Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gender According to GaGa

Modern pop music has been littered with a variety of teen friendly genres featuring flared jeaned buxom blonds projecting their broken hearts to all the distressed 14 year old girls around the globe, but none have taken an active stance to challenge hetero-normative gender ideology as that of Lady GaGa. While partaking in her show on September 28th, I was able to witness her varying transgressions as it pertains to challenging gender norms. While this is nothing new (the women’s liberation movement, bra burnings, and women’s slacks) Lady GaGa takes a particularly interesting approach to challenge gender through her art, music, and adherence to the queer community.

During the concert I was able to witness all of these in a dizzying array of technological gender empowerment that often left me in complete amazement. First I will take her art and physical appearance from the show to demonstrate her disrupting refusal of hetero-normative gender ideals. After a masterful introduction that was quite reminiscent of a Warhol-esque installation piece, she violently appears, encased in what could be described as no less than a “disco volcano” contraption that hid the majority of her body. Once she made her exit from this prop, she appears in a meticulously constructed dress that presents her bosom in such a fashion that begs your eye to wonder, and a hemline that follows suit. Herein lies the interesting form in which her personal gender identification takes its shape. While she celebrates her female form with ever lowering necklines, she also seeks a refusal of gender through the shape these outfits take. The aforementioned introductory dress also distorted the shape of her body in such a manner that left her exposed bosoms the only indicator of her physical sex. While she may draw your eye to a pantless form, she also toys with your perception of the female figure through a number of the outfits she dawns throughout the show. Another example of this would be her bubble bodysuit that she wears for the acousitic performance later in the show. Again, while her female genitalia rests in clear sight, she toys with the feminine figure by enveloping and contorting her shape with the appearance of bubbles escaping her human form.

The next avenue in which our Lady GaGa takes in order to alter our perception of gender is through the lyrics of her songs. During the concert she performed her countless number one hits such as Pokerface, Just Dance, and Paparazzi, each of which delivered its own prescribed level of sexual innuendo…directed at men…AND women. During much of her performance she would gesticulate in a masturbatory fashion to her countless fans, which elicited quite a rousing response (from me, as well). This is what I find most surprising about her lyrics/music. While most songs refer to “showing HIM what I got” and delivering her signature “pokerface” to that of a male counterpart, she is still able to incorporate a sizeable amount of gender-preference ambiguity into her performance. Thus inviting all onlookers (male and female) to be inside her…and her music in a sense that is quite sexual but not offensively so.

Lastly, it is her allegiance to the queer community that serves as the final blow to the conventionally accepted notion of gender. This community has historically found itself blurring gender roles, gender titles, and gender performances. Lady GaGa openly speaks about the role of the queer community as the driving force behind most, if not all of her work. Her strength to defy our gendered logic is in part derived from the community’s own refusal of western ideologies on this matter. Throughout the show she would continually reach out to her queer fans by asking, “WHERE ARE MY GAY BOYS?” and thanking the queer community for coming to her performance. This is quite common during her performances because it is usually those who identify with the queer community that deliver the highest levels of dedication to their appearances for her concerts.

With all of these parts, it is the entirety of the GaGa experience that seeks to challenge, intrigue, poke fun at, and inspire all to share in this greater perspective of gender, sexuality, and the human experience

through some great tunes, and a whole lot of glitter.

(all images were from the concert I attended. We had amazing seats)

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