Humanists of Boston University, a social activism group, joined with other students to protest Robin Thicke’s concert at Agganis Arena on Tuesday, criticizing the pop icon for espousing messages that allegedly promote rape culture.
HBU President Patrick Johnson, who helped organize the protest, said the demonstration aimed to raise awareness of entertainment industry’s impact on society’s perception of sexual assault.
“Rape culture [is] reinforced by the media we consume,” said Johnson, a College of Arts and Sciences junior. “We want to encourage more critical dialogue of our role in that cultural system.”
Thicke’s popular song “Blurred Lines” and its music video are often criticized for its allegedly misogynist message, provided an avenue for this dialogue, Johnson said.
“I find the lyrical insinuations, and especially the graphic insinuations in the music video, to represent a justification for rape,” Johnson said.
The “Blurred Lines” music video, which features Thicke hanging around two naked women, sends the wrong message to audiences, Johnson said.
“The media’s role in rape culture … is desensitizing the issue of rape and justifying it,” Johnson said. “Rape is a horrendous, heinous crime that should never happen under any circumstances. But from watching the [Blurred Lines] video, that’s not how our society acts, despite what it teaches us.”
Johnson said that the goal of the protest was to work toward solving a greater issue than criticizing Thicke.
“Sexual oppression is one piece of gender equality, which is one piece of social justice, which is one piece of humanism,” he said.
Officials from the Boston University Police Department were present at the protest to ensure the safety of those involved.
Jessica Allan, a freshman in CAS and member of HBU, protested the concert with about 20 other BU students.
“We wanted to address the wider issue, and this is just a tiny bit of that issue,” she said. “We’re not protesting [Thicke], we’re protesting the fact that his song has creepy lyrics in it and allows people to make jokes about it [rape] and carries on a culture that really shouldn’t be there.”
CAS freshman and HBU member Julie Williams said protesters acknowledged that BU had no control over scheduling Thicke’s concert.
“We recognize that it would be extremely difficult for BU to cancel [the concert], but it does still send the message that what Robin Thicke is promoting is okay on our campus,” she said. “We’re trying to say that it’s not.”
Several BU students made signs for the protest. One student brandished a sign reading “I know you want it,” one of the most controversial lyrics in Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines.”
A few students passing the protest said they felt it was unnecessary.
Hassan Alam, a School of Management junior who attended the concert, said he did not believe Thicke’s music promoted rape culture.
“It’s kind of ridiculous,” Alam said. “He’s just trying to make something for people to dance to and have a good time. Just let people have their fun.”
CAS junior Brendan Archbald also said he felt “Blurred Lines” did not impact society’s view of the seriousness of sexual assault.
“It’s just a song,” Archbald said. “He’s out to sell records. It’s not like Robin Thicke is out to make a statement about any social issues. People take it a little too seriously. I don’t think there’s anything malicious about his intent.”
Devin McGuire, who graduated from the College of Communication in January, said though she understood why people would be offended by Thicke’s music, she did not see the value in protesting it.
“There are bigger issues in the world than someone singing a song,” she said. “I can see people protesting for the warrant of a bigger issue, but at the same time, it’s just one song, and the sad truth is that protesting this one thing isn’t going to stop it.”