Three Cheers for Robin Thicke's Hashtag Disaster

a parody of robin thicke's blurred lines video

A still from a feminist music video parodying Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines.”

Today in hilariously terrible social media marketing schemes, VH1 invited people to ask singer Robin Thicke any question they wanted by using the hashtag #AskThicke. The public Q&A was supposed to be good publicity for Thicke’s new album—which has gotten good reviews from media outlets that seem to not care about Thicke’s history or intentions: Time described it as “a delightfully pleasant listen if you forget pretty much everything about Thicke’s year.”

But among many people, Thicke’s rapey song lyrics and misogynic “Blurred Lines” video overwhelm any of his catchy tunes. When VH1 opened up the #AskThicke floodgates, a wave of blistering and hilarious questions immediately flooded the hashtag.  

The twitter discussion only lasted 15 minutes, but the #AskThicke hashtag continues. Thicke’s attempt to create hype on Twitter certainly did snag attention—but the overwhelming amount of it was negative. Sexual assault survivors tweeted with #AskThicke about his triggering lyrics. Other users slammed Thicke about the concept of his latest album, which was created to win back the heart of Paula Patton, his estranged wife.  

Here are some examples of what ensued:

This is just the most recent example of a hashtag backfiring on a controversial figure in a major way. Marketers who dream up social media campaigns don’t seem to get that Twitter is a place that’s rife with people speaking out against institutions and celebrities. That’s exactly what makes Twitter powerful—it’s a platform where regular peoples’ voices can be heard on par with well-funded folks who are trying to promote a specific message. If a top-down message being promoted on Twitter seems false or offensive, people have the ability to effectively hijack the conversation.

In 2012, for example, McDonald’s #McDStories campaign resulted in horrific tales of finger nails in foods and cruel treatment of animals. Earlier this year, the New York Police Department tried out #myNYPD on Twitter, hoping for users to send in photos with officers. Instead, people filled Twitter with photos of police brutality and misconduct. When marketers try to use a hashtag to convey one message, they’re inviting failure. Trying to promote a specific industry message to an interactive platform that thrives on dissent will inevitably lead to dialogue that’s not corporate-friendly. Advertising is all about controlling your message and the very nature of social media sites like Twitter and Tumblr undermine that control.

From my perspective, this #AskThicke situation feels like comeuppance for Thicke and his PR folks, since they’re getting an earful from the general public. Instead of building a conversation around his new album, VH1 unwittingly turned the megaphone the other direction, making Robin Thicke see the anger and disgust his work has created.

Related Reading: Is Robin Thicke trolling feminists? 

Lucy Vernasco is the new media intern at Bitch. She last wrote about Google’s Made With Code campaign

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20 Comments Have Been Posted

I don't get it.

I really don't see any message of rape of this song. I don't like how the word bitch is used and TI lines but outside of that the song seems to be about trying to get with a woman that maybe is not his girlfriend. I like to think that I'm a very open minded man, and that my regular subscription to bitch media allows me to hear a different perspective, and one that I really spouse. I'm probably missing something and though it seems that I'm being glib, I sincerely hope to hear other opinions.

Rape Culture

Raul, if you want to understand the assertion that the song lyrics are 'rapey' - read the previous bitch mag post about it (linked in this article), and look up 'rape culture' on wikipedia or elsewhere.

Basic concept - the song and video position women as objects to be manipulated and preyed upon. The singer knows what the object of his desire wants and needs more than she does, and she should forget being 'good,' aka not having sex outside her relationship, in favor of being 'bad' - forsaking her committed partner for the singer, because he'll penetrate her so much more effectively than her current partner, which is obviously all that should matter to her.

Patronizing, demeaning, but most importantly, predatory, which is the link to rape culture. When the mindset of the singer in this song is celebrated, it affirms the validity of these notions in impressionable minds. When women are seen as prey, who don't know their own minds, it's easy to justify manipulating them into sex, or just forcing them. After all, as Robin says - "you know you want it."

I'm not, at this moment, debating the validity of the link between the concept of rape culture and the incidence of rape, I'm just explaining why this song and video can be considered 'rapey' under the rape culture premise.

What upsets me most about

What upsets me most about Thickes blurred lines is that he is suggesting that women are naturally adulterous as well. It's an affront to all relationships on top of being an insult to women specifically.

Educate Yourself

Maybe you could do some research instead of expecting people here to explain it to you. Lots of folks have already written clarifying and insightful pieces about this song and the issues with it, including on this blog if I'm not mistaken, and a simple search for "Blurred Lines rape" will get you to a lot of them. Frankly, expecting women, or any less privileged people, to spend their time and energy educating you, on your timeline, because you're too lazy to seek the information out for yourself is really not cool. We've got better things to do.

Dialogue is the key

When people ask questions, especially men open to feminism, it is a great and encouraging event. Such a seeking spirit leads to frank discussion and deeper understanding and compassion for both parties. Continue asking what you don't know! Continue sharing what you do know! Every great movement for human justice has begun at the grassroots level, with heart to heart dialogue.

"Where there is an atmosphere of lively discussion, where people can say or ask anything, it is bright and joyful. In such an environment there is growth.' -Dr. Daisaku Ikeda

Aside from what's already

Aside from what's already been pointing to explaining it, I think it's worth looking at Project Unbreakable (pictures of rape survivors holding signs of what their rapists or friends said to them after the rape) and comparing them to the lyrics. Here's a quick start:

I also think it's worth looking at the lyrics to Stone Temple Pilot's Sex Type Thing, which *is* about date rape, and comparing that to the lyrics of Blurred Lines. They are at times shockingly similar. ("You wouldn't want me have to hurt you too" versus "do you like it hurt" and "I know you want what's on my mind" versus "I know you want it.") So when an artist admits that yes, his song is meant to draw attention to date rape, and another artist uses language that is so similar, it seems really disingenuous to claim "oh no, I didn't mean that song to be about rape. Even though it's the same as the one that is definitely about rape."

Google :)

Google "Blurred Lines feminist critique"
Click on the link in the post above
I think nobody should feel the need to explain their oppression or anti-oppression sentiment to their oppressor. (From Guerrila Feminism's "Two Kelly's Agree" post on #NotAllMen)
But especially not on a much discussed topic like this one- I'm not against dialogue but I am pretty certain that for someone whose looking, there are enough contributions made here!

What's the difference between

What's the difference between triggering lyrics and triggering clothing? Just seems odd that triggers are picked and chosen instead of a blanket approach to rape triggers. The obvious issue I guess would be that only a minority are still animal enough to be so easily manipulated by said triggers...

Rapists are animals. Victims deserve consideration.

Yes because rape victims are animals and rape-enablers are so sophisticated? Is it that hard to respect others?

triggering lyrics is

triggering lyrics is referring to PTSD and other anxiety related disorders that cause those who have been abused to have flashbacks of their abuse which is usually incredibly distressing and can cause panic attacks.
a guy being unable to respect someone as a person because of what she's wearing isn't him being "triggered" it's him being an asshole.

This right here is why Bitch

This right here is why Bitch shouldn't allow anonymous comments. Having to explain that someone's clothes are not an excuse to rape them isn't something that should have to happen here. (My apologies to the decent anonymous commenter who already responded.)

It's a song. GET OVER IT!!

It's a song. GET OVER IT!! LOL!

Its a song GET OVER IT

AGREED. I don't think any child will listen to this and run of into the sunset on a rape sex mission. (correct me if I am wrong)
Instead of closing down our choices by censoring songs and other types of media why don't we educate narrow minded morons who take media word-for-word and far to literally.

Why are you even here? Do you

Why are you even here? Do you even know what this space is?

Bitch magazine is a feminist publication that in part looks at how popular culture contributes to sexism racism homophobia etc in our society at large.

If you have a problem with, you could take your own advice....

Just a song?

So is "Dixie."

Because songs do nothing.

Because songs do nothing. ohhh maybe a revolution here and there or even a

And sure, maybe no kids going to do a rape hunt (hopefully, although I do think music interpretation is subjective)...but two things: 1) it's important and I would say necessary to pay attention to pop culture and it's immense influence on our lives / things which influence pop culture. 2) No one is forcing Thicke to stop making music (in fact, he successfully made another awful song even after Blurred Lines), but people are allowed to hate it and explain why they do.

Supply/demand. We can think about what we consume more to think about why we are being supplied with what we are, to understand the demand, to hate that demand, to speak against it and change it.

Not that the hashtag thing

Not that the hashtag thing isn't pure gold, but I've always felt Blurred Lines got way too much positive and negative attention. It's a fun but not original pop song (see Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up"). I'd agree that it trades in a lot regressive notions about women's sexuality - a good girl and bad girl dichotomy and that men hold the key to unlocking women's sex drives. In the song, the woman's sex drive is dictated by the man she's with. If she's with a square dude, she's square. If she's with Robin Thicke, she now can be totally wild.

But I've always felt that pointing to the song as evidence of rape culture is a bit much. Not because I think pointing out rape culture isn't valuable, but because I don't think the song is really that good. It's not intentional enough. It's not a rich text, as the textual analysis nerds would say. My understanding is that it was written and recorded very quickly. I've always felt the lyrics were just not well thought through. At best, the song is more an example of how we talk about women's sexuality when we don't really think about it rather than a really well fleshed out statement on Thicke's part.

The song is really about a guy projecting his sexual desires onto a woman..but it never actually gets there. The fact that the guy in the song doesn't realize he's doing this, that he doesn't actually know what the girl wants, that could be evidence of how rape culture works, or it could be evidence of a poorly written song.

possibly not either or

Why can't it be both?

I agree with you that the lyrics are almost comically bad. When I read it I got the impression that it was being said by this guy who is too drunk to speak properly. But I still imagined that that guy, drunk as he was, was probably a rapist.

The text doesn't have to be rich for it to be an example of rape culture. I mean, they can't all be T-Pain's Tipsy. Or to put it another way: Robin Thicke being a talentless hack doesn't preclude him from being a sexist prick.

Robin Thicke's Barie Dolls

First I want to say how amazing all the comments have been from the incredibly informed women on this page. Thank you for your insightful feedback and thought provoking links you've shared. Hats off to the men who want to know and understand more about what perpetuates the rape culture and objectification of women in the public arena.

I want to also throw into the conversation not only the rapey text within the song but the objectification of the women in the video; the image it represents of women is disturbing. The women are scantily clad in white panties and cropped tops with the bottoms of their breasts at times exposed. Their faces are expressionless. Apart from their red lips, and bare legs, they blend into the walls. The women provide no personality apart from what is perceived by the men in the video (who stand out considerably in their shiny suits, fedora hats, and cocktail glasses in hand). The women bob their heads like bobble-head dolls.

I take issue with this image of women begin widely accepted and embraced by platforms such as MTV and VH1, which bring in a young and impressionable demographic.

Thank You

As a non-fan of Robin Thicke's, let alone a non-fan of any of those show-business "sons and daughters" who go into show business thinking they can be better than their parents (For the record, Robin Thicke is the son of former "Growing Pains" star Alan Thicke and former soap actor and singer Gloria Loring), not to mention because they know of no other livelihoods than that cold, cruel world of "show business" (George Clooney is one exception. I would like for Rashida Jones to be another, but I think she has a little bit of work ahead of her before I can consider her that), I am completely comfortable with all of the criticisms about him-expressed here and elsewhere. His music is "garbage," to me, and I'd rather be appreciating artists who have meaningful, non-hypocritical words and actions to say about this "cold, cruel" world we live in. That's just my preference. Otherwise, Jane Doe summed it up for the more socially conscious of us. Rest-assured, Robin Thicke's life in show business will go down like all those other non-talents ... sons, daughters, and others ... that have tried and failed it.

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