Barack Obama is the No. 17 least influential person in the world, according to GQ. It’s true: Either we all got robbed, or you and I have more power than the Leader of the Free World. As Cora Frazier writes in the latest issue of The New Yorker, “I think, at the very least, I might have beaten out Justin Bieber, No. 4 on the list of the least influential.”
So it is with Robin Thicke’s designation as “Sexist of the Year,” as voted by the U.K. End Violence Against Women Coalition (via The Guardian). It’s a great cause, but is it really possible that every human being who actually did something violent to a woman this year was somehow less sexist than a cornball pop singer? Without getting into the really horrible stuff, even Russian President Vladimir Putin is going around calling feminist protesters Pussy Riot “humiliating for women.” Or what about that Virginia politician who thought women shouldn’t be allowed to get a divorce without their husband’s approval?
Nope, sorry, it’s the guy who sang “Blurred Lines” (one SPIN’s 50 Best Songs of 2013) in a video with T.I., Pharrell, and models who were topless just because. The coalition’s Sarah Green said in a statement, “Our heartfelt congratulations to a worthy winner Robin Thicke for both his concerted sexist efforts, and in the end the platform he created for rejection of the use of women as objects to promote mediocre pop.” The group said it will send Thicke a voucher to download Aretha Franklin’s “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” [sic], which should be of interest to the Queen of Soul’s lawyers, because he’ll probably just write a song that sounds like it.
The debate over “Blurred Lines” is so 2013, and the year is almost over, so there’s no reason to dwell too much on how, say, the “tried to domesticate you” lyric is a reference to the song addressee’s boorish former lover. Or how the “you know you want it” hook, given the track’s playful spirit, makes most sense as a flirtation between two consenting adults (there’s a reason the anti-“Blurred Lines” camp’s preferred catchphrase here is “rapey” rather than, you know, an actual word). Whatever, it’s all going to be a wedding line dance in the style of Miley Cyrus’ father’s “Achy Breaky Heart” someday anyway.
Still, even the quote the coalition uses to justify Thicke’s selection is taken out of context. Yes, he did say, “what a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.” But the full quote to GQ is pretty harmless. He points out that he has “always respected women,” so this video was a change of pace, a chance for three “happily married” fathers to “make fun of” taboos. He goes on to say: “So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, ‘Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.'” He adds, “Right now, with terrorism and poverty and Wall Street and Social Security having problems, nudity should not be the issue.” Hmm.
But mainly, have these well-meaning Brits even listened to Thicke’s other music? Below, enjoy 2009’s “Sex Therapy,” a whispery R&B slow jam about how “it’s your body, we can do whatever you like.” It was presumably more sexist in its year than Italian Prime Minister Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi.