There are No Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke
by Alyssa Jackson | published Oct. 2nd, 2015
Let me start out by saying that I hold a very personal bias about Robin Thicke which started around two years ago, so let's begin with a story.
In April of 2014 I took over as the Editor-in-Chief of Reporter, just days before Imagine RIT and the release of our May special issue, The Gender and Sexuality Issue. We were so excited for this magazine to come out because our goal was to educate people at RIT and in the surrounding community about the changing face of gender and sexuality. We had explored issues of LGBTQIA+ rights, sexism and healthy sexuality through orgasms, which was an article accompanied by medical illustrations of male and female genitalia based off of elementary school textbooks (to keep it friendly to a young audience).
On a Monday, just a few short days before its release, I got an email from Heath Boice-Pardee from the Office of Student Affairs telling me that we would not be allowed to hand out the magazine at Imagine RIT due to "obscene content and illustrations." The order came from President Bill Destler himself, who felt that the subject matter we had reported on was too sensitive for children who would be attending the festival and that the illustrations were obscene.
I should interject here that the administration should not be subjecting the magazine to prior review and looking at it before it has been distributed on campus. It turns out that someone in the Printing Applications Lab, where we used to print our monthly issue, had given the magazine to Destler. After a week of fighting with Destler, he conceded to let us distribute the magazine at Imagine RIT, but only at our booth and only if we ID'd each person to ensure that only people 18 years and older were taking it.
Standing in the Gordon Field House at Imagine RIT, bitter about the decision, I heard "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke's one-hit wonder, blasting over the loud speakers for everyone to hear. I was enraged.
"Blurred Lines" is, arguably, about rape. Thicke sings about "liberating" a woman through having sex with him -- sex, I might add, that does not appear to be consensual and occurs under the influence of alcohol. By definition, this would be considered rape. There was Reporter,fighting to start a healthy conversation about gender and sexuality and receiving backlash for it, while this questionable song played with no backlash at all. No parents angrily went up to Destler to complain about the ethically suggestive song, there were no aggressive emails sent about it and no one even batted an eye.
Not even two years after censoring Reporter, not even two months after having renowned feminist and gender and sexuality activist Laci Green come to speak during Freshman Orientation, it was announced that local radio station 98PXY's annual Jingle Jam concert would be held at RIT and that Thicke would be headlining. Let me get this straight: things like transgender rights, stigmas of bisexuality and the biology of an orgasm are "obscene" but songs like "Blurred Lines" sung by a man voted "Sexist of the Year" in 2013 is okay, as long as you're making a quick buck off of renting out a venue?
Please don't misunderstand me here: I do not care about the concert itself. I don't care about Robin Thicke, and if you are someone who wants to go watch him perform then more power to you. Do what you want, whether or not I, or anyone else, agrees with it. My issue here is where the concert is being held. RIT, along with nearly every college in the nation, is actively trying to educate their students about consent, rape and sexual assault. Because RIT is a college campus focused on educating on these issues and because the administration has a history of making questionable choices when it comes to discussing sexuality on campus (by censoring a magazine, by having Bill Cosby come last year, etc.), they should have looked at this offer to host Jingle Jam and sprinted in the opposite direction. In addition, I should definitely not be receiving Message Center emails promoting the concert and asking me to buy tickets.
It looks like a large portion of students agree with me. A PawPrints petition that I created to stop Thicke from coming to campus achieved the minimum 200 signatures in less than one hour, and is currently at over 800 signatures while another petition to allow him to come to campus has less than 100 signatures. Even if this wasn't an issue of an incredibly backward and sexist man performing on campus, it appears to be an issue at odds with what RIT students want to see on campus.
I am not naive. I know that my petition will probably not stop Robin Thicke from coming to campus. Contracts have already been signed between the two parties or we wouldn't be getting Message Center emails promoting the concert to us. My purpose in creating the petition is to get a response from RIT on why they would do this in the first place.
In short, I am pretty pissed off. As the Editor-in-Chief of Reporter, I am angry that topics like gender and sexuality as a whole in the nation are considered obscene or taboo while we have songs that are very likely about rape playing on the radio every day. As a woman, I am upset that washed up, sexist singers make millions off of exploiting something that I fear constantly -- I can't ever get too drunk or walk at night alone, or I might get assaulted or raped. I wonder if Thicke has that problem? Finally, as a student, I'm bitter that once again RIT looked to make some money rather than figuring out what myself and over 800 other students would have wanted.
When will student opinions start mattering to the RIT administration? That's all I want to know.