I thought the Blurred Lines song was about rape. I still want it banned though (part 1)

The song is at least a trigger.

The song is at least a trigger.

I listened to it first a while ago, saw the naked girls and the clothed guys, and heard some pretty awful, rapey stuff:

I know you want it

I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

but you’re a good girl

That’s the stuff you hear the first time, and it sounds horrible. This is what Robin Thicke (one of the singers) has to say about this:

the video, I totally understand that any time you bring topless girls into the mix you’re going to catch a little flak but the song itself … [does not] engage that type of controversy

Thanks to Pharrel (I’m guessing) the song isn’t too intense but a good song nonetheless, so you feel let down by the lyrics and don’t want to listen anymore. Hell, those lyrics just above are pretty damning though right? I wanted it banned for being about rape, I still do, but I’ll save that for part two of this post.

Well, some people have come to the conclusion that it’s about the singer who wants to steal a woman away from her relationship for some casual sex, let’s ‘analyse’ the rest of the song for context.

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
Hey, hey, hey
You don’t need no papers
Hey, hey, hey
That man is not your maker

So apparently someone wants to ‘domesticate’ this girl, the person singing wants to ‘liberate’ her though. It also highlights a problem where relationships are seen as a male space ( relevant article on this “Stop saying ‘I have a boyfriend’ to deflect unwanted attention” ). To me ‘that man is not your maker’ is just saying that the girl can make decisions about her sex life by herself.  Still sleazy, but let’s not jump to conclusions either way right now but go on to the next verse.

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

‘Good girl’ is patronising, sure, but I don’t see any mention of rape yet. You can sure guess it’s sexualised, women.

Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it

It seems right now it’s pretty key to understand what they mean by ‘blurred lines’, and it’s obvious that they’re “boundaries” which are “blurred”. So why does the singer hate boundaries? Because he respects them, he ‘knows’ the girl wants it, but he can’t do anything.

I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

He thinks the girl wants it by the way she’s grabbing at him and he’s hating those boundaries because he’s respecting and acknowledging them, and we also know why she’s a ‘good girl'; she wants to respect those boundaries too because she’s a ‘good girl’ for her partner. Let’s also be clear about why him thinking she wants it because of her body language isn’t rape – it’s because he’s interpreting body language and not actually doing anything about it.

Dancing, provocative outfits, flirty actions, they don’t mean consent, but they didn’t actually have sex in the song.

Did the singer make a move, did the singer fuck her? No. The singer said ‘Go ahead, get at me’ – inviting her to make a move first .

It isn’t about rape, it’s about inviting her to take the initiative. The bit about tearing her ass in two was preceded by ‘So hit me up when you passing through’. There’s more, though:

Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that

So I just watch and wait for you to salute

I don’t know about anyone else, but consensual sex gets rough, and that’s ok. Reading this last line, it seems clear that the singer is waiting for consent – ‘watch and wait for you to salute’ before getting dirty. Not just giving her the first move now, but literally just backing away until she does. This is all in stark contrast to what somebody who I assume hadn’t read through the lyrics (presumably because at first glance not many people want to read any further) decided to write:

The rigid definition of masculinity makes the man unable to accept the idea that sometimes his advances are not welcome. Thus, instead of treating a woman like a human being and respecting her subjectivity, she’s relegated to the role of living sex doll whose existence is naught but for the pleasure of a man.

In some ways, the singer wasn’t able to accept (‘But you didn’t pick, Not many women can refuse this pimpin’), but not in a way that made him justify rape. It’s in fact quite obvious that he didn’t want to do anything without her consent, which is more than I can say for most men dancing in a club. The writer jumps to the conclusion that he doesn’t treat her like  a woman, but a sex doll instead, which is completely wrong. The singer in fact says:

man is not your maker (she’s independent)

You’re far from plastic (not a sex doll)

Lumping the backlash (a bit unfairly) into one ball, one female blogger noted that the reactions to the song:

  1. Implies that women never say yes to sexual advances
  2. Implies that a naked woman is automatically degraded (as in, a woman can’t choose to be naked/scantily clad as a form of sexual liberation, as in, slut-shaming)
  3. Implies that no woman would consensually agree to be spanked/ have her hair pulled
  4. Mimics an act of violent rape on a male as a joke

Why this song?

I guess it’s also because as a society we’ve become more aware of these issues, which is a good thing. When I heard the lyrics and assumed foul, I’m glad that it said more about the mindset I was in, giving it the context of a misogynistic society. Here’s what somebody else had to say about this:

However, what I find particularly interesting is not even whether the song is rape-y or not – it is more towards how much vitriol there is towards a song that is not the worst of its kind. I am not advocating for a ‘there are worse songs out there’ complacency, but rather what we can read between those (blurred) lines. When I have asked the same friends who are vehemently disgusted with this song how they can be so critical of ‘Blurred Lines’ but not, say, Kanye West (whom they love but who also has some questionable lyrics), the only reasoning they are able to give is that “well, this is the first song that has reached #1 that is so rape-y” which I am not really sure I believe

I guess my question would be: why is there so much disgust for this particular song when other songs have received far less heat? I had another friend mention that considering the timing with incidences of rape in the news (Steubenville, for example), people are just more aware. Which is a GREAT thing. I was also thinking there might be a racial element: are we more forgiving of hip hop and some of its rape-y lyrics because we associate elements of rape with black culture? Or is white culture afraid to be critical of hip hop because “it isn’t their place”? I am aware of the backlash that Nelly and Rick Ross have received over ‘rape-y’ songs in the media and I have seen this documentary about a dozen times so I know these conversations are being had – except I haven’t seen these conversations happen so ubiquitously as they have with ‘Blurred Lines’.

In the end, knowing that this song probably isn’t about rape shouldn’t detract from the message that banning it gives, and honestly I hope that this kind of momentum doesn’t go the way of . There are plenty of songs that justify rape, or at least bad sexual practice, and there are TV shows and movies and newspaper journalists and teachers and politicians that do the same. It’s also worth keeping in mind that people listening in bars, clubs, or on the radio, will not analyse the lyrics but will use the bits we heard at the beginning to justify completely unacceptable behaviour, which is something that I’ll be talking about more in part two of this post.

Blog post inspired by reading Reddit threads on the women-only space /r/twoxchromosomes and Robin Thicke’s (the singer) interview on US morning television – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXcvFTa1kEw

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie.

The noble on his estate is equal to the voivode .

This is a Polish proverb, part of the legacy that came with the Commonwealth, that basically means that no free man would think of himself as less superior than anyone else.

The Polish-Lithuanian was one of the early republics, and experienced a time of prominence in the mid-1600s. A huge state, ( see this map ) it had over 8 million residents. Germans, Armenians, Jews, Poles, etc. all lived together. However, whilst there was freedom of religion and many different faiths, Catholic was predominant under the constitution. The constitution, for that matter, was made up of all parliamentary legislation – ranging from the obligation of farmer tenants to wartime taxation.

Many would disagree that the Commonwealth was a republic, as there were still enserfed peasantry and privately controlled cities, and additionally, politics was limited to the szlachta (upper class). Those who held seats in the Senate could also only be Catholic, as was the case with the elected King of the Commonwealth.

Comparing the Commonwealth with its close neighbours, though, illustrates the importance of the progress it had made so early. Rights of self-determination to regional councils and a Parliament of the Commons made in the Commonwealth contrasted with the victory of absolute and central rule in Russia over Zemskii sobor ( assembly of the people ).

Furthermore, whilst in the Commonwealth, libertas and the rule of law was the guiding principle of the state, in Russia autocracy alone symbolised the principles of justice, salvation, and the state structure. Additionally, the Catholic King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was actively ‘monitored’ by the country’s politicians, who often blocked key decisions.

Overall, the Commonwealth is an interesting example of what some might class as a democracy, at a time where this was certainly not the norm. It would be worth looking more into this.

Upcoming Posts

Expect more from this space. I’ve been busy recently moving house, travelling, and moderating several republican (not American political party) forums and a twitter account. I’ve decided what I’m going to write this month though.

  • Terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • State collapse and the link to terrorism.
  • Security structures in the near abroad.
  • Colonial Power relations in ‘Eurasia’.

President Obama, and a number of other world leaders, will be at my university next week before the G8 in Northern Ireland. You’ll forgive me for not writing about this though, as there is a bit of overload on the G8 already.

So I don’t usually write in the first person, and maybe I should, but in this case it’s due to an individual milestone  rather than a quest to make Political Deficit more personal. Recently, a journal of which I was an editor for was published, and given a formal launch.

An award we were given by the university.

An award we were given by the university. More photos here .

You can find the full journal here . The two articles chosen in my section were:

Weak Estimate of EU GDP by Eurostat

So, the statistics for GDP in the EU and Euro area were released not long ago. The EU is down by 0.1% from last year, and the Euro area down by 0.2%. This seems to go against efforts made by many EU governments to shore up their economies, something that contrasts with signs of growth in America. However, the EU does still remain the world’s largest economy, and there is no reason to think that this part of a downward trajectory and not merely a blip.

Euro & US GDP growth rate

Euro & US GDP growth rate

The London stock exchange went up by 2.6% this morning, and posted a 5% rise in income for the year. However, French stocks, for example were lower, following bad news in the first quarter. European shares were up by 0.04 percent, for the FTSEurofirst 300. The eurozone is still in a good position, as “Inflows remain strong, with so much liquidity from the central banks. Investors are buying every dip” (David Thebault from Global Equities).

The GDP for the EU & euro area last year was €12.89 trillion (US$16.56 trillion). Germany led the way with over 20% of the EU’s GDP, and is sure to resume a leadership this year,  even with the new results.

GDP provides an easy comparison for economic activity, as the measurement has largely been standardised, and its adoption is across the board. It’s  important to think about how much meaning these results really have though, as Frank Shostak, writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, claimed that GDP was far too ‘abstract’ with no link to reality:

The GDP framework cannot tell us whether final goods and services that were produced during a particular period of time are a reflection of real wealth expansion, or a reflection of capital consumption.
For instance, if a government embarks on the building of a pyramid, which adds absolutely nothing to the well-being of individuals, the GDP framework will regard this as economic growth. In reality, however, the building of the pyramid will divert real funding from wealth-generating activities, thereby stifling the production of wealth.

Because the GDP framework completely disregards the intermediate stages of production, it can be of little help in the assessment of boom-bust cycles. It is little wonder then that mainstream economists are forced to conclude that recessions are a response to a sudden fall in consumer spending. Consequently, it is quite logical within the GDP framework to advocate loose monetary policies to revive the “economy.”

Source – Flash estimate for the first quarter of 2013

Poland & the Postcolonial

Poland has, for hundreds of years, been surrounded and conquered by its neighbours. Recent history up until the very late 20th century has been no better, with Soviet-imposed massacres and brutal repression. Colonialism has evidently been a great part of Polish history, being a land between great powers, yet there is a reluctance in postcolonial literature to include colonial presence in Eastern Europe.

Yet some have recognised Ireland as a postcolonial country, with Eastern Europe as an unknown:

only one European country has thus far been exempted from the binary ‘First World-Third World’ model now governing post-colonial studies. This is Ireland which is, as Seamus Deane remarks, ‘the only Western European country that has both an early and a late colonial experience’ […] Deane is careful to distinguish here between East and West; [which] remains terra incognita in recent theory. [Cavanagh 2003, 63-64].

The ‘ terra incognita ‘ of Eastern Europe (and Poland, which Cavanagh references), is often referred to in both Western and Eastern discourse as ‘borderlands’, reducing the culture there and its people as merely a place between the East and West. Whilst at times this discourse has been reclaimed by ideas of the Rus as a ‘two-headed eagle’, strong and facing all sides, in modern times this can be seen as a view that sees Eastern Europe as neither the ‘Other’ or the West. Talk of Russia, the Baltics, Balkans, and Eastern Europe in general is often talked of as peripheral to Europe. Indeed, there have been casual attempts to define Russia as an Asian country.

Colonialism, as well as cultural and geopolitical dominance, have played large roles in Eastern Europe. Numerous states have attempted (and at times succeeded in) exercising full or partial control over other countries, others have even occupied with settlers, and it is certainly not rare for there to be a system of economic exploitation. It is not that this has been confined to the history books either, Soviet presence being the greatest example, but also the aims of different groups during periods of ethnic conflict in the Balkans.

‘Outside’ influences such as that of the Turks in South-Eastern Europe, or that of the Austro-Hungarian empire, are underreported in postcolonial studies. German cultural dominance imposed in Poland, for example, still holds sway over local elections even (see below).

Polish voting patterns, with former German territory overlay.

Polish voting patterns, with former German territory overlay.

Polish railway infrastructure.

Polish railway infrastructure.

However, this is not to say that Poland was always the oppressed. The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was a force to be reckoned with, and whilst it didn’t quite have the same level of brute as other European powers it still made efforts to assimilate other cultures and civilisations. This is also not to say, that colonisation of Poland, and colonisation outside of Europe are in any way equal. The point of this post is to highlight how postcolonial studies can overlook colonial discourse and events purely because of current affairs.

To further confuse those who delve deeper, there are also efforts to rehabilitate Eastern Europe away from the “Other”. The Economist states that the term has “connotations of “poverty, marginalisation, and weirdness” which is for most states there, “anything but.”  Membership in Schengen, the EU, NATO, and the reemergence of Russia in world politics as an ally of the West all play to the narrative that Europe is no longer divided. A video that plays with the concept of Eastern Europe, and attempts to think up new terms,

Cavanagh , C., 2003, Postkolonialna Polska. Bia ł a plama na mapie współ czesnej teorii, “Teksty Drugie”, No. 64; 18-19. Quotations taken from other sites, which in turn quoted Cavanagh’s English version.

Why Russians (or at least Muscovites) have dash cams

Dash cams surged up in popularity because cops used to be crazy, they still are, but I’m talking ridiculously crazy. They would extort money, because they were corrupt, for anything. Many people didn’t know the laws because buying licenses was so easy (maybe it still is, there’s Moscow and then there’s the regions).

The first videos on Youtube were a trickle of people who knew they could get away with filming a police officer (despite many of the police saying they couldn’t). These kinds of people usually ended up getting away without a ticket because they were smarter than the cops. This soon went up like crazy, and wasn’t exclusive to the smarter members of society.

After this, there were two main reasons why dash cams were still popular and that videos were being uploaded onto Youtube. Firstly, that you can get off the hook for an accident if it’s not your fault, and secondly that you could get some funny stuff on video. A lot of people say it’s just because of insurance fraud, which is partly true, but not the whole picture.

Anyway, I’ve been watching a few dash cam videos and realised I could share some thoughts. Here’s a video for tiding over http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPkE2hHneP4&feature=share