Monday, August 27, 2012

Thinking About Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga in Vienna earlier this month
I've been reading Caitlin Moran's book, How To Be A Woman, as recommended by my friend Meghan. It's super entertaining and I'll be posting a review of it soon. In the meantime, I read a passage last night in which has been stuck in my mind and helped me, perhaps, finally reconcile my relationship with one Ms. Lady Gaga.
Moran, who was hanging out with Gaga in a sex club for a piece about the pop star writes,

"Even though you wear very little clothing," I said slightly primly, gesturing to Gaga's bra and thong, "you're not doing all this as a...prick-tease, are you?"
"No!" Gaga replied, with a big, drunken beam. "It's not what straight men masturbate over when they're at home watching pornography. It's not for them. It's"
And she gestured about the nightclub, filled to the brim with biker-boy lesbians and drag queens.
Because Gaga is not there to be fucked...she's not singing these songs in order to get laid, or give the impression she wants to. She wishes to disrupt and disturb...

This really got my wheels turning. 

Of course, Lady Gaga's feminism has long been an online discussion and I'm hardly the first to think about it. In fact, it seems like there was a time in 2009-2010 when every other day I was reading some feminist blog or another covering Gaga's latest statement, latest video, or latest outfit and analyzing it to death. While some were critical of her for being reflective of conventional beauty (thin, blonde, white, and "sexy") others were praising her for challenging traditional gender roles, unapologetically speaking her mind, and being an out bisexual. 

In fact, I remember entire online debates raging between competing feminist theories of the symbolism in the videos of Bad Romance, Judas, and Telephone. While I was marginally interested in the discussion (because I just like pop culture in general) I didn't really connect to Lady Gaga as a feminist musician. Traditionally, I've been more inclined to write about Rihanna and/or criticize misogynistic male musicians. I knew what Lady Gaga was doing was unusual, and I liked her songs in a general way, but I'm not sure that I really "got" what she was (is) doing.

Lady Gaga in four of her notoriously extravagant outfits.
That is until I read that passage in Moran's book. The full extent of Lady Gaga's subversion hit me. And I started to think about her statement in the context of my life. Are the straight men I know fawning over Lady Gaga's sexiness? No--in fact, I most often hear them talking trash about her: She's weird; she tries too hard; she's gross. But that's just it. She's not for them and she doesn't want to be. (It's not like there's a shortage of women musicians who are...) The people I know who do love her often find comfort in her because she is a representative of the counterculture. As Moran writes, "...Gaga is an international female pop star on the side of all the nerds, freaks, outcasts..." She concludes later, "Ultimately, I think it's going to be very difficult to oppress a generation of teenage girls who've grown up with a liberal, literate, bisexual pop star..."

I'm not so sure that I'm ready to hail Gaga as the harbinger of female liberation. It'll take a lot more than meat dresses, big sunglasses, and blue hair to change our deeply held misogyny, but I can admit that I'm really glad Stefani Germanotta is on our team.


  1. I agree with everything you wrote and I'm a huge fan of Gaga's music BUT... It really bothers me how obsessed she is with being skinny. I've read many, many quotes and interviews that reflect her unhealthy level of obsession with staying thin.

    1. You are totally right. I probably should have written more about this part of her because I think she's pretty transparent about it and it's certainly a problem. But my train of thought when I was writing didn't take me there, so thank you for the reminder.

      I remember reading about how she went to unhealthy lengths to lose weight to become a pop star in the first place and there's her famous "pop stars don't eat" tweet.


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