Bitch is the Blurred Lines
Because I am slower than everyone else since I intake my pop culture via People magazine vs. actually living it, I only discovered the song “Blurred Lines” while at BlogHer when we heard it blasting from a cab and Kathy told me the name of the song. I recognized it because my spin teacher had played it the two times I had gone to spin class, though I had been cycling and sweating and not listening to the lyrics enough to pick up on anything other than the bassline.
When I got home from the conference, I had a free mp3 download on Amazon, and I decided to buy it because it sounded like the sort of fun song that should go on my safe-for-kids mix I make every year for the car with top-40 songs by Taylor Swift and the Black Eyed Peas. If “Blurred Lines” was the hot song of summer, I definitely wanted it for my mix so I could pretend that I was hip and with it.
So I downloaded it. And then I listened to it. And then I looked at Josh and said, “I don’t know how I feel about this.” Which is really just a polite way of saying, “this song makes me ten kinds of uncomfortable.”
[A side note: I obviously should have looked at the lyrics before using my free download.]
And then I saw the video, where naked women dance and pout around fully dressed men.
Did I say ten kinds of uncomfortable? Try over 1000.
What do we need steam for
You the hottest bitch in this place
I’ve never been one to shy away from the word “bitch,” though I guess a lot of that tends to do with subtext. Most of the time, if I’m using the term “bitch,” I am using it as an angry word; the female equivalent to using the term “dick” or “asshole” to describe a man. I’m an equal opportunity curse word user, but your behaviour has to be beyond obnoxious for me to whip it out of my verbal toolbox.
When I call a friend a bitch, I am still using it in the negative sense and saying it sarcastically. Back in 2008, I called it a lovingly-spoken obscenity. I use it facetiously to point out just how close we are.
I like being called obscenities lovingly. It creates a strange, reverse coding. We’re taught not to say these words around people we don’t know well, but then we use them precisely to create an intimacy that we are comfortable enough with each other to tease. I’m, of course, talking about saying them in a loving way, like “hey, Bitch, when are you going to haul open the doors of the Lushary because I need a drink” and not, “Melissa, you are a complete bitch.”
I know there are some people who believe we should never use the term bitch. I’m obviously not one of those people. I think that in the right hands and with the right context, the word can be repurposed; reclaimed and reowned.
Of course, it order to repurpose it, you can’t be objectifying women at the same time. And it’s really really hard to use that term as a compliment. I’ve yet to find a man who has succeeded, including Robin Thicke.
Image: BrianHenry via Flickr
OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
My one exception is that I don’t like to use the word “bitch” in place of terms such as “assertive” or “bold.” If I’m standing up for myself, I don’t say that I acted bitchy. If I’m proud of the way I asserted my ideas, I don’t say that I did so like a bitch.
Why would I ever want to demean such positive behaviours?
Bitch is a curse word, it’s a negative term. I never want to apply it to traits I believe all women should possess. If women want to use it as a compliment for another woman speaking up, more power to them. But I can’t really participate in that manner because I would hate for the receiver or a nearby listener to misunderstand and think that I’m attributing negative feelings towards their actions.
Then, honey you’re not there when I’m
With my foresight bitch you pay me by
Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that
If I had a penis, bitch would be a word I’d avoid using since the word historically has been used to hold a woman in her place, not empower her. When you’re part of the group that has used the term in a negative sense to hold back women from being assertive, it is very difficult — if not impossible — to turn it around and use it as a compliment.
Oh sure, men can say they’re helping women feel empowered and reclaim the word, but what does that mean when it’s being spoken by a man who is objectifying another human being as it often seems to be used in music?
When Robin Thicke says it, it sounds creepy. I’m going to guess that this fictional woman isn’t giving him blurred lines; she is probably giving him a clear message and he’s choosing to ignore it.
An on-going theme in bitch culture.
Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
I am trying to teach my daughter to be assertive. To turn down other people’s requests that she doesn’t feel comfortable following. To not be so nice that she leaves nothing for herself. I want to teach her to be flexible and open, but to also know her boundaries and not allow others to cross them. I want her to be self-sufficient, to love herself, to never take something (or someone) she doesn’t want. If any of those things make her appear bitchy to a man who is so weak in his own abilities in these arenas that he needs to put down a woman in order to feel good about himself, then that is on the man.
I never want her to associate any of those behaviours as anything but positive. She should never feel shame or feel as if she needs to pack away her self-knowledge. I would hate for her to associate pride in herself with a curse word. If she does, she may not stick up for herself. And I want her to have standards, to not settle.
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
You know you want it is something we say when we can clearly see that a person doesn’t want it and therefore needs convincing. Sort of like how I convince Truman that he wants to take a bath, or how I tell the kids that they want to get their homework done early so they can have the rest of the day to play. Well, no, I want Truman to take a bath; I want the homework off the plate so I don’t have to help with it when I’m trying to do something else.
I hope my kids learn how to separate out their own feelings when they start getting muddied and mix with another person’s wants and needs. It is hard to sit quietly with yourself and really ascertain whether you do or don’t want something, especially when people start telling you that “you know you want to.” It’s too easy to follow the people around you or give in to someone else’s nudging.
And girls NEED to be nudge-proofed. Women are nudged so hard by society and individuals, that if I do nothing else, I need to teach my daughter how to say the word “no” loud and clear. Not to use it indiscriminately to get out of doing her part as a society member, but to learn how to not put her own wants and needs last. To turn down advances that make her uncomfortable or that simply don’t hold her interest.
If you need to convince someone that they want it, they probably don’t really want it. This song feels less like seduction and more like manipulative force.
I hate these blurred lines
Me too, Robin Thicke. I hate it when men interchange the term “assertive woman” with “bitch” and set it to a catchy beat. Talk about blurred lines.
The New York Times review of the song wrote: “He has the look of a man finally coming into the privilege he was sure was his all along.”
I removed it from the mix and substituted in the Doubleclick’s “Nothing to Prove.” Maybe it’s not as catchy, and I probably won’t trick anyone into thinking I’m cool. But at least I can listen to it without feeling as if I’m participating in something meant to demean me regardless of how hard a person may try to defend it.