Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Telephone, Gaga and addressing gender questions



lady gaga.


the interwebs are buzzing.

because the video is:
a) transphobic
b) misogynist
c) racist
d) brilliant
e) derivative
f) a fashion orgasm
g) all of the above
h) some of the above

so. let's start at the beginning. with the part that i'm really interested in (you know, besides the fashion).

Lady Gaga enters the prison wearing a delightful outfit. That i would like to have. In my size of course. Which would make it even more impressive. She has one either side of her a butch prison guard wearing classic modern interpretations of prison guard sexploitation movie wear.

The prison population was really white. Like whitie mc whiterson white. Like white like my legs in January. Didn't get that. Maybe she didn't want to get accused of being racisist by depicting a lot of people of color in the prison? If that's the case, she went way too far in the other direction. The people of color were few enough as to appear tokenized. And apparently only women of color can also be women of size.

So, we've seen a bunch of hot white thin women in good shoes (was that Janine in the cell looking at Gaga with a mirror?) and the guards get Gaga to her cell. They then strip Gaga down to pasties, fishnets and some fabulous shoes. She climbs the cell, flashing her crotch at the camera. Her crotch is blurred. As the guards walk away, one says, "Guess she doesn't have a dick after all". The other guard says, "Too bad".

This is the part that folks from my world are really getting steamed about (the folks on Fox news? well, they're steamed about the whole thing. and playing it over and over while they complain. which leads me to believe the whole video is a good thing).

Since Lady Gaga burst on to the scene rumors about her gender have circulated. Which is culturally interesting and says nothing about her actual gender.

Why are these rumors there?

Because she's a strong, driven woman, with a clear sensibility for over the top performance that draws on glam rock, drag and couture - all areas that have strong GLBT influence. Oh, and she doesn't have a man around. In fact, she doesn't seem to be fucking anyone. Heaven forbid a woman should focus on her career and not need to have a relationship. She's making money. A lot of money. And she seems to be driving her career and her image herself (again, no man).

So she can't be a woman.

She must be a man.

You know, men are driven, choose to not be in relationships, have clear artistic vision, make lots of money and work their asses off. Yep. She's a man.

And if she's not a man, she's a trans woman. Cause that's just the same as being a man.

How far we haven't come sometimes astonishes me.

Trans women are women. And women can be strong, successful and driven people. And men? They can be successful in all of the ways that women can. Including priotizing relationships and family rather than careers. Does no one remember the lessons of Free to Be You and Me?!

At first Lady Gaga ignored the crap about her gender. Presumably because it was stupid. But eventually, she started to talk about it. Partially by coming out as someone who has a vagina (which of course says nothing about her being trans or not, but we'll send her to trans 101 class later). Partially by posing on the cover of a magazine packing. In tight leather pants. And now with her blurred, un gender identifiable crotch in this video (or by her blurred presumably clitoris and vagina containing crotch which is what many folks will take home from the shot).

The flash in no way confirms or denies anything about Ms Gaga's genitalia. Ever heard of tucking?

Some folks are saying that flashing her crotch, and the comments made by the guard indicates transphobia. Which it may. Or not.

Is claiming a "cis" gender necessarily transphobic? It depends on how one does it. Although it wasn't clear to me that she was confirming a gender, I suspect she was on several levels, including some of the costume choices later in the video.

People are frequently "accused" of being trans. It comes from a place rooted in transphobia and binary gender absolutism. And needs to be addressed in a way that's very different than when someone simply curious about a person's gender/history.

Responding to questions about one's gender takes careful thought and an understanding of what the person is asking. Is the person asking about gender or genitals? Are they coming from a place in which they define gender by genitals? Are they trying to assigning a gender because they will treat you differently based on your gender and/or transness? Are they doing it out of ignorance? Are they hoping you are part of their own community? Are they attracted to you and trying to figure out if that attraction jives with their conception of their sexual orientation? Or all of the above.

I don't think that Lady Gaga has been perfect in her response to those questioning her gender and her genitals. It's a challenging position to be in. I don't know how much education or exposure she's had to the trans community (presumably some, see aforementioned queer sensiblity and she did address the GLBT March on Washington last fall), or what education she has choosen to seek out. I'm reasonably educated and I've certainly fucked it up in the past, and I'm sure I'll fuck it up in the future. I'm not sure that flashing one's blurred genitals is the answer. I'm not sure it's not either. Because flashing one's crotch is considered rude. And sometimes a rude response to a rude question is the most appropriate.

I can almost hear someone saying, "You wanna know what's between my legs? Fine, mother fucker, I'll rub your face in it. Ooops, sorry, did that offend your precious sense of decorum?"

On to the guards.

I've heard a number of people (primarily other feminists and trans activists/allies) say that they identified the guards as trans women. Because they have broad shoulders and deep voices? Come on people! Haven't we come far enough to know that we shouldn't decide how people identify without asking them? The video does not identify much about these characters other than that they are tough butch prison guards with big tits and low voices, one of whom is attracted to women (Plenty of Fish dating website - hysterical) and one of whom who thinks it's too bad that Gaga doesn't have a dick (might even be the same one - I can't tell who's talking when). Let's not do to these characters what we don't want others doing to us. Or what people have done to Lady Gaga. These folks don't need to tells us what their gender(s) are. The video gave mixed signals about these folks (big tits, deep voice, ripped). Lots of women of different gender experience and different birth gender assignments share this characteristics. Shame on us for trying to read their gender through our own glasses.

Telephone isn't perfect, but when's the last time a music video actually made you think? Or discuss? Yeah, it's been a while. Points to her for that. And for the fashion.

I want the leather fringe shrug the girl in the cat fight was wearing.


1 comment:

SilentSyren said...

Personally, I loved this video. I took the "no-dick" comment as humor, considering the media buzz around her possibly having a 'buzzer'. I know feminists the world over are up in arms, but I still love her. Really, who else would have the balls to flash their junk in a music video? AND get Beyonce, who loves having an overall good girl image, to agree to be in the same video?

As for the guards, I didn't see 'transwomen'. I saw two guards in hysterical sexploitation getups who looked like bodybuilders. I wouldn't piss them off, no matter what their bodies may include - they can still kick my pasty ass either way.

And I think it was Janine... I'm trying to look at those tattoos and match them up. :)

You can have the leather fringe shawl, I want the leather studded jacket. :)