As promised, I want to follow up my conversation regarding “Blurred Lines” from earlier this week. I think it’s safe to say I’ve exhausted the conversation from the rape vs. consent angle, so instead I want to focus on the popular rhetorical response to the song and video. This response takes the form of a parody music video called “Defined Lines,” which features the reversed roles of the dominant-submissive dichotomy seen in “Blurred Lines.” This time, the men are being degraded and objectified—which is totally fine, because it’s just the opposite, right?
Well, not exactly. While I would submit that the women in the “Blurred Lines” video are being objectified, the degradation of the men in the “Defined Lines” parody video is taken to the extreme. The men in the parody video are tied up and shoved around. They’re forced to eat on their hands and knees. They have whipped cream squirted all over their faces. One of the guys has a dildo shoved into his mouth. Meanwhile, the women in the video parade around and sing this girl-power anthem, seemingly empowered by this display of extreme degradation. They sing:
You think that you’re so slick
Let me emasculate ya
Because your precious dick
Can’t beat my vibrator
We’re feeling the frustration
From all the exploitation
Prepare for your castration
If Robin Thicke’s summer hit blurred the lines between consent and objectification, this parody solidified them. And it’s nothing short of pure, unadulterated, degradation and humiliation of men. If this song’s attempt as a rhetorical response was to raise awareness about the overt sexualization of women in the original video, or in society in general, it failed. In its place is a horrid display of an eye for an eye, and a gross disrespect of the entire male population, rather than disdain for the controversial actions of a few.
As a feminist, I’m certainly pissed by the culture of degrading women that no doubt pervades our society. However, I’m not going to hate someone by virtue of the fact that he has a Y-chromosome—that’s counterproductive, as is this video. To say you want to “emasculate” and “castrate” someone is to, in effect, remove his manhood. Devalue him as a person. Strip him of his dignity.
Granted, to objectify someone is to dehumanize them, but to me, there is a distinct difference between what was done in “Blurred Lines” versus what happened in “Defined Lines.” Two wrongs don’t make a right, and “Defined Lines” went to a polarizing extreme that reflects poorly on the feminist community. Instead of a response video that’s an engaging Public Service Announcement that points out the inhumanity associated with objectification, these ladies stooped. And in supporting that video, we’re stooping too.
At its core, feminism is about equality. While we should assess issues with a critical eye, and speak up against the marginalization of women, doing it at the expense of another’s humanity is counterproductive to the crux of our mission. As a rhetorical response, “Defined Lines” fails, and as a feminist rhetorical artifact, it misses the mark. If we want to have discourse as a community regarding the prevalence of objectification in pop culture, I’m all about it. But I’ll continue to attack the action, not the agent. As long as responses like “Defined Lines” continue to be held in such high regard, progress on this matter will be stagnant, at best. Men aren’t the enemy; patriarchy is. As feminists, we need to make sure we don’t cross those lines.