April 12, 2010

Feminism, Sex and Lady Gaga

Yes, I was disappointed with Lady Gaga’s interview with the Norwegian press. It left me confused. Lady Gaga  is vocal on the ancient and persistent sexual double-standard that promotes male sexuality and suppresses female sexuality. She marches for gay rights. How could she deny being a feminist? Huh?

But, that confusion and disappointment has turned around for several reasons.

I was happy to recently read that she dropped the f-word to the LA Times and self-identified as a bit of a budding feminist as a reflection of her status as an  ever-evolving woman. Super cool. Like Noelle Williams, author of the article that revealed Gaga’s new affinity for the feminist label, I believe this young, dynamic and out-spoken woman has the ability to shift the young public’s perception of feminism and feminists. The bottom line is, Gaga has the power to influence.

That’s why her recent comments to the Daily Mail got me excited. She was talking about sex, safe sex, conscious sex. What’s not to get excited about?

She started by commenting on the rate of HIV infections among women:

‘The rate of infection worldwide is higher than ever for women in our particular demographic,’ says Gaga. ‘Those most at risk are women in my age bracket, 17 to 24 [she is 24], and Cyndi’s, which is 38 to 60 [Cyndi is 56]. Part of the problem is that women in those groups are not getting tested. Here in the UK, for example, the statistics are that 73 per cent of women have not been tested for HIV. This is a disease that affects everyone, not just the gay community, and right now it’s mostly affecting women.’

The bottom line? Protect yourself. Don’t let someone convince you not to use a condom. Many young heterosexual women don’t use condoms because they fear disapproval or rejection from the men they want to be with. And that compromises their safety and health. What a positive and powerful message to send to young women in a culture saturated with endless sexually explicit images and messages (and simultaneously disempowers women, encouraging them to be silent).

I was equally excited to read her statement on sex, celibacy and a woman’s right to choose to be sexual or not:

What it’s about, she concludes, is having the confidence to stick to your guns. ‘I remember the cool girls when I was growing up. Everyone started to have sex. But it’s not really cool any more to have sex all the time. It’s cooler to be strong and independent.’

Incredible! Thank you, Gaga. Thank you for using the spotlight to relay intelligent and important messages on timely and pertinent issues.

“It’s cooler to be strong and independent.”

YES! How often do young girls and women hear that? Not that often in our pop culture arena. There have been scores of articles reporting on the increase of oral sex and intercourse among tweens. Many of my students are TA’s in elementary and middle school and they’ve had first hand experience with 12 year-old girls performing oral sex for tween boys.  One student told me he walked in on his friend’s little sister giving her male friend a lap dance. When they asked her what she was doing she replied, “playing MTV.” She was 9 at the time.

Sex and feminism have had an ever-changing relationship. Pro-sex feminism was a response to the critique of pornography and female objectification made by anti-pornography feminists such as the group W.A.P, Women Against Pornography. Feminists since the new millennium have been quick to point out that, yeah, enjoy your sexuality but don’t rest your sole sense of empowerment on sex. I won’t tackle that entire issue here. I just want to point out that Gaga’s statement on sex, the decision not to have sex, to feel empowered to make conscious decisions for yourself is totally feminist and totally awesome. It’s also very much needed as a counter to the ceaseless and confusing messages about sex that bombard young women today. Thank you, Lady Gaga.


  1. I love the Lady. I am ga ga for the Gaga. I believe that if we could realize and remember that she is a performance artist first; she is dazzling, deep, clever and feisty. Then you come to know that she can sing and understands music. That is just a collision of art.
    Many years ago, there was a women’s building that had an art show and a woman walked on stage and ironed some men’s dress shirts without saying one single word. The women who saw that performance have never forgotten it. Performance leaves an imprint.
    Lauper, Madonna, O’Connor and , now, Badu are so rich in meaning and spend it lavishly. Gaga is a new and worthy member in this sorority. I am a fan of them all.

    Comment by Zoe Nicholson — April 12, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Zoe. Thanks.

    Comment by Melanie — April 12, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

  3. The ultimate level of empowerment… freedom… is the realization that there is no “pressure” other than what we allow ourselves. Every day I’m trying so hard not to abuse myself… mentally, emotionally, physically… when I stop and ask myself why I’m doing it, I realize I AM trying to be something/ someone that others’ opinions are trying to convince me is “acceptable”… meaning “lovable.” If I love myself, am I not lovable? I am not SEX… my sexuality is for MY enjoyment when and how I choose (which in return makes the experience enjoyable for my partner.) If I’m self-abusive or demeaning, my sexuality will manifest as such… So I’m striving to be fulfilled… FREE… knowing it is my choice who, when… how and why… However, if I’m not aware of my freedom already… aware of my value… sex simply becomes a never-ending quest of self-fulfillment. If I already know I am fulfilled… it becomes an addition and an amazing experience… the “icing on the cake” so to speak 🙂 What a beautiful state of being…. to not feel like I HAVE to be anything… but to simply WANT to be and enjoy… because you already ARE. 🙂 My own journey continues… I’ll get there… I <3 GAGA!!!

    Comment by Krista — April 12, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

  4. Thank you Melanie for giving this fyi on Lady Gaga, I admire and solidly respect her work as a professional artist, Lady Gaga is full passion. Women, especially young ladies need to hear from highly publicized women in the media , our power and right to have safe sex and decline if decided. Men do not have the power women do in sex.

    Comment by Cristina Fraga — April 13, 2010 @ 12:16 am

  5. This makes me so happy to read. I wonder if someone who knows her saw that Norwegian interview and gave her the facts, re: feminism. She is awesome, and amazing, and I just wish all pop culture icons could be even half as cool/great as her.

    Comment by Rachel — April 13, 2010 @ 9:24 am

  6. I’m happy, too. I look forward to seeing what else the future holds for feminism and feminist consciousness as a result of Gaga’s presence in the mainstream.

    Comment by Melanie — April 13, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  7. Daddy Gaga is a disgrace from reality. What he says and what he does are two different things. The reason he got a sex change was in fact that he was abusing children and in order to avoid prosecution he changed his sex. He even displayed his genitalia on stage a few times before his sex change. He is a vile liar and a hypocrite. He could not handle the truth about his abusing little children so he had a sex change and now “She” is no longer suspect despite the underground reports of what he is still doing. I hate people like “Gaga” who claim one thing yet perform the opposite behind closed doors. Anyone who believes that sex-changed baby banger should have their head examined.

    Comment by Donna — February 12, 2012 @ 8:02 am

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