On Tuesday March 4th, 2014, Robin Thicke will be performing on BU’s campus at Agganis Arena. He is certain to accrue a lot of publicity for BU. However, Thicke’s current celebrity status is not due only to his hit songs, but also his misogyny. On January 22, 2014, President Obama signed a memorandum demanding a solution to sexual assault on college campuses, to which BU should take heed (Whitehouse.gov). Having Thicke perform is a political statement that is out of touch with the realities of sexual violence and Boston University’s own history. Thus, we suggest that Robin Thicke’s performance be cancelled.
Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines” celebrates having sex with women against their will. Lyrics such as, “I know you want it,” explicitly use non-consensual language. And while watching the extremely explicit video, the insinuations grow from subtle to explicit to obnoxious.
Is this even an issue if it is just one song? Art cannot be understood without its cultural context. One in five women in America experience rape or serious sexual assault in their lifetime, a figure that goes up to one in four during college (cdc.gov). Most of these crimes go unreported, largely because of the shame society places on women who survive sexual assault. Rather than condemn the perpetrator, rape culture leads us to blame the victim. Indeed, the context of “Blurred Lines” is not simply sexily clad women; the context is systemic patriarchy and sexual oppression.
However, another context highlights the irony of BU having Thicke perform: the feminist context of BU itself. In 1864 BU’s School of Medicine was the first in the country to award an M.D. to a black woman, Dr. Rebecca Crumpler. Other notable alumnae include Jan Felshin, an openly gay woman who advocated for girls participation in and access to sports, and Caryl Rivers, a current journalism professor who covered many pivotal moments of the second wave feminism era. In 1967, BU students rallied behind Bill Baird to challenge a Massachusetts law banning birth control. This act led Baird to win a 1972 case that legalized birth control across the entire country. Today, BU maintains a Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center as a resource for assault survivors, and provides annual mandatory training to every student group.
Clearly, Boston University has been a bedrock for feminism and ideologies of equality more generally. It is a dishonor to our feminist history to symbolically idolize Robin Thicke by allowing him to perform his misogynist music at our university. We kindly suggest that BU cancel Thicke’s performance, refund any ticket sales, and apologize for insinuating that sexism, or any form of baseless discrimination, is permissible at our institution.