ALJASSAR: Draw the line at "Blurred Lines”
University dining halls should not play songs that endorse sexism and rape culture
Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the Women’s Center, wrote an op-ed piece last week in which she stressed the importance of “turning the culture [of the community] around so that abusers have no way to commit their acts of violence here.” The culture of gender violence to which Kaplan refers certainly bears some culpability in cases of sexual assault across Grounds.
It’s necessary to understand the nature of the gender-violence culture that exists inside and outside of the University in order to tackle the issue Kaplan raised. This culture stems in part from socially acquired gender perceptions. Sexist and misogynistic attitudes arise through socialization, and music is a medium through which gender socialization occurs.
If you regularly eat at any of the dining halls — or if you haven’t lived under a rock for the past year — you’re probably familiar with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” The two songs, along with much popular music, share similar themes of sexism and misogyny.
The former is about what Thicke perceives as the undefined gray area — the “blurred lines” — between consensual and unwanted sex. Throughout the song, Thicke repeats, “I know you want it,” an expression that perpetrators of sexual assault often use in order to justify their offenses. T.I. performs the third verse of the song, rapping “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” and “he don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that.”
The latter song is subtler, though no less demeaning. The chorus goes: “She’s up all night to the sun / I’m up all night to get some / She’s up all night for good fun / I’m up all night to get lucky”. There’s no question that these words are objectifying, treating women as instruments of sexual pleasure.
I doubt that many people give these lyrics much thought when passing through the dining hall. But attitudes that objectify women and pervade popular music are often internalized. Dining halls are places of communion, places where our community comes together to eat, talk and study. Music that perpetuates misogyny and encourages rape culture on college campuses has no place in our dining halls.
If we recognize the culture Kaplan discussed as a reality that we must turn around, then it comes as a great shock that we allow music that engenders sexist and misogynistic attitudes in our dining halls. Kaplan is correct: we can put an end to the sexual-assault culture. It starts with putting an end to sexist attitudes that persist in our environment.
One could argue that removing such blatantly sexist and misogynistic songs from the dining hall could result in a slippery slope of censorship. Where do we draw the line when it comes to music? I don’t have the answer to that. But any song that openly celebrates objectification of women or forced sex should not be played in the dining halls, especially while our community continues to fight against sexual assault on Grounds. When as many as 1530 currently enrolled female undergraduates experience sexual assault during their time at the University, we must take this issue seriously.
Problems of sex and gender at the University extend beyond the music played at the dining halls. Ending the culture of sexual assault on college campuses is a complicated undertaking; we must begin with the little things. While the aforementioned songs can be enjoyed innocuously, University Dining should exercise prudent judgment in selecting the music we listen to each meal. I shouldn’t have to hear Robin Thicke repeat “I know you want it” or Snoop Dogg declare “we don’t love them hoes” each time I grab a salad at O-Hill.
Nazar Aljassar is a Viewpoint columnist for The Cavalier Daily.