Gaga Feminism: Possibilities and Limitations

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.

Pink is a Gender?

After watching Paris is Burning in this class, I was able to take on a new perspective about gender roles and how they plan out in each individual’s life.  Rachael brought up something I have never thought about before, the overlooked ridiculousness of gender themes parties.  We all have seen one of these gender reveal videos on Facebook that is adorable, but reduces the babies entire identity down to a single color (blue or pink, shocker).  This made me think more about the roles gender plays in my own life and how it shouldn’t be accepted to reduce my identity down to just my gender from birth.  This idea reminded me of a video from BuzzFeed that I watched last semester.  This video was titled Childhood Gender Roles in Adult Life. Simply from the title it is obvious what this video consisted of, a lot of pink, blue, and stereotypical “boy/girl” things.  Essentially this videos purpose was to make fun of the gender norms we place on children (who have had no say in this identity given to them) and how it would be considered ridiculous as adults.  I have always admired BuzzFeed as a company because I believe they do a good job at creating quality content, while putting different (sometimes controversial) ideas into perspective.  There is a market designed specifically “for women” or “for men” products on things like pens and tape that have no gender specific role what-so-ever.  While, this video isn’t necessarily directing any change for companies or people, it is a (small) step in the right direction to start the topic of not assigning specific gender roles to children.  I highly recommend checking out this video and others like it that BuzzFeed has to offer that can give perspective on important topics.

Quare and RuPaul

I’ve talked on this blog several times before about RuPaul and her career, and here I am to do it again, because when it comes to a sexuality and gender studies class, she is almost always relevant. Quare is used to define the experience of specifically queer people of color, and the RuPaul is certainly one of the most prevalent quare figures. Probably the second most popular aside from Laverne Cox. RuPaul, since the 1980’s has RuPbeen a fixture in the pop culture scene, and continues to remain relevant more than 30 years after her rise to stardom. She’s written two books, made a movie, has had two television shows, and has been featured in countless other films and television programs. Due to her massive success and marketing savvy, she has built a brand and empire larger than anyone, including herself, ever expected.

However, RuPaul has stated before that she does not like to be grouped in with the mainstream media, because she believes that the art of drag, in and of itself, is used to make fun of mainstream media. So in a world where she and her show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, are nominated for and win an Emmy, where does she draw the line on remaining separate from mainstream media. RuPaul continued to assimilate herself with pop culture with the recent move of RuPaul’s Drag Race from Logo, a notably queer (and also notably unsuccessful channel, other than her show) network, to VH1, a network that is considered by many to be mainstream.

While I firmly believe that it is a good thing that a quare individual like RuPaul, as well as all of the queer and quare queens who go through her show, are given a larger platform to show their talents, is drag losing its bite as a result? Is there room for drag in pop culture?