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.