Robin Thicke is misogynistic?

Why teenagers are nonplussed by all the 'Blurred Lines' hysteria.

Following Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) earlier this year, many people were quick to damn their behaviour as ‘inappropriate’ for young people. Cyrus and Thicke have not been the only ones to be accused of setting a bad example recently. Last month, Lily Allen ran into trouble when she was accused of racism on the back of her single ‘Hard Out Here’. Indeed, it seems the debate over celebrities being role models has become so twisted, that too many have seemingly forgotten the minimal influence pop stars and celebs actually have over younger generations.

Of course, celebrities do have some influence. How could they not, seeing as they are the focus of so much media attention? However, as a 17-year-old girl, I felt the need to speak out on the issue of celebrity influence since I, along with thousands of others, do not look at Miley Cyrus or Rihanna and involuntarily want to imitate them. This may be difficult for some to believe, but when I watch the video for ‘Blurred Lines’, I don’t automatically become misogynistic; when I watch Lily Allen’s latest ‘Hard Out Here’ video, I don’t start thinking that it’s alright to be racist.

After asking several teenagers about the mysterious power of Allen or Thicke, I was met with responses such as ‘“Blurred Lines”’ is promoting misogyny?’ and ‘I thought Lily Allen was just taking piss’. Listening to oldies fretting about the influence of these songs on soft, young minds, you’d think ‘young people’ were incapable of appreciating the ironic edge to both Thicke and Allen’s songs. If you ask me, I think the art of irony and sarcasm has been perfected by my generation.

So, are young people simply mindless followers of the latest trends, or are we actually individuals with our own minds? It’s fair enough to suggest that just because I’m not easily influenced by Miley Cyrus, that doesn’t mean others my age are similarly unimpressionable. So I asked some more young people, aged between 12 and 20, what they thought of the supposed influence of pop stars and celebs.

The phrase that kept coming up in response to questions about the influence of celebrity role models was, ‘give us some credit’. That seems to be last thing UK student unions are prepared to do. ‘Blurred Lines’ has now been banned in several student unions around the country on the grounds that it promotes misogyny, which is odd because since the release of ‘Blurred Lines’ I don’t know of anyone who has had a sudden personality change. After more questioning, a younger teenager tells me: ‘I don’t really care what [celebrities] do… if they want to do it, doesn’t mean I will too.’

The fact is, there are lots of songs which some people could claim to find offensive. But banning a song on this basis sets a very dangerous precedent, especially at universities which are meant to be places where you can be exposed to challenging ideas and have your pre-existing beliefs questioned. As one student said of his student union’s decision to ban a pop song: ‘Thank you for banning “Blurred Lines”… which enhanced my misogyny towards women… thank you for tackling the most important issue of our time – sod campaigning for fair fees or actual student satis-fucking-faction; I think that oppression of women has now ended. May I also suggest you ban “Single Ladies”, and “I’m a Barbie girl” because they make me also feel oppressed as a man.’ You see, ‘young people’ do understand irony and sarcasm.

Another student quoted Stephen Fry to me: ‘It’s now very common to hear people say “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so f***ing what?’

I’m with Fry on this one.

Eleanor Stammeijer is a student based in London.

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