Thursday, January 6, 2011

lady gaga's parts: wednesday reading

"the hall was a cauldron of enthusiastic support for theoretical and consumer-saturated academic feminism. judith 'jack' halberstam, a gender-studies professor...who favors crew cuts and men's suits, was the most popular the lectern she promised to 'smash' what she called 'this whole mother-daughter thing [that] keeps coming up.' by which, it soon became clear, she meant that she would be smashing just the mother part of the equation. 'for people of one generation to be complaining about the next generation not reading them, give it up!' she said. 'if you're not relevant anymore, you're not relevant. move on.'

"if the older feminist scholars were not 'relevant' anymore, who was? halberstam had an answer: lady gaga. she cued up her power-point* presentation to show us an excerpt from the music video telephone, in which...lady gaga, modeling various wacky outfits on her mannequin torso, gets tossed in jail, (wo)manhandled by butchy guards, and ogled by cat-fighting sexpots--until babelicious beyonce springs gaga out of prison and the gal pals head out to a diner, where they poison all the men (and women, and a dog), before heading off to points unknown in their 'pussy wagon,' shadowed by a police helicopter.

"in telephone's 'brave new world of gaga girliness,' halberstam said, 'we are watching something like the future of feminism.' a future that the new wave of feminist theorists will usher in. 'what one wants to inspire is new work that one barely recognizes as feminism, and that's what I'm going to call gaga feminism,' halberstam said. this will be feminist scholarship that breaks with 'god help us, longevity,' commits acts of 'disloyalty' and 'betrayal and rupture,' and even denies one's own sex: 'instead of becoming women, we should be unbecoming women--that category itself seems vexed and problematic'...

"on the last afternoon of the conference I caught up with halberstam at the farewell reception. I told her I didn't understand how...telephone could be the 'future of feminism.'

"'adapt or die!' she responded cheerfully. 'pop stars are where the inspiration for feminism is going to come from.'

"but how was telephone a feminist inspiration? halberstam pointed to the way the video dealt with rumors that gaga was a hermaphrodite.** 'she didn't deny them. she played with them. you have that great moment where the prison guards take off her clothes and say, too bad she didn't have a dick...'"

--from "american electra" by susan faludi

*is it too postmodern to note that anyone introducing her theory at a conference using power-point can hardly lay claim to being on the cutting edge of anything?

**also, the rumors weren't just that gaga was hermaphroditic--which was unlikely--but that she was transgendered, which makes for an even more interesting reading.

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