Rewind racist & sexist music videos

Videos such as Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Justin Timberlake's Tunnel Vision and Calvin Harris' Drinking From The Bottle have put a spotlight on music videos which are sexist and racist and even promote violence.

 In 2013 EVAW worked with Imkaan and Object on Rewind+Reframe to enable young women to challenge these music videos by calling them out in a safe online space generously funded by Rosa. Read Ikamara Larasi on some of the key issues in The Observer here.

In October 2014 EVAW welcomed the launch of the BBFC/BPI pilot scheme to put age ratings on music videos.

If you want to challenge sexism and racism in music videos there are lots of things you can do: 

1.       Artists and record companies

It’s easier than ever to contact the artist directly. Are they on Twitter? If not, do they have an official website? These usually have a contacts page, and will often include details of the record company too. You could even set up a petition on various websites  (like or the Government’s own e-petition site) and then spread the word via social media.

Tell them how the videos make you feel, and let them know that you’d be more likely to buy their music in future if they change the way they portray women, and BME people.

2.       Websites/apps (e.g. YouTube/iTunes)

Where did you see the video? In the same way that you can complain to the artists/record companies, you could contact the website or app that hosted it. They will have policies against harmful content; for example, YouTube have a policy against hate speech, including on the basis of race and gender, here, and a policy on nudity and sexual content here.

Even when policies don’t go far enough, your feedback can result in policies being changed- see the recent #FBrape campaign

3.       Your MP

If you don’t get a good enough answer from any of the above, consider letting your MP know. It’s the job of MPs to make laws that work (even if you don’t vote for them - or don’t vote at all because you’re under 18) and that includes the laws on how the media treat people.

Find out who your MP is, and how to contact them, here. Click on their name for the email address. Again, many of them can also be found on social media.

4.  Who makes sure music videos obey the rules?

There are rules governing the broadcast of music videos, and it’s up to regulators to decide whether the rules have ben obeyed or not: OFCOM and the Advertising Standards Authority.

OFCOM covers videos broadcast on TV, e.g. on a dedicated music channel like MTV or as part of a normal programme on any other channel. They take action against the channel if it breaches their Broadcasting Code.

Breaches of the Code may include:

  • unjustified depictions of sex or nudity, or offensive language, before the 9pm watershed
  • representation after the watershed that “contains images and/or language of a strong sexual nature which is broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal or stimulation”
  • material which may cause offence and is not justified in context.

You can read the current Code here and fill in an online complaint here.

The ASA covers videos shown as adverts, e.g. adverts for the artist’s single or album. They take action against the advertiser if it breaches their Broadcast Advertising Code.

Breaches of the Code may include:

  • Images which condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment, or prejudice respect for human dignity.
  • Adverts which cause widespread or serious offence
  • Adverts which show 18-rated material

You can read the current Code here and fill in an online complaint here.

OFCOM and the ASA can both impose fines and prevent videos being shown again- but remember that they don’t cover illegal downloads, videos you watch online or videos you buy directly (e.g. from a provider like iTunes).

Complaining works!

See decisions about Steel Panthers' Balls Out ad, and OFCOM on Duran Duran, Flo Rida, 50 Cent and others.


Also, there are some excellent spoofs of Blurred Lines, such as....