Move Over, Gloria Steinhem – Lady Gaga's The New Feminist Icon
It would be easy to dismiss Lady Gaga, a performer whose outlandish appearance is discussed just as much as, if not more than her actual music as being all image and no substance. After all, this is what we’re used to with our pop stars. Yet it has become more apparent as of late that Gaga is actually very aware that she is in a unique position of power and influence which allows her to speak both for and to other females, and she intends to take advantage of that fact. She recently told feminist music writer Ann Powers of the LA Times, "I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little.”
This thinking is evident in some of the songs off her latest album, The Fame Monster. In “Dance in the Dark”, Gaga sympathizes with a woman too insecure to let her boyfriend see her body during sex. On the other end of the spectrum, "So Happy I Could Die" is essentially a love song in which she seduces herself. As for her wardrobe, many have criticized Gaga as “trying too hard.” Harder than Britney Spears used to work to appear in bejewled bikinis on stage? Is there any female pop star that is not trying hard in terms of her image? The difference is that while most of her contemporaries try hard to capitalize on their sexuality (or, for the younger performers, hide it) and titillate, Gaga is clearly trying very hard to provoke thought. She plays with gender roles, gleefully noting that she looks “like such a tranny” in photos, and draws style inspiration from art, literature, cinema, and other musicians. She has claimed that although she had many tearful arguments with her record label over her album covers, she insists on steering away from sexual imagery because “The last thing a young woman needs is another picture of a sexy pop star writhing in sand, covered in grease, touching herself.”
At a time when many are quick to point out that they are performers and not role models, as unlikely a candidate as she might seem at first, Gaga believes that as a woman who writes her own music and insists upon control of her image, she is just that. “In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, ‘I’m great.’ " You’re certainly not the only one who thinks so, Gaga.
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