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Toula Foscolos

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It's 2013, and Women Are Still Their Breasts

Posted: 07/05/2013 11:59 am

First it was Robin Thicke and his buddies cavorting with naked women in his video for Blurred Lines, while a sign on the wall behind him informed us that he has a big d-ck (his words, not mine).

Then, this past Wednesday, Justin Timberlake debuted his third single Tunnel Vision from his album 20/20 Experience. The video starts off promising (at one point JT even looks at the camera with -- dare I say? -- a sense of reverence and worship for the woman he's singing to), but it all quickly deteriorates into an ocean of boobs. Waves and waves of boobs.... So much so that Justin's face is, at times, superimposed over these women's breasts, because they've taken over THE ENTIRE SCREEN!

It's enough to make you shake your head in amazement.

And exhaustion.

Because, as a woman, it's exhausting to constantly point out the obvious sexism around you. It's tiring to have to explain to some people why you find such things offensive. It's exhausting and exasperating to wonder why 50 per cent of the purchasing population (I'd actually venture to guess that females account for even more than half of the buying public when it comes to pop music) is consistently treated with so little respect and dignity. It's tiring (and insulting) to watch video after video of fully-clad men sing, while naked and semi-naked ornamental women gyrate sexily around them. Like decorations. Like baubles. Like the tinsel on a tree....

What's another word for "decorative"? Non-functional. Serving absolutely no purpose... other than the obvious one, of course.

A few years ago, The American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report in which it confirmed what most of us already know: Women are more likely than men to be portrayed in the media in a sexual manner. Women defined solely by their sexuality are no longer a threat; they become one-dimensional and have no place in the halls of power. Their focus, it is implied, is no longer on attaining power, but on attaining a man who has the power.

The answer to who has the power in these videos is blatantly clear.

We're the ones constantly depicted naked or semi-naked, in hyper-sexualized "biting-our-lips, batting-our-eyelashes" demure, weak and submissive poses. It's a position that signals vulnerability. You can't be naked, while everyone else is clothed, and be in power. You can't be naked and be the one in control. You can't be naked and be the one choosing. To be naked is to be exposed; to be weak. Ultimately, it's to be powerless.

Even when women are sold the story that their beauty is power over men, it is a deceptive and temporary truth. It's baseless power. It is the kind of power that only exists in relation to a man's desire. In this equation, women are defined only in relation to the men in their lives; only to the hard-ons they can incite. In these videos they're always the cheerleaders to the male ego, standing on the sidelines, prancing around in panties, smiling with a come-hither, non-threatening look, while the guys (all suave, all aloof, all "manly") get to be in on some inside joke.


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  • Justin Timberlake - Tunnel Vision (Explicit)

  • Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell Williams (Edited)

  • Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell Williams (Unrated)

And that message of powerlessness is everywhere if you just open your eyes to it...plastered on the front pages of magazines, dripping from the words of men who feel that women discussing their reproductive rights is somehow synonymous with promiscuity, and staring at us from outlandishly-tasteless advertising that treats women as objects to be sold, bartered and gawked at.

Examples are never hard to find. Society continues -- in ways subtle and not so subtle -- to always define and ultimately limit what women are and ultimately can be.

There's a line in that wonderful documentary "Miss Representation" that states: "you can't be what you don't see", and if that's true, what are we presenting as options to our young girls? How are we defining them, and ultimately how are we limiting their worth and their value?

It would be tempting for some to dismiss these complaints as overly-sensitive feminist ranting. After all, we live in a society that revolves around consumerism, and we all know sex sells. Throw a few scantily-clad women together, and you've got the makings of a hot new cutting-edge video. What's the big deal in that?

The big deal is that it's blatant (and may I add, extremely lazy) sexism. And it sends a message women (and the men who love them) can no longer afford to receive.

Author Naomi Wolf once said that "to live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren't is to learn inequality in little ways all day long."

Look at Blurred Lines with a critical eye. Naked women, women on all fours, women having their hair brushed like little girls, women meowing like domesticated cats. And breasts everywhere...So much footage of breasts, one has to wonder if the sole purpose of these videos was nothing but shock value and YouTube bans, resulting in even more coverage.

Because, if truth be told, I found both videos tiresome half-way through. How many minutes of non-stop footage of breasts can one look at before you get bored? I mean, I have them so I don't need to look at them all day. And most men (with the exception of teenage boys probably playing those videos on constant loop) have seen them too. After all, "erotic" is in the mind and in the half-seen. Never in patronizing displays of full frontal nudity, with women who appear to barely have an understanding of their own sexuality. Both videos end up descending into parody. They're shocking for their blatant and gratuitous overuse of nudity, but they're not sexy.

And besides, my problem isn't with the nudity at all. I lived in Europe for years, where topless and nudist beaches are nothing out of the ordinary. There's nothing wrong with the human body and I'm not prudish about it at all.

I love the female form. It's a thing of beauty. I get why men (extremely visual creatures to begin with) have a fixation with it. They're not alone. Women find the female body beautiful too.

And no one's denying that women are sexual beings and that they like to be desired. But women are much more than the sum of their perky breasts and their butts hanging out of their thongs as they clumsily -- for the most part -- saunter around in a video while a bunch of highly arrogant men serenade them with lyrics like "I know you want it" and "I know you like it."

Did anyone else notice those two eerily-similar lines appearing in two completely different songs? At a time when we are fighting so hard for young men to understand what clear consent means, is it necessary to be bombarded with such questionable "rapey" lyrics?

Both these singers have gorgeous wives who are in the industry. If there's nothing wrong with the way women are depicted in these videos, why aren't they included here? Is it because it's a cheap, crass, undignified way to depict women and they would never insult their spouses by showing them in this light?

So why are they so willing to insult the rest of us?

Loading Slideshow...
  • Justin Timberlake

    Justin Timberlake of the pop music group 'N Sync performs in concert during the group's 2000 world tour.

  • Justin Timberlake

    'N Sync band member Justin Timberlake talks to the media during a press conference July 28, 2000 at New York City's Planet Hollywood to announce the band's second annual Challenge for Children II charity basketball game.

  • Justin Timberlake

    Pop band 'N Sync and the MSN network of internet services pose at the L''Ermitage hotel to announced their new co-branded internet access service November 28, 2000 in Los Angeles, Calif.

  • Justin Timberlake

    'N Sync's Justin Timberlake at The 43rd Annual Grammy Awards at The Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA., Feb. 21, 2001.

  • Justin Timberlake

    Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync takes aim at a 3-pointer during the pop band''s 'Challenge for the Children III' charity event at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas July 28, 2001.

  • Justin Timberlake

    Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync attends the 29th Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium January 9, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Justin Timberlake & Britney Spears

    US singer/actress Britney Spears arrives at the premiere of her film 'Crossroads,' with her boyfriend, singer Justin Timberlake of the group *NSYNC, in Los Angeles, CA, 11 February 2002.

  • Janet Jackson & Justin Timberlake

    Singers Janet Jackson and surprise guest Justin Timberlake perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. At the end of the performance, Timberlake tore away a piece of Jackson's outfit.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake poses with his Grammys poses backstage in the Pressroom at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 8, 2004 at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, California.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake on stage at the 'Brit Awards 2004' at Earls Court 2 on February 17, 2004 in London.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake attends the 'Vanity Fair Amped' pre-Oscar party to benefit the Justin Timberlake Foundation, February 26, 2004 at the Continental Hyatt House in Los Angeles, California.

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    Justin Timberlake answers questions at a press conference for his new movie 'Edison' on September 17, 2005 in Toronto, Canada.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake attends the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall August 31, 2006 in New York City.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake appears onstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios on September 12, 2006 in New York City.

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    Justin Timberlake performs on stage at the 13th annual MTV Europe Music Awards 2006 at the Bella Center on November 2, 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake arrives at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.

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    Justin Timberlake arrives to the premiere of 'Shrek The Third' on June 8, 2007 in Berlin, Germany. 'Shrek The Third' will be on German screens on June 21.

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    Actor/singer Justin Timberlake arrives at the premiere of Paramount Picture's 'The Love Guru' at the Chinese Theater on June 11, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

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    Justin Timberlake walks up to the sixth green during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Spyglass Hill Golf Course on February 12, 2009 in Pebble Beach, California.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake arrives at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre on September 20, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

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    Singer/actor Justin Timberlake poses during the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards nomination announcement held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 15, 2009 in Los Angeles , California.

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    Justin Timberlake attends the premiere of 'The Social Network' during the 48th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on September 24, 2010 in New York City.

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    Actor/musician Justin Timberlake attends the premiere of Warner Bros. 'Yogi Bear 3-D' at the Mann Village Theatre on December 11, 2010 in Westwood, California.

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    Actor/Musician Justin Timberlake arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California.

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    Justin Timberlake attends the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

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    Actor Justin Timberlake attends the 'Friends with Benefits' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on July 18, 2011 in New York City.

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    Justin Timberlake attends the UK Premiere for 'In Time' at The Curzon Mayfair on October 31, 2011 in London, England.

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    Justin Timberlake attends the UK Premiere for 'In Time' at The Curzon Mayfair on October 31, 2011 in London, England.

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    Actor Justin Timberlake poses as he arrives for the UK premiere of 'In Time' at the Curzon on October 31, 2011 in London.

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    Actor Justin Timberlake arrives at the premiere of Regency Enterprises' 'In Time' on October 20, 2011 in Westwood, California.

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    US actor, Justin Timberlake poses during a photocall as part of the presentation of the movie 'Time out' in which he is starred. 'Time Out', directed by US Andrew Niccol will be released on French screens on november 23, 2011.

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    Singer Justin Timberlake attends the GQ 'Men of the year' party at the Chateau Marmont, in Hollywood, California, on November 17, 2011.

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    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 17: Justin Timberlake attends the centennial tribute to Gene Kelly at AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater on May 17, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images)

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    ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Justin Timberlake attends the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

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    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05: Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel attend the Film District and Chrysler with The Cinema Society premiere of 'Playing For Keeps' after party at Dream Downtown on December 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singer Justin Timberlake onstage during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Singer Justin Timberlake, actress Jessica Biel and singer Beyonce attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singers Adele, Justin Timberlake and Actress Jessica Biel onstage during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20: Justin Timberlake performs on stage during the Brit Awards 2013 at the 02 Arena on February 20, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Kent/Getty Images)

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    FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 23: (L-R) Justin Timberlake, Simone Thomalla and Axel Prahl attend 'Wetten dass..?' from Friedrichshafen on February 23, 2013 in Friedrichshafen, Germany. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

 

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