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SportsMonday: Let's be better than ‘Blurred Lines’

By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 6, 2013

Piped-in music at the Big House, while generally awful, is still bearable. Music over the loudspeakers may not be traditional, but I don’t mind “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Lose Yourself” or even the dreaded and overplayed “Seven Nation Army.”

What I do have a problem with is the song “Blurred Lines.” It’s time for Michigan Stadium to stop playing a song with the lyrics, “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two,” and remember who is in attendance at Michigan football games.

This is where Bo Schembechler coached and Tom Brady played and equipment manager John Falk has worked for the past 40 years. This isn’t a club, where people dance to the beats of songs without really listening to the lyrics.

And yes, it’s a catchy song that is currently pretty popular. But you know what other catchy pop songs are popular right now? “Wake Me Up” by Avicii or “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus or literally any other song that doesn’t have lyrics that make it seem like rape is remotely acceptable. Any song, really, that doesn’t have the lyric, “I know you want it/You’re a good girl,” which is an expression many sexual assault survivors have reported that their attackers used to justify their actions.

The song was played three times Saturday during Michigan’s 42-13 win over Minnesota. Twice, the song cut out after the lyrics “Everybody get up,” but the third time the song played over the speakers at the Big House, it reached the chorus. This is a chorus that repeats the words, “I know you want it,” over and over again by an artist who clearly knows exactly what all women want by saying, “Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you/ He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that.”

There are more than 100,000 people in attendance for each and every Michigan football game. According to a government study conducted in 2011, nearly one out of every five women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. The math isn’t difficult.

What message is it sending to those women? What message is that sending to the younger boys and girls in attendance who hear the lyrics, “But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature/Just let me liberate you,” and see people dancing to that music?

“People don’t realize that the people who commit sexual assault and domestic violence aren’t all sociopaths,” said Barbara Niess-May, the executive director of the Ann Arbor Safe House Center, a shelter and support center for women impacted by sexual assault or domestic violence. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Sexual assault and domestic violence are learned behaviors. You either learn them from the home or from society, and songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ give off the impression that stuff like this is OK in our society and that this is totally acceptable.”

The song is catchy. It gets people going. Even Neiss-May wrote the song title down to listen to later before she heard the lyrics.

There are other catchy songs. Many, many other catchy songs. The football gameday staff, which didn’t return an interview request for this story, needs to choose another song to fill the dead time during football games.

“People like listening to catchy tunes and dancing to them, but it’s the words that are highly problematic,” Neiss-May said. “We don’t need examples of grand theft auto because we have stuff that’s OK for our 6-year olds to listen to that gives the impression that women are sex objects that are to be treated differently.”

This isn’t just a Michigan problem. At Connecticut two weeks ago, the song was played during a “Kiss Cam” segment, which is far worse than anything done in the Big House.

But this is Michigan, where we like to think we’re better than that. We’re supposed to be better than that. We shouldn’t be a university that plays a song condoning rape to try and make people dance. Five British universities banned the song from playing in campus bars two weeks ago amid claims that it excuses rape culture.

There are countless other songs that could be piped in during a break in the action. Let’s be better than “Blurred Lines.”

Cook can be reached at evcook@umich.edu and on Twitter @everettcook