JPMS Online: POP/IASPM-US Sounds of the City Issue, Jack Halberstam

by justindburton on November 26, 2012

Going Gaga: Scream, Shout, Lose Control

Jack Halberstam

After last March’s POP/IASPM-US joint conference, Sounds of the City, a collaborative project was hatched to feature the work presented at that conference in both print and online versions. This collaboration pulls in the Journal of Popular Music Studies (Karen Tongson and Gustavus Stadler), the EMP Museum (Eric Weisbard, also on the IASPM-US executive committee), and IASPM-US (Anthony Kwame Harrison, also on the JPMS editorial collective, and Justin D Burton). A print version of JPMS appearing in Fall 2012 (24:3) features eight essays from the conference, and we’ve selected several more to publish on the IASPM-US website this fall. So enjoy the reverberations of a spectacular March weekend in New York, and don’t forget about the 2013 conferences for IASPM-US and EMP’s POP.

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THE AGE OF GAGA

I want to propose that we have much to learn from pondering the world of Gaga, the fame monster who is positively Warholesque in her love of attention and absolutely masterful in her use of celebrity, fashion, and gender ambiguity, to craft and transmit multiple messages about new matrices of race, class, gender, and sexuality and even about the meaning of the human. Some of these forms of being arise out of creative uses of the platform offered by celebrity, others arise out of wild relations to a series of lively objects, but ultimately being Gaga means being phony, pheminine, and pheminist. Post-structural feminism by way of Butler, Spivak and others, posits the impossibility of an essential subject of feminism and in fact deconstructs versions of feminism that require such a subject in the first place. Butler demolished French feminism and its rather stodgy reliance on maternal figurations of woman; and Spivak took aim at a liberal feminism that easily aligns with colonialism and imperialism in its quest to “save brown women from brown men.” In general, post-structuralism released feminism from a double bind within which “woman” was both a social construction and an essential vessel of moral superiority. But once we had deconstructed feminism, there was not much left in the way of an exciting political and cultural project, and new generations of young people quickly dropped the ball and ran off to more hip and interesting territories. But then came Gaga. Now, what I am calling Gaga here certainly derives from Lady Gaga and has everything to do with Lady Gaga but is not limited to Lady Gaga. Just as Andy Warhol was a channel for a set of new relations between culture, visibility, marketability and queerness, so the genius of Gaga allows Lady Gaga to become the vehicle for performing the very particular arrangement of bodies, genders, desires, communication, race, affect, and flow.

Gaga Feminism, or the Feminism of the phony, the unreal and the speculative, is simultaneously a monstrous outgrowth of the deconstruction of woman in feminist theory, a celebration of the joining of femininity to artifice, and a refusal of the mushy sentimentalism that has been siphoned into the category of womanhood. This is not necessarily a brand new feminism, and Lady Gaga herself is certainly not an architect of a new gender politics. Rather, there is some relation in her work between popular culture, feminine style, sound, and motion that hints at evolving forms of sex and gender at a moment when both are in crisis. Lady Gaga, as both a media product and a media manipulator, as a megabrand of sorts, becomes the switch point for both kinds of body futures – she represents both an erotics of the surface and an erotics of flaws and flows, and she is situated very self consciously at the heart of new forms of consumer capitalism.

I want to point here today to performances of the erotic that link new forms of feminism, “gaga feminism,” to innovative deployments of femininity through erotic performances characterized by their excess, their ecstatic embrace of loss of control, and a maverick sense of bodily identity. I will call the aesthetic categories that interest me: punk aesthetics, anarchist feminism, and the practice of going gaga. This talk will proceed in 3 sections. In the first, “Going Gaga,” I suggest that Lady Gaga is a wild eruption of new systems of gender/sex and a symptom of the death of old ones. In “Losing Control,” I argue that a certain version of feminism that I call “gaga feminism” dates back to the seventies and involves the practice of certain forms of masochistic abandon that I examine in relation to Grace Jones, SKA performers, and punk. And in the final section, “Come Alive,” I try to think about the future of wild embodiment that Gaga points to but that perhaps comes to fruition in other more edgy performers.

Throughout my talk I will be referring to a new form of feminism, one that I variously call “shadow feminism” or “gaga feminism” and that references a convention not of “becoming woman” but of “unbecoming woman.” Turning back to 1970’s performance art by Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovich, and others as well as early hybrids of punk and reggae voiced by Grace Jones most notably, but also by Poly Styrene, Annbelle Nwin, Rhoda Dakar, Lena Lovich, and Nina Hagen, I tie a counter-intuitive version of feminism to feminist performance and art that revolves around the dismantling of dominant femininities, the deconstruction of the male-female binary, and the refusal of resistant female bodies to be or to become “woman.” While most conventional histories of feminism are content to trace out waves of feminist thought and action that develop along the lines of social movements histories, that are located in decades of action and legislation and that emerge within or between different ethnic communities of women, I chart a very different genealogy of feminism, one that lies in the shadows of history slowly un-writing itself, unraveling the categories which have been assigned to it and unbecoming the very subject around which such histories are supposed to take form. At the heart of the shadow feminism I will be tracing today lies one of the twenty-first century’s biggest stars, Lady Gaga. In relation to Lady Gaga I will be asking what versions of feminism are channeled by and through her? What configurations of visibility, eroticism, and femininity are arranged within her carefully managed persona? And finally, what earlier traditions of counter-chronological feminist performance speak through and with her?


1. Going Gaga

When Lady Gaga first emerged as a full-fledged pop star in 2008 with the release of her album The Fame, she promised to be little more than a version of Madonna, a flash in the pan and an attention junky. But as Fame tipped into Fame Monster and as “Poker Face” gave way to “Bad Romance,” it became obvious that Gaga was more than just another blond, white, Catholic pop idol. Taking celebrity as her canvas from the get go and working the thin seam between pop, performance, punk, avant-garde, and blockbuster visibility, Lady Gaga has become an evolving symbol of the clash between an erotics of fame and a post-punk critique of glamour and exposure. Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, is more than Madonna’s twin and is better understood in relation to a whole history of glam-punk performance artists from David Bowie to Grace Jones, from Yoko Ono to Queen. Like Bowie, Gaga creates fantastical personae (Ziggy Stardust style), and like Grace Jones, she performs selfhood through a series of outrageous costumes. Like Yoko Ono, Gaga embraces pop while providing a clearly avant-garde take on it, and like Queen, Lady Gaga performs in shows that are operatic in dimension and affective range.

In 2009, Lady Gaga performed at the Glastonbury festival in England and rumors about genital ambiguity quickly began to fly after she had flashed the audience while swinging her legs off an on-stage moped. Media hounds claimed to have seen a “bulge” in her underwear and before you could say “paparazzi,” the news went viral that Lady Gaga was hermaphroditic. Fake interviews were circulated in which Lady Gaga supposedly admitted that she had both male and female bits and Gaga’s gender was nervously debated all over the internet. It seemed as if Gaga would become better known for her supposed genital ambiguity than her incisive songs about corrupting fame and her wild performances. However, like Bowie and Grace Jones before her, both of whom also generated anxious rumors about sex and gender ambiguity, Lady Gaga turned the rumors to her advantage and used them as an excuse to open up a dialogue about non normative desires.

Rather than debate the authentic nature of either Lady Gaga’s embodiment or her desires (there were many rumors also of bisexuality), we can read the debates about Gaga’s sexed body as indicative of a shift in the meaning of sex, gender, and the erotic. New affiliations between bodies, sex, and power remind us that the categories of being that seemed to specify and define human nature over one hundred years ago have quickly become rather inadequate placeholders for identity. While male and female are categories crumbling under the weight of revision, institutions like marriage are similarly taking on water and slowly sinking into the morass of spoiled intimacies and forced nuclearity. The name Gaga, supposedly taken from the Queen song “Radio Gaga,” signifies the creative mayhem that has spread through our sex gender systems, and Lady Gaga herself occupies several sites of radical ambivalence and ambiguity and embodies these shifts in the meaning of desire. Refusing to deny the rumors about her own genital ambiguity in a phobic way, Gaga has said instead in an interview with Barbara Walters: “I portray myself in a very androgynous way and I love androgyny.” Like David Bowie, Lady Gaga cruises on her appeal to male and female fans, and like Grace Jones, she alters the meaning of feminine iconicity through refusing to operate within the rules of popular consumption that would freeze her through complex processes of fetishization.

The ambiguity that surrounds and even defines Lady Gaga—genital, musical, aesthetic—allows her to both question and revel in spectacular forms of femininity. In a post-feminist age when young women both benefit from and deny simultaneously leaps that have been engineered by feminism, we should explore carefully the new idioms of glamour and femininity as they appear within the performance-scape of Lady Gaga. Like Poly Styrene, Grace Jones, and Pauline Black and before her, Lady Gaga creates alter-egos, she syncs pop and punk sounds, and she mixes dance stutters into sonic hiccups to create a spasmodic femininity that lurches and jerks into action. She also confuses the boundaries between internal and external, both highlighting the ways in which girls are forced to see themselves always as “image” and contesting that image by reveling in a radical, Warholesque superficiality. Going gaga is not simply being Gaga, it is a journey to the edge of sense – Grace Jones goes gaga in her cover version of Joy Division’s “I’ve lost control,” and Poly Styrene went gaga on “Oh Bondage Up Yours.”  While masculine versions of going gaga take on heroic proportions in rock history (guitar smashing, stripping on stage, crowd diving), feminine ecstatic performance is read quickly as sexual excess, wardrobe malfunction, or psychological breakdown. In Lady Gaga, however, feminine performative excess finds a new performance horizon and hovers between madness, mayhem, and the dark side.

Let’s turn to a recent performance between Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono to think about the kinds of feminism that Lady Gaga actually engages and circulates, a dark feminism, a shadow feminism:

 

Yoko Ono’s 2009 album, Between My Head and the Sky features a collection of rather spunky songs with dark themes but a bouncy, new wave treatment. From this track “The Sun Is Down” to the final cut, a short statement set to a sparse percussion – “It’s Me, I’m Alive,” the 76 year old icon yelps, howls, and chants her way through a multi-genre journey to the dark side. “I’m going away smiling,” she sings in one of the saddest tracks on the album, “thank you for the memories, thank you for the love, I am going away this time, remember no tears.” Ono performed the whole album live with Lady Gaga: as we see in a wild duet with Lady Gaga, the point is not to mourn a life passed or an opportunity missed or the end of light, Ono and Gaga instead ride a cacophonous tide into a funky frenzy – “the sun is down, the sun is down, the sun is down, it’s getting so dark.” This dark duet, dark both in terms of its theme and in terms of the refusal of the forward momentum of the pop song, resonates through Yoko Ono’s own performance history, one marked by masochistic performances like “Cut Piece,” where she allows the audience to cut off her clothes or “Painting To Be Stepped On,” in which the audience marks up and in a way destroys her canvas, or “Hide and Seek Piece,” about which she wrote this in Grapefruit: “Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies.” It also sits comfortably alongside her early Jazz work with Ornette Coleman and John Cage, which is filled with screaming and vocal noise. But by performing this piece as a duet with Lady Gaga, Ono’s corpus, filled as it is with dark noise, circles of repetition, a resistance to sense making, speaks anew, and Lady Gaga’s media friendly, pop heavy orientation is quickly contaminated by the noisy riot of going gaga.

2) Losing Control

Lady Gaga, as we can see in the duet we just watched, does not emerge from a vacuum. She is in fact the last manifestation of a long line of feminine and queer performers who have used their time in the spotlight to highlight negative aesthetics, to demonstrate an anti-sentimental fascination with loss, lack, darkness, and wild performance and to dig into the intersections of punk and glamour to find songs of madness and mayhem. In “The Sun Is Down,” for example, Gaga and Ono wail at each other in a dark duet about decline and disruption, and they vocally encourage each other to find spaces of noise and disharmony even as they follow a clear and kind of funky arrhythmic beat. In this section, I want to go back to an early performance by Grace Jones that I believe provides the foundations for understanding Lady Gaga within the arc that I am calling shadow feminism.

The problem with building feminism around Lady Gaga of course inheres in her whiteness, her blondness, her position in a long line of blond, white divas who raid the coffers of African American music and then emerge as if self-made. But what if we place Lady Gaga within a different genealogy of female performers, one that stretches back to the often unacknowledged mix of punk and reggae? The history of punk as been all too often told as one of hetero white male fury, but this hides another history that links gender and sexuality to empire and racial politics and emerges as a kind of sonic chaos that links screams, yelps, and hiccups to a history of violation. This history can be tracked thru the mixed race female singers about whom Jayna Brown has written so eloquently – Annabella Lwin and Ari Up but also Rhoda Dakar, ska singer with the Bodysnatchers.

This sonic history inheres to the noises made by these female singers and the breakdowns they performed live and improvised as part of a feminist genealogy of punk sound. These narratives are what Brown calls “small stories,” narratives capable of linking blackness to punk for example, feminism to rage, politics to noise. Why are these other histories of punk so important? Because without them, punk becomes a rebellion without a cause, a boys club of heroic art school drop outs and another master narrative within which white guys play all the parts – the masters and the slaves, the business men and the slackers, the insiders and the outsiders. Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers, and Pauline Black of The Selector were much more than female lead singers: they were part of England’s colonial dreaming that comes back to haunt the metropole as traces of an otherwise unthinkable union of feminism, anti-colonial struggle, anti-racism and queerness. Poly Styrene’s open mouthed yell in “Oh Bondage, Up Yours,” is part of a call and response systems of yelps, cries, and, yes, screams, a cacophonous feminism that must be traced across this performance-scape. We hear the same scream in Rhoda Dakar’s rape song, “The Boiler,” in the collapsing voice at the heart of Grace Jones’ version of “I’ve Lost Control” and in Ari Up’s yelps in “Typical Girls.”

The Boiler: 1979.  A dark club in London. It’s Ska night and many bands, mostly male, have entertained the young and energetic crowd with bouncy songs of love and hope; multicultural songs of racial unity; songs about drugs, youth, pressure, politics, power. There’s a lull, a break in the action and a Ska girl-band takes the stage. At first, the party continues and the beat goes on. But then, everything changes as the lead singer begins to speak over a swirling beat with a melancholic bass-line and a dark rhythm.

Rhoda Dakar, who was then with the Bodysnatchers but who later performed with The Special AKA, raps over the rhythm guitar and tells an ordinary enough tale about going out shopping, cruising and spotting a good looking guy. So far, so straight; so far, so totally usual. Except that the song does not proceed in a straight line from attraction to contact to exchange. Instead, Rhoda tells us that she worries about being left on the shelf like “an old boiler.” “Boiler,” an unpleasant Britishism for a rejected older woman, likens the discarded female to a dysfunctional machine, an empty vessel. Fearful of this fate, Rhoda’s character in the song allows the guy to buy her clothes and accepts a date with the hunk later—from there, the song takes us into the dark night of date rape.

The actual rape in the song is elided by a long drawn out and very dissonant scream. I remember that scream well—it woke me up that night in the club and welcomed me to the other side of punk—a no place populated by different kinds of renegades: new immigrants, queers, women, and social misfits who are not well captured by the various histories of punk, the neatly organized genealogies that lead back to Malcolm McClaren, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and other punk boys. Those histories do not contain the punk moments like Rhoda’s scream, sonic disturbances that are part of what Fred Moten calls the black aesthetic and part of what I am now calling shadow feminism or gaga feminism.

When asked about the song in an interview, lead singer Rhoda Dakar marks “The Boiler” as the only original song by the short-lived Bodysnatchers and she says: “It came about because I was just talking over a riff in rehearsal. I didn’t know about writing songs, but I knew how to improvise – I had originally wanted to act and had worked in the theatre on leaving school. Performing it live was acting, that’s all. A friend had been raped a couple of years earlier and I suppose I was thinking of her at the time. Recording it was a very long and drawn out process. It was released a year after it was first recorded.” The record, a harrowing song despite the jaunty beat, was given no playtime on the radio and it soon faded away. The group broke up soon after the single’s release and Dakar only performed the song live later a few times as part of the reformed Specials, the Special AKA.

Improvisation then lies at the very heart of this song – Rhoda Dakar improvised it in its original form and she improvises the scream for every performance thereafter. A scream, almost by definition, can have no set musical score; and while Rhoda does repeat certain sounds and sequences in various performances of the song, for the most part, she lets loose at the end of the song for upwards of 2 minutes in a traumatizing and devastating scream of pain. While many Two Tone records had political content, and while some Two Tone bands like The Selector had female lead singers, no other band produced this kind of song and few performers could have brought off the live recreation of the song event. How do we understand this song of violation over the jaunty beat of ska? What was this song doing in the short repertoire of the Bodysnatchers whose other songs were simple cover versions like the Dandy Livingston’s “Do the Rock Steady” or Winston Francis’s “Too Experienced”? How can we situate this banned song of rape in relation to themes of racism and colonialism that made up the political backdrop to Two Tone records and Ska music in general? Finally, what do we make of this scream?

The two frameworks I am using here to think about these questions are: Fred Moten’s understanding of the Black aesthetic and what I call Gaga Feminism. While Moten understands the Black aesthetic to come in the form of unintelligible gestures that are quickly assimilated by a white supremacist logic into the proof of the irrationality of blackness, I define gaga feminism as a form of activism that expresses itself as excess, as noise, as breakdown, drama, spectacle, high femininity, low theory, masochistic refusal, and moments of musical riot.

In a poem in his 2010 collection B Jenkins, Fred Moten writes: “The right to love refusal is black music.” As in much of his theoretical work on the radical Black aesthetic, Moten names a strand of Black cultural production that emerges as noise, as dissonance, as a long drawn out scream. This phrase, “the right to love refusal is black music,” brings together the main themes of Moten’s work: first, the notion of a black aesthetic that clings to the darkness against which enlightenment logic has been deployed; second, Moten defines resistant identities as those forms of being that emerge in opposition to “normative and univocal modes and understandings of identity.” Because resistant and fugitive identities counter normative understandings therefore, they cannot be explained, recognized, or even encountered using those disciplined and regulative methods of appraisal. What normative modes of evaluation find unpleasing, chaotic, unbeautiful, and jarring has, of course, been produced as such by those very systems themselves. And so Moten calls attention to a white neo-pragmatism that demands that knowledge make itself known in the immediate, in the surface, and that eschews what he calls “ruptural depth and darkness.” Third, a black aesthetic is part of a force of fugitivity unleashed in the wake of slavery and thereafter constrained, repressed, and incarcerated by the scrupulous “regulation of disorder.”

In other words, the racial logic of slavery lives on not only as a set of economic aftereffects or as a political imaginary but as a dominant set of aesthetic principles that continue to shove the noise of blackness to the curb while claiming the high ground of moral order, aesthetic complexity, and political rectitude. Finally, the black aesthetic erupts as what Moten calls “a kind of unruly music that moves in disruptive, improvisational excess.” How does this disruption emerge? Moten continues: “as song’s disruption of speech, the cry’s disruption of song, gesture’s disruption of the cry, the criminal animation or animalistic derangement of the human, the movement of law into the interstitial space of theater or drama’s irruption into the subject’s pure locale and cause and so on.”

And so on. Fred Moten’s understanding of the Black aesthetic in In The Break is important here for its attempt to locate a Black aesthetic not in the shoring up of identity in the face of racialized violence, but rather as the break down of orderliness itself, the confusion, madness, and anarchy of a radicalism that must oppose the form as well as the content of racial hate. Moten advocates for escape, fugitivity, a permanent state of being that runs from rather than to and that refuses the refuge of home where home has already been defined in white supremacist terms.

What is the sound of fugitivity – what does it sound like when a voice seeks to vacate rather than to occupy, to flee perpetually rather than seek safety, to locate spaces of instability rather than to harmonize? Let’s listen to a Grace Jones song that forms in the context of a process I call “going gaga” that involves a wild form of singing that becomes an ecstatic loss of control and that links a kind of queer, punk, and anarchist form of feminism to the fugitivity of blackness that Moten tracks so fiercely.

 

Like the song by Yoko Ono and Gaga, this song marries a form of sonic frenzy to a foundational beat that attempts to answer the chaos of the vocals by offering a stable and safe sonic foundation. Taking a song by Joy Division that is already dark and industrial, intense and chaotic and transforming the song’s noise into a beat, Grace Jones also took Curtis’s vocal and ran into new depths of disorder. If Rhoda Dakar’s wail reminded us of the dense backdrop of racial unrest against which so much of this music unfolded, Grace Jones’s screeching answers Rhoda’s—the scream of refusal in the rape song is echoed here with manic screams of disturbance and madness.

Grace Jones represents a kind of avant-garde bridge between punk and disco, Ska and reggae, politics and dance. While she seems like a high-fashion, hi-drama diva, her music actually issued stark warnings about what could happen if the disco diva danced off the dance floor and into the dangerous and dark territory of chaos, breakdown, nightmare, and madness. On her 1979 12 inch single, Jones married the avant-garde to punk by making the A side a long, snarling cover of The Pretender’s “Private Life” and the B side a desperate and wild cover version of “She’s Lost Control.” The sneer in “Private Life” (“your private life drama, baby, leave me out…sentimental gestures only bore me to death”) was replaced with a raw scream in “She’s Lost Control”; contempt gave way to chaos, disdain became rage and the delivery veered between a lecture, an incantation, and the hysteric’s howl. Ian Curtis’s version of “She’s Lost Control” stayed firmly in the realm of reported speech: “And she turned around and took me by the hand and said, I’ve lost control again. And how I’ll never know just why or understand, She said I’ve lost control again.” In Grace Jones’ version, she inhabits the speech of the other woman, and screams “I’ve lost control.” An innocuous line in the Joy Division—“she turned to me and took me by the hand”—becomes violent in Grace Jones’s version: “She turned around and stabbed him in the hand and said, I’ve lost control again.”  And once the lyrics are exhausted, Jones turns to crazy laughter layered over distorted noise, tires screeching, dissonance.

Grace Jones is and was queer in every way, and she offers a vector between the drag femininities of disco and the perverse masculinities of punk. Jones has been called an androgyne, but in a way, like Gaga and perhaps Missy Elliott, she is a gender all her own. While listening to Grace Jones’ flirtations with sonic chaos are suggestive of the incipient chaos that punk promised and represented, socially and politically in the 1970’s, in this performance by Grace Jones we find evidence of all manner of subterranean archives. Jones brings punk to reggae, dub to punk, and female hysteria to the spastic masculinity that motors punk singers from Ian Curtis to Ian Dury. Grace Jones reminds us of a maverick strand of feminine pop culture that twists in and out of the avant-garde, that flirts with high fashion, low theory, hetero and homo sexualities, androgyny, sexual and sonic dissidence.

In the screaming chaos of the haute couture Grace Jones performing a grey industrial song, we find a Gaga core of mayhem that disrupts genres, genders, sense, and silence. The last scream I want to play today is courtesy of Janelle Monae who channels Pauline Black, Rhoda Dakar, and Grace Jones all at once. In her ArchAndroid extravaganza, Monae plays with Afro-Futurism as well as Afro-Punk, and she builds on the speculative fictions of Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany to gesture towards another world, an off world, a new world where, to quote The Specials: the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Like Gaga and Grace Jones, critics try to peg Monae and place her in a lineage that stretches back to James Brown and Michael Jackson, and while she can be placed in this lineage, she must also be understood within the history of punk and ska. Her feminism emerges from her ability to conjure new worlds, imagine new sounds, and indict the old worlds that deploy order, rationality, and sense to justify their violence.  In a song titled “Come Alive,” Monae also goes Gaga and lets loose a scream, a scream of the dead coming back to get the living, the living who have benefitted from the subjugation of other.  The scream in this song is the noise of the wretched of the earth, rising up from their graves and “coming for you”!

 

Conclusion

In an age when, as a new book by Peggy Orenstein shows, girl culture represents the branding of femininity, the narrowing of options for girls, the quelling of all and any proto-feminist sentiments, and the marketing of fetishistic, pink sexuality to female adolescents, Lady Gaga really does represent a potent avenue of alternative femininity.  And in a world where black men like Trayvon Martin can be shot by vigilantes with impunity because the very presence of a black body indicates threat, Black noise is the only reasonable response. By reaching back into punk, glam rock, and new wave archives, Lady Gaga, Grace Jones, and Janelle Monae, but also Missy Elliott and Beyonce, like the punk divas before them, make noise and go gaga not to make crude and easy oppositional statements but rather in order to mess up the landscape of pop and popular femininity by both living within it and destroying it all at once. Lady Gaga and her little monster fans accept that going gaga means not only critiquing fame, paparazzi, bad romances but also using every media platform that comes along to contest and change the meaning of woman, pop, money, and sex. Lady Gaga may not be the revolutionary we think we want, but she may be an extremely effective vector and symbol of change in a neo-liberal world of lightning fast cooptation. Gaga Feminism as embodied in certain eclectic performers does not promote a new liberal version of femininity, rather it inhabits wild terrains of sonic and political chaos in order to bring new forms of politics, culture, and gender to life.

Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. Halberstam is the author of five books including: Skin Shows: othic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995),Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011) and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012) and has written articles that have appeared in numerous journals, magazines and collections. Halberstam is currently working on several projects including a book on Fascism and (homo)sexuality.

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