TIME feminism

Pharrell Says It’s ‘Not Possible’ For Him to Be a Feminist

Singer Pharrell Williams poses during the opening of the exhibition "GIRL" at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris
Singer Pharrell Williams poses during the opening of the exhibition "GIRL", with Pharrell Williams as its curator, at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris, May 26, 2014. Christian Hartmann—Reuters

The Grammy-winner defends "Blurred Lines"

Grammy winning singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams—who has skyrocketed to superstardom in the past year with the songs “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” and “Happy”—addressed the debate over last year’s controversial “Blurred Lines,” which many feminists have called “kind of rapey.”

The subject came up when Pharrell began speaking about his views on feminism during the interview with the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News. Pharrell has spoken before about his love for women and his belief in equality between the genders. His most recent album is called GIRL after all. And yet Pharrell apparently does not consider himself a feminsit:

I’ve been asked, am I a feminist? I don’t think it’s possible for me to be that…I’m a man. It makes sense up until a certain point. But what I do is—I do support feminists. I do think there’s injustices. There are inequalities that need to be addressed.

Don’t worry, male feminists—and yes we know you do exist (hello, Joseph Gordon-Levitt)—Pharrell wants to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016:

I’d love to see a woman run the country. Historically this world has been run by a man, and what would a world be like if 75 percent of our world leaders and prime ministers were female? What would that world be like? We do not know because we haven’t given it a shot. We’re too busy telling them what they can or can’t do with their bodies.

…Like when men tell women, “I know you want it”?

That line from “Blurred Lines,” Pharrell’s smash hit collaboration with Robin Thicke and T.I., is one of several lyrics in the song that have caused many to criticize it as “rapey“, a problem compounded by the accompanying music video which features naked women prancing around fully-clothed male singers.

Pharrell is far from the first celebrity to avoid the term “feminist,” despite supporting women’s equality. Shailene Woodley and Kelly Clarkson have all told TIME they are definitively not feminists. They’re joined by Carrie Underwood and Katy Perry among the celebs who will not use the term. But none of those people have ever written a lyric that reads “I know you want it.”

When Channel 4’s interviewer, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, cross-examined Pharrell on some of the more misogynistic lines in the song, the artist said:

I don’t know where [a man] forcing himself and a woman’s right to say no was ever addressed in that song… Is it sexually suggestive when a car salesman says to a person who’s trying to buy a car, ‘I know you want it?’

Guru-Murthy argued that the song—which talks about how a man wants to have sex with a woman despite the fact that she’s with another man—is not the same context as purchasing a car, to which Pharrell said:

Okay cool. But does that make it off-limits for me to use in a song, especially when the overarching context is that there are good women who also have bad thoughts? If a good woman can have sexual thoughts, is it wrong for a man to have a correct guess that a woman might want something?

Next, Guru-Murthy pressed him on the music video, in which three topless women dance around the fully-clothed male singers. The interviewer suggested that this created a power dynamic in which the women were only there as objects to please the singers:

They were? Did I touch them sexually?…So in a high fashion magazine, when women have their boobs out, is there something sexual there, too?… If you ask the director, who’s a female, she was inspired by editorials by high fashion magazines where women had their boobs out.

Finally, Guru-Murthy asks him about another line in the song, which according to Pharrell was written by T.I.: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” Does that line make Pharrell uncomfortable?

I’m not disowning the line… Why should I be uncomfortable? I love women. I love them inside and out. That song was meant for a woman to hear and say, ‘You know, I’m a good woman. And sometimes I do have bad thoughts’… Never once did I say in there anything sexual to a woman.

Watch the full interview with Pharrell here:

 

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