Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Reading: Gaga, Feminism, and Bad Faith

Lady-Gaga-jet-2 I am fascinated by Lady Gaga. Let me refine that: I am fascinated by Lady Gaga’s phenomenon.

I can’t explain why a girl my age born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta should garner worldwide acclaim by donning crazy outfits, singing in three different genres at once, and claiming to critique objectification while simultaneously allowing herself to be the subject of intense objectification.

Is she a musical mastermind? Or a performance artist with a commitment level to rival the late Andy Kaufman?

In a recent New York Times Opinionator column, Tufts University Philosophy Chair and author Nancy Bauer revisits the question: is Lady Gaga a feminist?

After addressing Gaga’s own wishy-washiness on the subject, Bauer examines the potential impact of the performer’s mixed messages:

“The tension in Gaga’s self-presentation, far from being idiosyncratic or self-contradictory, epitomizes the situation of a certain class of comfortably affluent young women today…Gaga is explicit in her insistence that, since feminine sexuality is a social construct, anyone, even a man who’s willing to buck gender norms, can wield it.”

Bauer goes on to posit that Gaga’s “Don’t worry about my crazy sexuality, it’s all an act” narrative is gaining widespread adoption among young women. She then invokes Beauvoir, Sartre, and Hegel in an exploration of Gaga’s supposed duality and wonders if girls can even find the dividing line – or care to.

Full disclosure: I’m a dude. I can’t begin to fully comprehend the societal pressures at play here. But I can be fascinated by them.