When thinking about celebrities and how they need to do their role in the fight for equality for all peoples, I typically think of new fresh faced celebrities, ones who are still in pop culture and people who the younger generation would call relevant. Not until reading Halberstam’s “Gaga Manifesto” did i start to think about it differently.
Halberstam called fro not going along with the present day way of going with things but rather called for a total upheaval, anarchy in a sense, a complete overturn of the way things are done, and brought up examples of celebrities who have not stood silent while injustices have occurred. First calling out Lady Gaga and her “Monster Manifesto” calling for change, Halberstam then lists numerous other names, from Gwen Stefani, to Yoko Ono.
By having such a vast array of pop celebrities in the argument, Halberstam proves that this is just not a current issue, that the call for an anarchist form of feminism has been on the table for many years and does not seem to be leaving anytime soon. Though it is disheartening in the sense that the fight has been a uphill battle for such a long period of time, it also instills hope in the sense that people have yet to give up on the fight.
Halberstam’s “Gaga Manifesto” laid out a series of promising liberatory possibilities outside of traditional institutional frameworks, but swept away the very real issue presented by the lack of directed vision in social movements without really addressing it in-depth.
I agreed with the piece’s rejection of the emphasis many modern social justice movements place on working withing existing institutional systems, and Halberstam’s allusions to new, more anarchic methods of organization struck me as prudent. Oftentimes, movements become so caught up in attempting to change things from within that they fail to see that they are becoming a part of the systems they hate and strengthening those systems’ legitimacy in the process. The university provides one such example, where, by allowing for limited forms of classroom-based dissent providing places for activists within the faculty, rich investors are able to harvest tuition from a larger, more diverse student crowd while strengthening the image of academia as a place of lively, enlightened debate. Thus, universities come to be considered progressive despite their role in exacerbating class and race divides—as a demonstration, next time you’re at the dining hall, take a look at the students ordering the food and the people serving it.
Unfortunately, Halberstam seems to fall prey to the same problem he critiques, as he goes on to name his new brand of feminism “Gaga feminism” after a woman who has a net worth of approximately $275 million and who, far from being an outsider, fits neatly in amongst the most finely groomed elites in Hollywood. Gaga’s deviance is performance, a temporary departure from normality that fades with the lights of the stage. This, also, is what Halberstam misses in his critique of Slavoj Žižek’s rebuke of Occupy Wall Street: Žižek desires societal change just as much as Halberstam, but he recognizes the futility of a movement content to waver aimlessly outside the castle gates. No matter how “revolutionary” the moment may feel, eventually the police will come calling with their guns and their tasers and their riot shields to make sure everyone finds their way back home. Žižek is calling for a greater revolution, not a lesser one.
Halberstam’s piece opens up many interesting avenues of discussion, but ultimately fails to pursue them in favor of a politics centered literally on “failure.” The worst thing to lack in a world spiraling towards disaster is a plan.
I was really intrigued by the Gaga Manifesto reading. It really forced me to re-evaluate my own thinking. How extreme and radical should our ideas of feminism be? How much of the system really needs to be replaced? I think that these are important questions to continue to ask ourselves. Putting women in power may not solve structural problems that our society faces. When we look at issues of class or race they may not be addressed by putting more women in leadership. We might not see women addressing larger issues of gender either. How can we start to insure that we are able to address all of these issues? Is our system salvageable or should it be completely re-written? I’m still not totally sure how this would even really be done and it is definitely something that I have been thinking about a lot lately.
Ever since Lady Gaga has been in the spotlight she is known to shape her career outside the box. From her creative and unique outfits on both the red carpets and in music videos to her songs expressing positive energy that it’s ok to be different. She is proving to society that there isn’t one set way everyone has to act in order to fit in but rather that she was “born this way”. Gaga even admitted that this song was “inspired by empowering music from the 90’s for women and the gay community.” Halberstam points out that when Gaga performs in her crazy costumes she is opening up a new world for the younger generation. She is paving the way for young children to prove that it’s ok to have your own special twist on anything you want to do. Not only is Gaga inspiring the feminist/LGBT community but also so many other singers are relating their songs to embrace ones inner powerful feminism. Demi Lovato another well-known singer includes her feminist stand in multiple of her songs. Her song “Confident” is all about loving yourself the way you are. I personally think that she’s doing a great job with finding herself and now has a control on her life and owns it. Not only that but like Gaga she also wears what she wants and doesn’t let the negative energy stop her on how she wants to represent herself.
Since her start as a performance artist and singer, Lady Gaga has been extremely outspoken through her music and concerts about her support for LGBTQ equality. She tends to stray away from society’s “norm” by the way she looks, acts, and dresses. She has so much influential power because of her fame, so she decides to use that power to express herself and to help others feel comfortable expressing themselves as well. She even said that “I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.” For example, she was the first singer to reference the LGBTQ at the Super Bowl half time show. She has also participated in multiple equality marches. It has been her goal to get people talking and to feel more comfortable with the entire community, especially since Lady Gaga herself has come out as bisexual. She wants men and women to be able to dress and act however they desire without feeling judged by people. This is why she wears outrageous outfits, because she wants to show people it is okay to be different and it can be accepted. She is one of many celebrities who use their fame as a way to try to make a difference particularly in the LGBTQ community. Jack Halberstam’s focuses on Gaga Feminism because Lady Gaga does a good job at embodying ideas of sex and gender and breaking away from society’s fixed roles that men and women are supposed to have. Lady Gaga resists being put in a bubble or a category. She does whatever she feels like and she has zero shame. This is why she has such a strong fan base and support system behind her and why Halberstam chooses her to help better represent and explain feminism, sex, and gender.
Philips and Reay’s Sex before Sexuality was interesting to me especially because of the opening paragraph with the subversion of the male seducer trope. Men are expected to be the ones that chase and dominate women, not the other way around. I’m not totally familiar with the history of Adam and Eve (except for the small discussion we had in class) but I am familiar with women being put into categories such as the prude, the temptress (or the ‘slut’ since temptress seems a bit outdated), etc. If you don’t belong in one of the categories, then you obviously belong in the other. It’s black and white without any type of gray area. If a woman has sex outside of marriage, she’s considered to be less ‘pure’. I remember talking about a similar topic in another one of my classes where we discussed Prosper Mérimée’s work. He believed all women to be the daughters of Eve; that they were there to lead men to temptation. This connects back to the idea of the image we get in the first paragraph in which men are the more pure sex and women are dirty, less than. Men are allowed to be sexual without repercussions but there is a stigma against women for doing the same. This also can be tied back to the other essay, Goldberg’s “The Utterly Confused Category” and the idea of policing sex acts. The ‘temptress’ trope is often used to pit the ‘pure’ girl against the ‘impure’ one and judge women based off of their sexual history. I think these two essays have a few similarities that would be interesting to point out and discuss. Sex is a slightly controversial topic and yet it’s very prevalent in the media, especially when it comes to television shows and movies. It’s odd how, as a nation, we seem obsessed with sex and still cannot have proper, open conversations about it.
During class this week, we talked about Goldberg’s reading and how sodomy is associated with homosexuality. I see how it may be associated with homosexuals because it is a non-repoductive act, but in no way shape or form does it mean it excludes heterosexuals as well. Sodomy is made out to be this horrific action that only same sex relationships participate in. By definition, sodomy is “sexual intercourse involving anal or oral copulation.” Just by reading this definition I do not seem to understand why society makes it out to be such a “bad” thing to do. I mean if you really think about it, mostly everyone joins in on some version of sodomy in their partner relationships, whether same sex or not, at one point or another. Oral/anal sexual intercourse should not be looked at as a corrupt action… it is simply a part of sexual intercourse as a whole. Just because sodomy does not result in actual reproduction does not mean it should be automatically connected to homosexuality. Chances are heterosexuals are participating in sodomy just as much as homosexuals are. Once again, we see society falling into the binary norms and judging homosexuals for joining in sodomy. It is safe to say that basically everyone has or had oral/anal sex at least once in their life. For some it may not be their “cup of tea”, but for the most part, everyone around us has taken a part in some sort of sodomy as much as the next person does.
While all of the readings in this class have been interesting to say the least—the writing that sticks with me most is Audre Lorde’s “Age, Race, Sex and Class.” Out of all the authors, Lorde’s background is the one I identify with most. She covered a lot of topics in this publication and criticized society for things I am guilty myself of. Specifically, I am referring to the part of her essay where she suggests that those who are outsiders, typically harbor resentment towards individuals who fall outside of the “mythical norm” in opposite ways. This message stands out to me, and I see this type of behavior throughout the day in life and extensively on social media. From the impoverished people who don’t like gays to the immigrant who says racists things, or the gay guy who looks down on those who are uneducated. This behavior is unsettling, and as Lorde put it, those who have been oppressed will not escape their status by demeaning other groups of oppressed people.
There as so few people who fit perfectly into these ideal standards—young, straight, educated, white, attractive, financially secure, Christian male. Yet, at some point in everyone’s life it is so tempting to try to align his or herself with them. While the few individuals who do fit perfectly, or almost perfectly, into these categories he or she is not inherently bad or evil. Still as history has shown us, people who benefit from the oppression of others will do everything in their power to continue to reap the rewards. Truly the oppressors have won by turning minorities against each other—they taught us to hate ourselves and to hate our differences. The solution to this dilemma is to accept everyone, and together minorities can create an unstoppable force against inequality. As simple as this sounds, I could not imagine in a thousand years that such a thing could ever occur. Hate is immensely powerful and it’s everywhere, as so is fear and insecurity. In small groups people can get along, but we have yet to find a way to do so on a large scale.
As pessimistic as I may sound, this is my perspective of society. From incidents I’ve witnessed, and experiences I’ve lived through, and from reading Audre Lorde’s take on this thirty years ago and realizing how much it still applies to our world now.
Fitting into the societal expectations of what is masculine and feminine is something that many people are constantly trying to do. In some point or another in someone’s life, some type of interest, hobby, or activity will challenge someones perception of masculine or feminine and have to question if a particular gendered practice is accepted by society.
Countless examples exist whereas men should’t dance, and women can’t have any interest in cars. Halberstein’s work, Female Masculinity addresses the fact that masculinity and femininity are not so black and white. A girl which possesses or acts on masculine traits is considered to be employing Female Masculinity. For example, an interesting analysis on tomboys is made in this work. Any masculine traits that pass beyond the stages of puberty for girls pushes into the territory of Tomboys. Personally, I didn’t encounter too many tomboys, but I did know boys that would be more effeminate as we aged. I’m not sure if there’s really a name for these types of boys that is similar to Tomboy, but I feel like this is a prime example of how society is more accepting of masculinity. A Tomboy is a pretty well-regarded term, that doesn’t have too much of a negative implication, but when female traits are shown in a young boy, it’s more common for offensive and crude words to be used (I’m sure many example can come to mind.) I remember growing up, singing karaoke was a big family activity. Some of my favorite songs were Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” and the classic “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. When I was maybe 7 or 8 I was singing one of these songs when one of my uncles taunted me about how girly the act was. I remember being upset and not wanting to sing around my family much thereafter. So it makes me wonder about the flip side of Female Masculinity, where a young boy could be more feminine than society expects. Fitting into the expectations of masculinity and femininity is fairly hindering.
A reading that I thought was really interesting was Jack Halberstam’s Female Masculinity, more specifically “The Bathroom Problem.” This stuck out to me because it brought up questions I never thought about like how a transgender person has so much trouble using the bathroom. Something that for me I never even have to think about which bathroom I am going to use. It can be confusing if a transgender woman who still has masculine features is trying to use the bathroom. Or even a lesbian woman who appears very masculine; or a person who does not identify as a male or a female. The bathroom is something that for some reason many people take very seriously and insist on separate bathrooms for women and men. Especially today with Trump trying to remove Obama’s protections for transgender student bathrooms and facilities in public schools. He is trying to tamper with state laws, which will remove transgender equality in bathrooms. It is nice to see that many bathrooms at the University of Delaware are for all genders or are gender neutral. I do not understand why there even is a bathroom problem. It should not matter which bathroom anyone decides to use. A transgender man or woman should not be afraid to use the bathroom at school because of the risk of not fitting in or getting bullied. The bathroom should not be a dangerous place for people. Society needs to realize that there should not be a “bathroom problem” because using the bathroom should not be a problem for people who identify as different genders or no gender at all.