Last week Stylist ran an interview with pop overlord Pharrell Williams. The man responsible for over 40% of the current UK chart hits is notoriously loved by a huge majority of people. But he is also responsible (in part) for that song. Stylist describes itself as a feminist magazine and in the piece said they couldn’t ignore asking him about the controversy surrounding Blurred Lines. After reading the interview I felt both confused and frustrated: why hasn’t Pharrell taken any responsibility for the backlash this song has received?
Now before I go into one, let me be clear. I actually quite like Pharrell. But when we raise someone onto such a high pedestal, as we have done with him, we have to call them out if we think what they are doing is wrong. This isn’t personal, it’s social. Blurred Lines, to me, is a rape anthem. It glamourizes it, normalises it and fools us all into singing along to its jaunty tune.
Robin Thicke has largely borne the brunt of the criticism over the song, allegedly writing the lyrics. Rapper TI also penned the most shocking of the lyrics – “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” But now a court case is under way between the trio and Marvin Gaye’s children, as they believe Blurred Lines is a rip-off of Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to give it up’. Now suddenly the spotlight has turned to Pharrell. Allegedly Thicke was high on “Vicodin and alcohol”, when the song was written so the lyrics were down to Pharrell and TI.
Pharrell is on a mission to not be labelled a misogynist. In every interview he says as many times as he can how much he loves women, his latest album is even called GIRL. He seems to be on a rollercoaster of contradiction, from statements that are female supremacist to chauvinist. But one part of the Stylist interview stuck out for me. It was this line: “women show resilience in a way that is like… unbelievable.” Pharrell meant this as a compliment but I started to think about what resilience really means. Women’s ability to endure and come back fighting isn’t something we should be proud of as a society. And more importantly this isn’t something they should have to do. A song he’s written had contributed to what we need to be resilient about; rape culture. And can only be tackled if everyone takes responsibility for being a part of it.
Since the scandal of this song, which was the bestselling single of 2013, most of the conversation has been around the language used. This is important. But I find the music video offensive as well. Naked women dancing next to fully clothed men reeks of inequality. Is it resilient of us to stand up and say we don’t we don’t think that’s ok? Because that’s what people have done when they’ve refused to play it and banned it from student unions. Pharrell, Robin Thicke and TI all had a decision the day of filming and recording this song. To stay or to leave. They decided that this was an accurate representation of something they wanted to share. They decided that women are purely there for men’s sexual gratification. It has been viewed 3.5 million times on YouTube. There is no denying how popular and influential this song has been, even with the few that have stood up against it.
Resilient is a word that Pharrell uses to describe why he loves women so much. I can’t speak for all women, but I’m sick of being resilient. I want to be equal.