I don’t know of many people who grow up dreaming of singing songs about aggressive sexual encounters to crowds of smiling people. It’s mainly just me… and Robin Thicke. As a cabaret singer who builds each performance around the most misogynist, offensive and downright ridiculous songs written by men, Thicke’s latest antics are a creative goldmine.
Margaret Attwood gave us the idea that men are afraid women will laugh at them, whereas women are afraid men will kill them. If this is the case, the #AskThicke PR catastrophe that’s been amusing the Internet this past week is a classic example of women and men using their best weapons. For anyone who doesn’t procrastinate through their workday following trending hashtags, I’ll summarise events:
- Thicke releases incredibly creepy album of songs dedicated to getting his wife back, complete with a video clip for ‘Get Her’ which appears to have text messages between the two appear on screen.
- Fans are offered the opportunity to #AskThicke hopefully sycophantic fawning questions about his life and works, using the hashtag #AskThicke.
- Twitter uses co-opt the hashtag to mock, challenge and judge Thicke for his songs. Gems include:
Robin Thicke is getting terrible abuse on the #AskThicke hashtag. Maybe If he'd dressed less provocative & stayed sober it wouldn't happen?
— Jim Sheridan (@Jim_Sheridan) July 1, 2014
#AskThicke How does it feel to be the Joffrey of pop?
— Jo Thornely (@jothornely) July 2, 2014
#AskThicke you have made me 100% more of a lesbian. This is a statement, not a question.
— Bec (@Brocklesnitch) July 1, 2014
#AskThicke what else can we expect from the album besides the usual misogyny and obvious perpetuation of rape culture?
— julianne (@juliannewoo) July 3, 2014
#AskThicke I asked my wife if she wants your album. She said no. Does that mean yes?
— James Alderson (@comedyjames) July 1, 2014
#askthicke when you "wrote" Blurred Lines did you do a jump and say "wow! Men and those other objects are going to love this!"?
— Neil Webb (@trialsoflife) July 1, 2014
The list goes on…
I regularly perform Blurred Lines, the Robin Thicke song that first drew ire for its misogynist lyrics and film clip, with three other women in our feminist cabaret act, Lady Sings it Better. I’m not going to lie to you – I have a blast doing it. It’s a catchy song. Blurred Lines (which we mash up with with Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack for a delightful sexual slavery themed number) is just one of the offensive songs I regularly sing.
When I first started Lady Sings it Better we had to research the male artists we were to cover, with search terms like “most misogynist lyrics,” “songs that aren’t about what you think they are about” and “best RnB songs by men.” We built up a collection of rape and assault laden tunes that are on high rotation in clubs and lounge rooms, and dominate the top 40.
Our premise is simple: take popular songs written by men, and reinvent them in four female voices. We don’t change the lyrics, we just use music to highlight underlying themes, expose misogyny in pop culture and generate as many laughs as we can. We’ve taken our strange brand of feminist comedy cabaret to the Sydney Comedy Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Fringe, performing to faces filled with mirth and horror.
After five years of singing misogynist tunes, I am now well versed in the various ways one can pressure women into sex and the joyful options for blowjob metaphors. My fellow singer, Libby, gets to say “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” in front of hundreds of people, and Chandra grimaces through “you just smile and tell me ‘Daddy, it’s yours'” while her parents cheer in the audience. I think the highlight of Anna’s performance career is her regular orgasm simulation during The Radiators’ seminal tune, Gimme Head. I could list the priceless lines for days:
“Lurk all over and through you baby, until I reach your stream, you’ll be on my jockey team.” – Pony, Ginuwine (which we cover in a medley about horses)
“I will be your father figure, put your tiny hand in mine” – Father Figire, George Michael (got this one covered, too)
“These women all on the prowl, if you hold the head steady I’m a milk the cow.” –Yeah, Usher feat. Ludacris
“I’m looking for a girl that will do whatever the fuck I say every day she be giving it up.” – Shake That, Eminem feat. Nate Dogg
We derive great joy from mocking the worst of male dominated pop, but our work draws on some very dark themes (google the lyrics to My Sharona for a bit of shock and revulsion). When misogyny permeates our culture so thoroughly, ignoring it, boycotting it or delivering serious analysis isn’t always satisfying, and feminist anger (and common sense) can sadly sometimes fall on deaf ears, dismissed as over-reaction or ignored because we don’t want to deny ourselves those catchy beats.
Humour is, in this case, perhaps our strongest weapon, an inviting approach to attacking sexism that welcomes people into feminism, and offers strength and laughter in the face of misogyny. If you’re feeling blue about the world today, just search #AskThicke.