more important feminist issues were being trivialised by spending so much time on the issue.
The song, which was ranked number one for twelve consecutive weeks in the UK, has been surrounded by controversy since its release, from the video being banned on YouTube, to featuring in Miley Cyrus' much-publicised performance at the VMAs. The universities whose unions have boycotted the song, due to its connotations with misogyny and sexual violence, include The University of London, Kingston, Edinburgh, Leeds, Derby, West Scotland, and Bolton.
The Edinburgh University Students' Association started the trend by banning the song from being played in union buildings as part of a larger policy to "End Rape Culture and Lad Banter on Campus." By banning the controversial song students in Edinburgh hope to promote the work, ongoing in their union, which aims to eliminate victim-blaming views about women who experience sexual violence. The reaction, however, has been largely negative on social media sites such as twitter. Social commentators have written articles damning the decision with sweeping statements like, "once upon a time, student unions kicked against authoritarianism; now they enforce it."
Durham University hope that by continuing to play the song they will not turn students away from feminism and will prevent people from associating the women's rights movement with being controlling and casually censorious. Meanwhile the students of Durham University are focusing on dealing with actual obstacles and preconceptions about gender which still impede the lives of modern women, for example in November the Durham Union Society are debating female quotas in the workplace with guest speakers from the industry and parliament.
During the debate the opposition discussed the "image problem feminism has" and brought it to the audience's attention that connecting feminism with an attack on popular culture would hinder its causes rather than help them. They were quick to point out that there is a major disparity between people that believe in equality "between the sexes" and identify as feminist, according to a new study at the Huffington Post (with YouGov). The study found that only 20% of people identify as feminist whereas 82% believe that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals."
Durham University's Feminist Society presented themselves to first year students with a stall at the fresher's fair including a board with the phrase 'I need feminism because' and a space below for peoples own responses. Throughout the day students, male and female, posed with their own individual answers and gave the idea a thought. This was a far more effective, and subtle, way of introducing young people to feminism's real issues compared to encroaching on student's freedom within their first week of term by telling them what they can and cannot listen to. One particularly poignant photo showed a first year male politics student clutching a board that read 'I need feminism because... the world isn't as equal as I grew up thinking it would be.' Refusing to play 'Blurred Lines' doesn't make things any more equal for anyone or rid society of the problems highlighted by it. Before ending the debate a statistic from an NUS survey was read out, "1 in 7 women have experienced serious violence or sexual assault at university" which prompted the students of Durham University to vote against wasting time banning a pop song and combat a much bigger issue directly.