Home Long Reads Robin Thicke is a bitch

Robin Thicke is a bitch

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Kat Gotsick

I first listened to “Blurred Lines” on the iTunes Store’s Top 10 Singles list 1 and this particular song seemed wildly popular. Without listening to it, I could see why. I loved the combination of Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I., all of whom I really enjoy individually, and took it as guys doing thoughtful, innovative work. But they took the day off from thoughtful with this one.

Once I listened to “Blurred Lines,” my progression went from love to hate to love again. Here’s how it worked: I loved it upon the sample iTunes listen and I listened to it again. Upon the second listen, I zeroed in on “You’re the hottest bitch in this place” and I hated it. I turned away. But I couldn’t turn away for long. This song is a Slim Shady lyric come to life, infesting in my ears and nesting. I heard it coming out of car after car after I car as I rode my bike down the Southport corridor in Chicago. I heard it blasting out of douchebag bars and gay bars alike. I couldn’t deny it. I liked it. I finally broke down and downloaded it and I listen to it often, despite my own strong convictions that this song is bad for my soul.

Here’s my rant: I don’t want to be referred to as a bitch, not even when you’re telling me how hot I am. I don’t want to be told how badly you want to F me, even if I really really really want you to F me, if you think of me as a bitch instead of a woman. I truly don’t understand it. Speaking musically, I like Kanye West, I like Jay Z, I like Eminem, hell, I liked NWA. But they hate women so much in their music. WHAT IS THIS ABOUT? WHY IS IT OKAY? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

So then, add the video into the mix. Naked girls. Pretty much just for the sake of being naked. Not even really being objectified, just hanging out being naked. What’s the point? Three fully clothed dudes dancing around with three naked girls. 2 What could be more ordinary? Happens all the time, right? Wrong. Maybe that’s Harry Wales‘ normal but it’s not normal for any other guy I’ve ever known. My questions: Is this just a day off from respecting women or is the message that these guys would like to proliferate more of this boys-in-clothes-naked-girls-style partying? “Boys just want to have fun?” Why does Thicke balloon-scream to the world how big his dick is 3 when all he would have to do to prove it would be to drop his pants and strut around as naked as the lady-toys in the video?

I’m hoping Josh Klein, in all his dumbass wisdom that makes infuriating sense, can explain it to me. And if he can’t, I hope he can write something that makes me feel better about liking this song so much on the outside when I hate it so much on the inside.

JOSH KLEIN

I fell in love with “Blurred Lines” literally three seconds in.

There are two types of guests you can have in your pop song, the first being producers stepping in front of the mic 4 and then there are the more traditional guest rap verses, and making the correct choices in both instances can turn your single from “Buttons” into “Yeah.” Thicke made a terrific choice letting Pharrell out from behind the glass and putting him in front of a mic, but a mediocre choice in letting T.I. attempt to recreate his “My Love” magic. This is officially Pharrell’s third best guest appearance on any pop song, 5 and his “Errabody get up” three seconds in meant that as long as this song had an acceptable hook, I was going to love it; turns out it had an exceptional hook, and if Thicke had substituted Ludacris for the rap verse, it’s a lock for song of the year. Put in Ma$e, and we’re talking song of the decade.

So now to make sense of Kat’s concerns. I must admit, Kat, this is not the problem I thought you were going to have with “Blurred Lines.” By focusing on the word “bitch,” you’re brushing off the fact that the chorus is “I know you want it, I hate these blurred lines.” I read that an unused T.I. lyric was “Girl, look at that short skirt, you gon’ get just what you deserve.” 6 These are incredibly misogynistic, borderline rape-y lyrics wrapped up in an incredibly catchy package, but if you are willing to focus on the fact that Thicke calls Emily Ratajowski the hottest bitch in this place, then let’s talk about it. Clearly, we’re just going to move past the empirical problems with the phrase “talkin’ ’bout getting blasted” as a key part of the chorus, but it’s fine. Let’s focus on Meredith Brooks‘ favorite word.

Perhaps all Thicke is trying to say is that the object of his affection is not the hottest woman in the place, but the hottest woman who is also not very nice? Who, unless you have multiple balloons behind you touting your wiener size, is not interested? 7 Probably not, but the word “bitch” in itself is an interesting term in this day and age, because we’re past the point where it’s derogatory on its own merit. It needs the right tone. Calling someone an idiot is insulting their intelligence no matter what the scenario, but calling someone a bitch is no longer telling them they have an unattractive demeanor or resemble a female dog. In today’s world, the word bitch has lost all of its power. You say you don’t want to be told how bad someone wants to hug you 8 if they think you’re a bitch, but isn’t it just as offensive as the mere idea that he could tell you how badly he wants to hug you 9 and you would come running? The word bitch is not the offensive part. Think about a scenario where I call both a man and a woman a bitch. Who feels more denigrated?

On to your other topic, the video.

How is this video more offensive to women than any other music video? Because their nipples are showing? If the male models in Britney Spears’ “Toxic” had hung dong, would that have been more disrespectful to men than it already was? Of course not. If we are going to discuss the finer points of people being objectified in music videos, I’m not sure this is the place to start. Everyone genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves, the guys aren’t spraying champagne all over the girls’ bouncing breasts; the only reason the video is even being mentioned is that we can see aureola.

I believe the point of the video (and basically every video for every rap or pop song ever) is to show that Pharrell, Thicke, and T.I. have a much better life than we do. Because if you don’t think that smoking cigs and wearing fancy suits while topless models dance around stupidly is what most men consider to be decadent, then you need more honest male friends. We get it, Thicke. Your life is awesome. Meanwhile, I just had to take an empty Bojangles’ bag to the dumpster so my girlfriend wouldn’t find out I ate it. You have balloons announcing how big your member is and I have to work on my birthday.

Overall, I think there are things to be offended by, but you’re just picking the wrong ones. Also, I could listen to the “Maybe I’m going deaf, maybe I’m going blind” couplet every hour for the rest of my life. I probably sing it to myself 20 times a day. SO CATCHY.

KAT GOTSICK

Okay, so you’ve answered my question about what’s the point of naked women in the video. If I understand you correctly, the simple point really is “Boys just want to have fun” and per your comment, the implication is that these guys are having more fun than you. So it’s just another joust in the eternal dick-measuring tournament that every man on Earth perpetually has with every other man on Earth. If that’s the case, then Thicke clearly wins, right? Case closed, mystery solved. 10 Let’s talk about the word “bitch.”

You are correct, Josh, when you say “bitch” is not the heinous put-down it used to be for women. And I take great schadenfreude pleasure in the fact that it has evolved into a really heinous put-down for men. For the record, I cheered when Tina Fey said of Hillary Clinton, “Bitches get shit done!” By that definition, I am a huge bitch. But at the risk of going *there,* we’re in N-word territory. There is a legitimate double standard in play. When Meredith Brooks says “Bitch” to me, it’s somehow existentially empowering. When you or Thicke say it to me, it feels obliviously ugly and unintentionally abusive. You think you’re just playfully poking me, but clarification: you’re poking me with a really sharp object, so don’t be surprised when it makes me uncomfortable.

Be honest, you’re very likely to call me a bitch for exactly the reasons that I cheered at Tina’s comment about Hillary–because I get shit done, right? And you will absolutely mean it in its most derogatory sense–that I’m harsh and sharp-edged and dispassionate and just . . . bitchy. Well, make your choice. Am I a good bitch or a bad bitch? I’ve already told you. I’m not a bitch at all. I’m just the hottest woman in the place. 11 My suggestion: if you’re a man, leave the word bitch out of the conversation altogether. Ladies, BITCH IT UP!

Now in full disclosure, I am super old, so perhaps this is just generational. Kim Kardashian, at 17 years younger than me, loves being Kanye’s “Perfect Bitch” while I find her acceptance of the “compliment” just another reason to think she has daddy issues. Maybe it’s me. 12

JOSH KLEIN

Tina Fey said bitches get shit done, but she also said that bitch was the new black, and I think that, if Kat Gotsick is speaking for the rest of womankind, that’s exactly where we are. If you’re cool with this, then you’re saying bitch is the new N-word. It’s a word that you can say but I can’t, and anyone with a penis who says it is sexist, and there is no way around it. We’re a year away from a female stand-up 13 crafting an iconic bit describing the difference between bitches and women. The biggest song of 2015? “Bi**es In Paris.”

I’m kidding but this opens up a whole new question: why are there words for almost every race 14 that are incredibly taboo, 15 but there is no derogatory female term that even comes close to warranting the Voldemort treatment? I’m not sure, but even thinking about answering that question seems like it would simultaneously be both racist and sexist.

Dearest Kat, I truly think that you are overreacting and being incredibly sensitive about a throwaway line in an extremely catchy single by a huge-dicked lothario. You are reacting to this the way that my dad reacted when we were listening to the radio in 1994 and he heard the line “Come and give me some of that yum-yum chocolate chip honey dip, can I get a scoop?” on the radio and both turned the sound off and silently judged my entire generation in that one moment. Seriously Grandma, let’s just focus on how awesome this song is, and embrace it until the next one comes along.

As long as it doesn’t sound like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Or this one. Or this one. Or this one Or this one. 16

KAT GOTSICK

Well, I’m standing down. Mostly because I’m clearly outmatched in music nerdery. I haven’t heard of literally any of those songs, (including that Beyonce song where she’s a queen) thereby definitively proving that Josh is right, I’m old, and Kim Kardashian is a perfect bitch. 17

Notes:

  1. I listen to every single new song that comes on that list every day. I want to know exactly what’s popular in real time. It’s an affectation.
  2. And T.I. is a way better dancer than we all thought he would be, right?
  3. For the record, I assumed his dick was huge. Not a joke.
  4. See: Land, Timba; and Daddy, Puff
  5. Number two is his introduction of Justin Timberlake on “Señorita,” and number one, well: Drums.
  6. Just so we’re clear, I did not read that anywhere, I just made it up.
  7. Also, we definitely agree. I don’t think anyone doubted Robin’s *ahem* thickness. It did lead to a fun game I played with my girlfriend where I yelled out celebrities and she guessed their penis size. Play it with your friends, it’s fun.
  8. What rhymes with “hug you?”
  9. What rhymes with “hug you?”
  10. I have a lot more to say about this in a different forum at some point.
  11. Side note: Emily Ratajowski is way hotter than me.
  12. Nope. It’s Kim Kardashian.
  13. I’m hoping Chelsea Peretti
  14. The mere fact that I have repeatedly typed the B-word, but there is no way I’m typing the N-word.
  15. You know what they are, but in case you didn’t: the c-word, the k-word, the n-word, and the b-word come to mind. And the b-word is not bitch, FYI.
  16. Side Note: CLICK THIS FOOTNOTE BECAUSE OH MY GOD AWESOME.
  17. Yep. I mean that in the exactly how you think I mean it.
  • Albert Livchin

    So is Macklemore’s use of the word “Bitch” in the song, “Thrift Shop” taboo even though it appears that he is not directing it anybody of the female persuasion at all but of mainstream rappers in general?

    • Kat G

      I think that’s one of Josh’s points to me – that bitch is more denigrating to men these days than women. Clearly “Thrift Shop” isn’t directed at women and so the word bitch is neutralized there. Neither of you are wrong.

      When you point it directly at a woman, then my opinion is it’s open for judgment though. Thoughts?

      Side note: it’s terrifying to me that there’s way more “bitch” out there in music than I was aware of.

      • Albert Livchin

        I do see your point here Kat. All it takes is one instance of the word being applied in the wrong fashion to totally ruin a song like this. Given that one of the three artists in this song has a rich history of degrading women and goes into some rather graphic detail in this song, I can definitely see further how this gets ruined. However, given that the other 2 don’t have the same documented history and how upbeat this song is, the one line should get the pass. However, I do believe that an artist like Ludacris or Ma$e could make this song better or even Big Boi.

        • Kat G

          Every bitch out there gets a pass these days. That’s what makes me 1) sad and 2) think I’m almost too old (or at least old fashioned) to be in the conversation. I appreciate your points too though.