Subtitle: Otherwise Known as the 4th Horsewoman of The Feminist Apocalypse
I've been composing this entry in my mind for a while now. I didn't know what it was about her, but something about Ms. Perry just rubbed me the wrong way from the start. So the more I looked at her, the more I came to realize that she is an embodiment of everything that is wrong with women in the media. Ok, maybe not everything...but certainly a lot of things.
Let's take a look at her first super-mega hit single "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It." I've had a few discussions with Myranda about this song, because as characteristic examples of feminism, we had different ways of viewing it. She saw it as an empowering song, along the lines of experimentation, finding who you truly are, and possibly coming out. She saw the song as making themes like these are more commonplace in society, and therefore an ultimately good thing for equality and the safety of homosexuals. (Did I get that right, I don't really remember the conversation in detail, Myranda.)
I can see the merits of this view, but I think it is making the song out to be something more than it is. I think it is anything but liberating. To put it simply, I think it reduces women to the bisexual play things of men. Let me reference some excerpts of her *artistically beautiful* lyrics.
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
No I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
I selected these verses to hit at a few points. First, to my claim that it's not about coming out or realizing something about herself...she still has a boyfriend, and indicates no intention of leaving him. She doesn't know the girl's name, and she says it's not love, so it's not as if we are meant to believe anything real will come of this. And lastly, it really is just about being flirty and slutty, and making "bad decisions" while drinking.
This, right here, is a prime example of the type of media messages that prompt a group of SIXTH GRADE GIRLS to tell me that boys want them to be bisexual (not just straight or gay) and to drink or smoke pot. That's a real story friends, that's what I heard when I asked them what "boxes" boys try to put them in. (FYI: When you are in 6th grade you're usually 12).
Now, as if this wasn't bad enough Ms. Perry has come out with a new mentally stimulating follow up song which opens with:
You change your mind
Like a girl changes clothes
Yeah you, PMS
Like a bitch
I would know
GREAT! I've got an idea, let's all play into stereotypes that women have been trying to fight for years. Sounds good, huh? Here's a little secret out there for all the sexists in the world: The best way to continue oppression is to get the oppressed to play a role in their subjugation. Now, I know I'm throwing around some pretty strong words for a silly little song like this, but it just makes me sick to see this kind of thing. How can we expect men to strop rapping about bitches and hos when we are calling ourselves the same thing? And don't give me the whole "in-group" argument this time! Nothing makes me sicker than imagining little girls...MY girls singing the opening lines of this song and it soaking into their brains that girls are just supposed t be obsessed with clothes and that any time we act "bitchy" (read: standing up for ourselves) we must be PMS'ing.
The problem is what Katy Perry represents. It goes beyond her, and she is certainly not the first nor will she be the last. The formula is the same, the face and name are different. You could probably name a hundred women right now who have gained some level of celebrity due CHIEFLY to their looks (and often their willingness to play the game--ie. wear a little as possible) as opposed to being recognize for any amount of talent they may have. (As talent is often lacking in them, while less attractive powerhouses of song, dance, acting, etc. are overlooked.)
The other problem with Katy Perry and the others like her is their prevalence. We often ask in our program "Redefining Beauty" for the girls to name as many famous female singers, actresses, and models as they can, which is simple. Then to name as many famous female doctors, scientists, and judges as they can, and this part is very difficult for them to do, if not impossible. I mean, think back to this summer/fall. How many times did you hear about a famous female mathematician? Then, how many times did you hear "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It"? You couldn't escape it! And let's be damn honest here, her songs are catchy! Despite her lack of vocal talent, they're toe-tappers. You can't deny it. But the point is that society rewards women like Katy Perry with media exposure and denies the same to women like Mary Edwards Walker. (Look her up.) And without a counter voice to challenge girls to think beyond the boxes that society tries to place them in (like the prototypical bitch vs. slut dichotomy) the world would be a very sad and scary place for us all. So while my subtitle was very ominous, I don't actually believe we are at the death of feminism...Rather far from it. Women like Katy Perry give women like me the drive to keep speaking out and writing ignorantly long posts.