When banning songs creates blurred lines

Published 4 October, 2013 at https://glasgowguardian.co.uk/2013/10/04/when-banning-songs-creates-blurred-lines/

Now that has your attention, let me get something clear – I hate the song ‘Blurred Lines.’ It’s derogatory towards women, the lyrics do nothing for a society trying to combat ‘rape culture’ and I was pleased when I discovered that Edinburgh University Union had decided to ban the song.  However, the subsequent debate causes me to believe that banning the song, like Edinburgh University did, isn’t the best course of action.

The song, in addition to being sinfully catchy, has developed the ability to divide a room. It was for this reason that the Glasgow University Student Representative Council (SRC) discussed the possibility of banning the song at their latest meeting.The decision was not to ban it, and it was argued that the banning of one song was simply a token and, given the unusual fact that Glasgow University has four student bodies, would be difficult to get everyone to agree to it.

I disagree with the reasons upon which the SRC based their decision (just because something is difficult to do, doesn’t mean it is not worth trying to do). However, after giving it a lot of thought, I’ve realised that I fully agree with the decision. I don’t think that the university, and by extension the SRC, should have the right to ban material purely on the basis that it is controversial. It would create an environment in which there would be ‘blurred lines’ between what we can and can’t do on campus.

Since when did the existence of controversy become so negative? After all, it is just the result of various opinions. People, particularly in university, should be encouraged to hold differing opinions and these shouldn’t be stifled by a fear that someone will turn around and say: “That really offends me.”  Universities were founded to satisfy the desire for knowledge and created in the hope that society would benefit from the research and ideas that came out of them.  This will not happen if we start banning almost everything people disagree on.

If contentious topics are being discussed, this can only be a good thing. People should have the opportunity to defend their opinions and should become more willing to be challenged on why they hold certain beliefs.  Let’s face it, every day in seminars and lectures, essays and exams, students are pressed to defend their position – why do they believe in something, why don’t they? Universities were built on the concept of debate and dialogue; banning a song because of its controversial content is the antithesis of everything higher education stands for.

Opening a dialogue on a topic also promotes learning – a particularly crucial point when viewing this argument in the context of a university setting. Discussion promotes an open-minded society in which people are more willing to listen to the viewpoints of others. It creates a culture in which changing your opinion is not a bad thing. Furthermore, only by discussion do you have the opportunity to change the opinions of others.

Universities or unions banning the song ‘Blurred Lines’ doesn’t change the fact it still exists and is still doing well in the charts. Whether this is to do with the catchy beat or the infamy it has now attracted is not for me to say.

The only thing that can change perceptions about it, is talking about it. After all, why are people offended by the song? Only by discussion did I learn many people don’t actually understand why we have issues with this particular song and perhaps justifiably so. When many songs and videos degrade women, why on earth has everyone got so up in arms about this one? How can we forget Usher crooning that he wouldn’t “stop till I get ’em in they birthday suits” or pretty much every line in Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” Surely, if we ban one, we must ban them all? It’s a slippery slope until we’re all standing in clubs, drinking and humming to ourselves in order to fill the awkward silence.

Similarly, if you’re passionate about the issue and truly believe that the song is symbolic of major issues in society, then you should have your chance to put forward your argument. An argument that is normally started by the song playing. Debate should be promoted and encouraged and this is why the University shouldn’t even attempt to ban it. Hold a debate, a discussion or a lecture on the problems you think it creates and listen to the counter arguments – but don’t ban it!

Refusing to play ‘Blurred Lines’ doesn’t rid society of the problems highlighted by it. The song will still be played in shopping centres, on radio stations and in this way, the SRC is right – it would be a token effort. It also sets a precedence for banning anything from page three to lads mags on campus just because they’re controversial. Where would it end?

And let’s face it: if the university did start banning everything controversial, there will be nothing left to talk about. Having sat in my fair share of awkward seminars where nobody has anything to say, I bet that would be far worse.

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