Is “Animals” the new “Blurred Lines”?

After Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ was banned from over 20 university students’ unions for seeming to justify sexually abusive behaviour back in 2013, it should have become obvious to the creators of pop music that their target demographic are turned off by misogyny. What with liberal feminism being given ever more coverage in the mainstream media, it’s not exactly prime time to keep the sexist torch aflame – however, that’s what it looks like Maroon 5 are doing with the lyrics and video to their latest song, ‘Animals’.

For those of you who haven’t seen the video, shots of lead singer Adam Levine cavorting amongst animal carcasses in an abattoir, covered in blood, are interspersed with underwear shots of his real life wife Behati Prinsloo being spied on from outside her house. If that didn’t inspire you with confidence, lyrics like ‘baby I’m preying on you tonight/hunt you down, eat you alive’ and ‘maybe you think that you can hide’ don’t exactly help to reassure.

Coming from such a renowned band with a fan base made up of predominantly women and girls, it seems obvious to me that Levine and co. are helping to justify behaviour that can be threatening – how many girls that read this are familiar to the habit of walking home with your keys in your hand? I know I do, and the last thing I need is a group of men with such massive amounts of power and influence telling the guys I associate with that predatory behaviour is the social norm.

I’m not cynical enough to assume that all the boys I know and call my friends are impressionable enough to watch Adam Levine with his binoculars and go straight out to lurk outside the window of some poor girl’s house. What is and isn’t regarded as culturally acceptable is not from a vacuum, and those who have space in widely consumed media have a responsibility to make sure that the ideals they promote won’t legitimate behaviour that can be dangerous – especially not to a whole gender.

In a society where two women are killed a week by a current or former male partner (Women’s Aid 2014), any media which can be seen to advocate, whether explicitly or implicitly, violence within a relationship, is problematic and needs to be open to criticism by other media outlets. As well as being potentially damaging, it can’t just be me who thinks that the whole package is pretty gratuitous. There is nothing controversial or subversive about a woman in underwear in 2014, and to sexualise the subject matter at hand could be interpreted as going far enough to imply a level of victim-blaming.

Misogyny takes many more forms than outright harassment and discrimination, and insidious representations of women in the context of prey or trophies in mainstream media are just as, if not more, damaging. Maroon 5’s ‘Animals’ may not cause any lasting impact upon the gender relations currently at play in our society, but at the same time, it might – who knows? When it would have been so easy for such a popular band to get airplay without resorting to these tactics, it remains pretty hard to see why they’d choose this particular route.

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