“Blurred Lines” Revisited: The Robin Thicke Edition of Patriarchy

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Recently, I was at the park having a picnic and I heard the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. Yes, I must admit that this song is old and played-out. However, I was immediately frustrated with the fact that this song is being blared at a party. Well, the song is about being at a party and intending to rape a woman because he knows that she “wants it”. Nevertheless, this woman never gave consent. This is troubling. As long as we recycle these patriarchal songs that promotes rape-culture then men and women will continue to think that it is okay to have ‘blurred-lines’ when the lines are clearly black and white. Rape is rape. We shouldn’t play with semantics here. This is serious. I don’t care what a woman wears, behaves or insinuates…if she doesn’t consent then it is rape. 

Patriarchy is a system of sexist oppression that must be countered by a change in how we think and act. It must be countered by men and women. Men must learn that there is no such thing as having a blurred line at a club, at a party or with a significant other. This is violence. Whenever a man insist on engaging sexually with a woman without her consent then this is rape. Rape is violence and assault. Anytime someone says, “Well, she asked for it” then we are hurting ourselves and women. Patriarchy doesn’t just harm women, but it harms men too. 

“Dominator culture teaches all of us that the core of our identity is defined by the will to dominate and control others. We are taught that this will to dominate is more biologically hardwired in males than in females. In actuality, dominator culture teaches us that we are all natural-born killers but that males are more able to realize the predator role. In the dominator model the pursuit of external power, the ability to manipulate and control others, is what matters most. When culture is based on a dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.” 
― Bell Hooks

In patriarchy, men are taught to dominate because it is told to them that this is intrinsically a part of them biologically. In looking at this quote by bell hooks, it is important to think about this in regards to the song by Robin Thicke. What is it reinforcing? What is it saying about the institution of patriarchy? Why is this dominator culture celebrated? How do we combat this culture of violence and oppression?

So, I believe it would serve us better to view the lyrics. You can easily go on YouTube and watch the video that accompanies the lyrics, but I like focusing on the lyrics. I think people can sometimes get too caught up in the music and not necessarily the lyrics. Hopefully, this song can be a conversation-starter within social-circles, families, organizations and etc. Maybe watch the video too. 

“Blurred Lines” by: Robin Thicke
(feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams)

[Intro: Pharrell]
Everybody get up
Everybody get up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

[Verse 1: Robin Thicke]
If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Maybe I’m going deaf,
Maybe I’m going blind
Maybe I’m out of my mind
[Pharrell:] Everybody get up

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
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

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
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
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
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
[Pharrell:] Everybody get up

[Verse 2: Robin Thicke]
What do they make dreams for
When you got them jeans on
What do we need steam for
You the hottest bitch in this place
I feel so lucky
Hey, hey, hey
You wanna hug me
Hey, hey, hey
What rhymes with hug me?
Hey, hey, hey

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
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
Hey, hey, hey

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
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
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
[Pharrell:] Everybody get up
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I hate them lines
I know you want it
I hate them lines
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

[Verse 3: T.I.]
One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass to
Go, from Malibu, to Paris, boo
Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you pass through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
Swag on, even when you dress casual
I mean it’s almost unbearable
In a hundred years not dare, would I
Pull a Pharside let you pass me by
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
But you didn’t pick
Not many women can refuse this pimpin’
I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it if you get with me

[Bridge: Robin Thicke]
Shake the vibe, get down, get up
Do it like it hurt, like it hurt
What you don’t like work?

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica
It always works for me, Dakota to Decatur, uh huh
No more pretending
Hey, hey, hey
Cause now you winning
Hey, hey, hey
Here’s our beginning

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
I always wanted a good girl
(Pharrell: Everybody get up)
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
(Pharrell: Everybody get up)
I know you want it
I know you want it
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

[Outro: Pharrell]
Everybody get up
Everybody get up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

 

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Mere Seduction That Night

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It was one of those nights

We were ready to feast on each other sinfully, without regrets

Closing the door behind us, he looked at me with passion, a burning passion

And the slightest touch of our hands and our bodies became intimacy

A racing heart, increasing temperature, hungry, and needy

I watched the way he turned towards me with a glance that would entice

Grabbing a hold of my waist from behind with a slow-grind 

The moon’s gaze sneaked too many peeks upon this love affair

Without words, he guided me to the next room, unclothed his goddess

and I watched in admiration the unclothing of this most heavenly being

the night smelled of seduction and fiery passion

we became engulfed in the joining, the meeting of two hearts, two bodies

the darkness swallowed us whole without respite

this Gringo, this lover of Mexican-culture, whispered words of love, of passion, en espanol

“Te Amo, mi morenita!”

his words reaped of desire, unadulterated passion

where did he learn this foreplay?

what goddess invited him to worship love in this way? 

“te quiero”

and my body shook in want, in need of this gift-offering

he had come to my temple to worship

and I giggled in ecstasy

in madness, in anger, in uncontrollable anger

why did I not feel guilty in this?

should not the feeling of intense pleasure satisfy me

I was hungry, frustrated, in need of this

of him

of what he wanted to offer

“Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.”
― Chinua Achebe, African Writer and Novelist

Achebe’s words are paramount when analyzing, reading and understanding minor-literature. One of the many reasons for minor-literature is to create and present voices of the under-represented and the silenced. It is also a political movement, as well. It is one’s need to be heard. It is one’s need to be seen. It is one’s need to be acknowledged. It is one’s need to be understood. These are the reasons for minor-literature.

As a Black-American-female, I believe it is important for my narrative to be heard, as well as the next person that is silenced or under-represented. It is this need to vocalize their everyday experiences. It has been documented in various parts of the world at various times by the minority wanting to have their voices heard and acknowledged. This is extremely moving and revolutionary. It is merely due to the fact that an individual or a group recognizes the importance of having their experiences heard.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
― Maya Angelou

In many ways, silenced and under-represented groups are writing and creating their own space within their various cultures and societies because they have a story to tell.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

And like this beautiful quote by Angelou, we all have stories that we want to tell. However, if we never tell that story then we will forever have this feeling of agony inside of us. The need of revealing your experiences is not unique to the human-experience. The oral-tradition is the oldest form of human-communication. As human-beings, we told stories orally and became story-tellers. We sat around and told the stories of those before us and those of our generation. We knew we had a story to tell and we told it. And just like those that came before us, we have an obligation to create our narratives and to make a space for every voice out there.

So, in starting off ‘minor-literature’ week, I want to start with a story that really touched me.

I recently read “Yo Soy Chicano” by: David F.Gomez. In this autobiographical piece, I found myself looking at myself in the mirror. David Gomez, a son of two Mexican-immigrants, grew up in a mostly White, working-class area in southwest Los Angeles, California.

In his early schooling, Gomez described his experience with school as being “a terribly destructive experience, for it stripped away my identity as a Mexicano and alienated me from my own people, including my parents” (6). In reading the first line of this short-story, I knew I was going to enjoy this piece of literature. For so long, I have heard how education is the end-all-be-all to having a successful life. However, Gomez’s experience(s) with school was a means of socialization by the various institutions that he would enter into for education. He continues to describe his early-schooling experience as being “predominantly White, at least 85 percent or more. The rest of us were either Mexican, Black, or Oriental, but mostly Mexican. Everything that was of value or importance in school was White and clean” (6). In helping his audience to understand the process of socialization, Gomez further stated that “the teachers either ignored our Mexican heritage completely or referred to us condescendingly as “Spanish”. At first it annoyed me to be called Spanish because Papa had strictly taught us to say, “Soy puro Mexicano” when asked what we were”. At this point in his life, Gomez was being taught at home self-confidence and the beauty of his heritage while being ignored at school because of his identity. His identity became a source of shame and interrogation by the individuals that all students would be expected to look up to- teachers. However, this was not the case. He would describe his predominate impression as being that “Mexicans had no legitimate place in the White world. If we Mexicans wanted to survive at all, we would have to become White. And I wanted to be White” (6).

As Gomez progressed in school, he would continue to describe his isolation from his Mexican-identity. To be accurate, his Chicano-identity. He remembered a time in which his mother came to pick him up from school in the third-grade and being ’embarrassed’ by his mother’s Spanish. So, one day the bell had rung to dismiss students from school and just like any other day, he would go outside to wait for his mother to pick him up. However, this day was different. Gomez’s mother came into the school, went to his class and called out, “David, apurate, te ‘stoy esperando!”. His mother wanted him to hurry because she was waiting on him, but unfortunately, he was ashamed and proceeded to tell his mother to speak English. So, at this point in the story, Gomez felt almost estranged from his native-tongue of Spanish, which was spoken at home.

In having parents with roots in Mexico, he would visit Tijuana or Mexicali. In visiting his family back in Mexico, he would further continue on in his socialization of disconnecting from his identity. In feeling disconnected from his Mexican-American identity, Gomez stated that “I became aware of feeling that what my family had to offer-language,customs, food, ways of looking at the world vacations in Baja California- was not very good in comparison with the other world in which I lived” (8). At this point in his life, Gomez definitely felt removed from his culture and thoroughly attracted to White-culture. To illustrate this point, “there was one little boy who was in the third grade with me. I wanted him to be my friend because he seemed to embody all that I admired and believed was best. He had blond hair, bright blue eyes, and rosy cheeks” (8). As a 22 years old,Black-American reader, I can definitely say that this form of socialization is detrimental. Gomez grew up in educational-institutions that taught self-hate and racial-superiority, which bred the isolation of minorities from themselves. This is still the case for many minorities, despite this story being decades old. It is this removal from one’s culture that creates self-hatred. For most young children and teenagers, school is the one place that you would spend most of your time. This is the one place in which you begin the socialization process. It can and may just break or make you.

In looking at his overall experiences, he stated that “like many Mexican American children, my experiences made a peripheral person of me. My Anglo-White experiences at school so completely conflicted with my Mexican-brown experiences at home that I rejected one for the other only to find that I couldn’t fully participate in either” (10). So, I must admit that I just wanted to hug Gomez at this point in his autobiographical piece. I just wanted to reach out and tell him that the struggle is real, but to never give up. I think many minorities and racially-mixed individuals undergo this exact same experience. It is this issue of trying to fit within dominant-society and your own reality. However, you end up finding yourself at the outskirts of these two spaces that you frequently enter and exit out of on a daily-basis. It is exactly this statement by Gomez that makes minor-literature so important. It poses serious concerns and questions about identity. Personally, I am constantly trying to obtain and strive for the ‘authentic self’ because of all of the external pressures for me to be something other than myself. At one point in my life, similar to Gomez, I hated by Blackness. I hated my hair. I hated the fact that I wasn’t White. I had even dyed my hair blonde, in order to look White. I believe at one point, I even purchased skin-lightener to get a fairer complexion. The bad part of this is how other Black people would encourage this detrimental cycle of hating your Blackness. I would be told how beautiful I was because I was light-skinned. Also, I would be told that I had ‘good’ hair and that the boys would ‘like’ and ‘love’ me. So, I would always take these words as being truth because not only was dominant-society pushing it onto minorities, but even minorities were pushing it upon each other. I never understood how socialization worked until I realized its effects upon me. On one-hand, I would be told that I wasn’t ‘Black’ enough or that I was ‘too-White’ so I struggled for a good portion of my life trying to fit in the worlds that I would enter and re-enter on a daily-basis. It creates an incomplete, fragmented, and disconnected identity. It really does. I’ve never been comfortable with this issue of trying to fit in with this or that group, but it is challenging when you’re being cornered by your own group and by dominant-society.

However, I will continue on with Mr. Gomez. To go into an excellent example of my own personal feelings about this issue of identity, he described his experience as being similar to many minorities. He stated that “I was indeed a ‘Mexican-American,’ a hyphenated person who was somehow both Mexican and American yet neither a Mexican nor an American in any clearly defined sense” (10). Many minorities and racially-mixed individuals hold similar views to Gomez. It is this sense of trying to define one’s self on one’s own terms without the interference of someone else’s definition, but it is fairly difficult. There is always this ongoing struggle to figure out one’s identity and how it works or doesn’t work. In some ways, one must decide for themselves who and what they want to be.

He continued to say that “sometimes when the brown world intruded into the White I felt divided within myself, but usually I ended up choosing the White world. Most of the time, I was simply a displaced person who, in his better moments should have realized he was trying to be someone or something he actually was not. I believed that I was White, a belief that left permanent scars on my consciousness because it uprooted me from my familia and created in me the false and deceptive impression that I was really accepted and belonged in the White world” (11).

I will let that marinade on the mind for a moment. Yes, let it just marinade for a bit. There is more to come about this issue of socialization and being marginalized.

To complete his total transformation, he stated that ” I gave many people the impression of being weak because I have been a marginal, peripheral person in dominant society for so long that unconsciously I assumed all the characteristics that the dominant group expected of me” (11)

And to completely break a person, you need not to break them down physically, but mentally. In no part of this autobiographical piece he spoke about being physically abused, but in every part of the piece he spoke about being mental-subjugation of self-hatred. He was mentally oppressed and isolated from himself.

And at the end of the piece, he graduated college and felt “I had indeed become the gabacho I so desperately wanted to be” (17).

As I read the piece and came to the end, I sat in awe. I was just taken aback. In many ways, I was reading a story about me. Yes, it is 2014, but the issue of identity is still major. Identity isn’t just about race. No, it is about the full and entire person.

So, in reading this piece of minor-literature, I felt extremely compelled to share it with others. I feel it is important to think about when we discuss issues of: class, race, nationalism, culture(s), mainstream society, and identity.

So, if you enjoyed this, then stay tuned for more minor-literature to come.

What is Minor-Literature?

In the Fall of 2013, I took a course at my university called “East Central Europe”. It was a fascinating course and caused me to think deeply about: history, identity, culture(s), language(s) and borders. In going through the history of this part of the world, I loved the interdisciplinary-nature of the course. We looked at Europe through various lenses and from various fields of study. As an English-major, I loved the various readings we would have about: Nazism, Communism, the Intelligentsia, and etc. However, I was struck when learning about ‘minor-literature’. I’ve never heard this term until my last semester of my undergraduate-program. So, in celebration of my love for literature, I want to dedicate the next week to minor-literature.

Before starting this week on minor-literature, I will share a little background information about the advent and emergence of minor-literature.

Caveat: This was a paper I had wrote for my class. So, please refrain from getting bored with the formal-tone of the paper.

The Emergence of Minor Literature: An Analysis of “Birds” by Bruno Schulz and “Jackals and Arabs” by Franza Kafka

In the twentieth-century within East Central Europe, there emerged minor literature. Minor literature is deemed as being political since subject peoples aren’t sovereign, usually within a periphery. Additionally, this form of literature usually provokes and anticipates political action. Strikingly, this literature has a concern of the people. Minor literature stands to serve as an advocate for groups and individuals that aren’t being represented. In understanding the complexity of minor literature within twentieth-century East Century Europe, it is important to look at two writers from similar backgrounds with two different styles of writing- Bruno Schulz and Franz Kafka. In looking at the two various writing-styles of Schulz and Kafka, I will examine as a literary-critic how Schulz “Birds” and Kafka’s “Jackals and Arabs” adds to the creation of minor-literature in advocating for groups that aren’t represented within their individual societies in twentieth-century East Central Europe.
In understanding the role of minor literature in the lives of each of these writers, it is integral to understand their backgrounds and the social-issues surrounding their writings. Kafka was born in 1883 and lived until 1924. He lived a relatively sedentary life and lived most of his life in Prague. Additionally, he had lived closely with his family and could free himself from them. In his life-time, Kafka published very few of this works. His fame began in the 1930’s, but this was halted by Nazism. Most of Kafka’s writings were: existentialist, theological and modernist. Kafka was Jewish, German and Czech. He lived in the Czech Republic as a participant in German culture in the Austria-Hungary Empire. He spoken very clear and lucid German. However, most of his writings aren’t explicitly Jewish.
Similarly, Schulz was Jewish. He was born in 1892 and died in 1942. He was born in Drohobych, near Lviv, which is currently the Ukraine. Schulz did have knowledge of Kafka’s work and was influenced by Proust and Thomas Manh. Schulz was first protected by a Nazi named Landau. Additionally, Schulz mostly wrote short-stories. However, Schulz writings are different from Kafka’s in many ways. Kafka’s writings doesn’t use metaphors in a visual sense nor does Kafka use animal-fables which is seen throughout Shulz’ minor literature.
In looking at one of Kafka’s writings, the “Jackals and the Arabs” presents an interesting look at violence and its cycle. The short-story starts in the deserts of Arabia, in which a European man is approached by Jackals, talking to him in human-form about a long-standing quarrel. Kafka writes that “a swarming of jackals all around us” in relations to the European-man that was approached by this group of animals (252). In being approached by the group of Jackals, the man is told that “the north has the intelligence that is not found here among the Arabs. Not a spark of intelligence can be struck from their cold haughtiness” (Kafka, pg 253). In reading this story, critics may deem this statement as being racist and not indicative of a whole race of individuals. However, this passage written by Kafka could indicate perpetuating feelings by some Jews during this time-period. In looking at the passage above, it is important to see a form of tension that is built up within the group of jackals. In continuing within the passage, “they kill animals in order to eat them and they scorn carrion” (Kafka, pg 255). Kafka is letting readers understand at this point in the story that the Arabs are supposedly killing animals, specifically Jackals. So, the Jackals tells the European man that “…we will draw their blood and the quarrel will end” (Kafka, pg 253). In this part of the story, one may ask about the role of minor-literature and how it relates to the discord present between the Jackals and the Arabs. Kafka is known for his allegorical-style in presenting his literature, thus it is note-worthy to deduce from his readings the social-context in which he is writing in during their time-period in which he wrote a piece of literary-work. Some literary-critics would argue that Kafka is referring to the Jewish-Muslim discord while others would state that this discord would’ve been too early. However, Kafka adds within the story that the Jackals are seeking revenge and sought out the help of the European-man to avenge for the Arab’s mass-murdering of animals by stating that “…with the help of your all-powerful hands, cut their throats with these scissors” (255). This story could easily represent discord between a core and its periphery, especially in the context that the jackals felt as if their autonomy and lives were at risk. Also, one must remember that minor literature anticipates as political action and functions as a voice for the under-represented.
However, in the literary-work presented by Schulz, the chapter “Birds” in The Street of Crocodiles, presents an interesting looking at life within the periphery. Schulz’ style of composition is less-allegorical and more straight-forward than Kafka’s text, “Jackals and Arabs”. In this chapter of the novel, the audience finds a father that is becoming aloof from the family-unit as he withdraws within his own world. In order to illustrate Schulz’ difference(s) in composition, he begins the chapter by stating that “…the yellow-days of winter, filled with boredom. The rust-colored earth was covered with a threadbare, meager tablecloths of snow full of holes” (45). In this first sentence of the chapter, Schulz’ composition shows the audience the importance of imagery. In letting the audience know the mental and physical-state of the father, Schulz writes that the father “…grew more and more remote from practical affairs. When my mother, worried and unhappy about his condition tried to draw him into a conversation about business, about the payments due at the end of the month, he listened absent-minded, anxiety showed in his abstracted look” (46). In this story, the head-of-the-household was deteriorately gradually over-time. And that “at that time, we noticed for the first time father’s passionate interest in animals. To begin with, it was the passion of the huntsman and the artist rolled into one” (Schulz, pg 47). In looking at this passage specifically, Schulz differentiates himself from Kafka’s in his usage of animals. He compares the father to this child-like state. More importantly, “it soon became necessary to move my father to two rooms at the top of the house which had served as storage rooms,” thus letting the audience understand that the father was becoming less and less involved the family and this is similar to the core-periphery relationship. The periphery is indeed suffering from the influence and the lack of autonomy that most cores provide. And towards the end “a moment later, my father came downstairs- a broken man, an exiled king who had lost his throne and his kingdom” (Schulz). Schulz is allowing us to see the struggle as being an individual and even head-of-the-household within a periphery.
In concluding, these two different authors provide a look into minor-literature and its importance. It provides for under-represented individuals to gain a voice and to become political-advocates. It allows for political-action to be brought up.

Works Cited:
1. Schulz, Bruno. The Street of Crocodiles. [New York]: Penguin, 1977. Print.
2. Kafka, Franz, and Nahum N. Glatzer. Complete Stories. New York: Schocken, 1983. Print.

Dr.Cornel West Speaks on Art and Culture in a Social Movement

As human-beings, we are always seeking to make meaning out of the world we live in. In trying to seek out meaning, we aspire to become actors/actresses, singers, writers, poets, dancers, and etc. And when we indulge in these things, we are creating a social movement which leads to a world better than the way we found it. It’s about love, justice and meaning. It’s about creating something new to improve our own realities and the realities of others.