Robin Thicke's controversial music video Blurred Lines (featuring the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams) has been roundly criticised for its off-colour lyrical content and obvious objectification of women, with some critics going so far as to say it reinforces rape myths.
Enter Seattle-based "boylesque" troupe, Mod Carousel, who have just produced a parody video. In an explanation of sorts on YouTube, they say:
"It's our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and does everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions."
Lindy West, writing for feminist website Jezebel has given the video high praise, calling it "pretty amazing" and, while it's clearly awesome that the troupe are opening up the spectrum of visible sexuality in this video, it still appears to land with a crashing thud at the doorstep of the male gaze. It's true that two women are both fully clothed, but every other man is dressed, or rather undressed and made up, to appeal to gay men. Which is great, it's just not really "reversing" anything because, with the exception of a niche demographic of hetero females who may be turned on by gay men, the rest of us ladies are left out of the conversation.
If the men weren't so camp in it I'd call it an empowering gender reversal exercise but because they are so obviously eroticised from a male point of view I'm just not sure this video carries as much of an impact for the female gender.
Unlike, say, the American Apparel reversal ads, which highlighted just how dehumanising and, frankly, bizarre it looks to reduce a human being to a sex object in the name of good, clean hipster fashion.
Mod Carousel make the point that when genders are swapped, men look ridiculous but the thing about patriarchy is that the objectification of any man is never permanent. Yes, Channing Tatum played a stripper in Magic Mike but when he steps out of his leather chaps he becomes a full human again.
The same is not true for women. As women, we wear what Simone de Beauvoir called "the gender suit" - as women we are never free of objectification because no matter what we wear or don't wear we are still viewed as things to be looked at before we're viewed as humans. It's that simple and that terrible.
Yes, it's true that times are changing and men are more and more likely to be reduced to a sexual object by heterosexual women but it's not at the same level and it carries no immediate threat of violence, sexual or otherwise. In other words, there's a big difference between looking ridiculous and looking utterly powerless. But, hey, points for keeping the ladies fully clothed.
Correction: there were three women in the video, not two.