Lady Gaga, as seen through the lens of de Certeau

The picture above Gaga meat suit.jpgshows pop star Lady Gaga wearing her famous meat suit to the 2010 VMAs. This is a stunt that is very typical of this A-list celebrity; in fact, it is the platform upon which she builds her brand. Gaga is known for deviating from normal pop culture trends, and, this could be argued from two views. Horkheimer and Adorno would argue that she is just another pop star that is being used as a commodity purely for our consumption, but in reality she is an individualistic artist that creates art to evoke an emotional response.

The brand that Gaga represents is unprecedented. She is a very talented musical artist that produces ordinary pop music. But, what makes Gaga stand out is the image that she represents outside of her song lyrics. The visual art that she produces such as music videos, live performances, and live appearances clash with the normality and familiarity of the music that she produces. Her music is typically described as upbeat, lively music with a catchy chorus that would win a spot in the top chart for popular music. This same description could be applied to Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, or Britney Spears. What makes Gaga unique, however, is the juxtaposition of her music versus her image and the visual art she presents. This would qualify Lady Gaga as a pioneer in her field, although there is still the overbearing domination of popular culture that is governed by the  capitalism enforced by large industries.

Some would argue that Gaga is not producing true art because her products are produced to be consumed by the media and popular culture. Horkheimer and Adorno would argue that, although her style seems to deviate from the established normality, it is actually just a variation of normal pop culture that is already defined. Her music contributes to large music industry corporations, and no matter what style she represents, they would define her as still a part of this mass culture industry. This would not place Gaga on the outside of the normality, but on the contrary, her music and style would fit perfectly into the established social hierarchy that is defined by large corporations in dominating industries. Although this is true in some cases, it does not apply to Gaga. Instead of complying with established normality, Gaga deliberately defies these implicit regulations. This is more accurately defined by the de Certeau’s theory of strategy and tactic.

De Certeau would describe the position of Gaga as using “tactic,” which opposed the “strategy” that is enforced by mass media. This means that although capitalism exerts an overbearing force on modern art and music, Gaga is exploiting this to her benefit in order to enhance her reputation. Her famous stunts, such as the meat suit, are either protests that bring awareness to the populace, or they are just pure art that is intended to evoke an emotional response. Although Gaga does not dominate the popular culture industry, her aesthetic combined with her musical talents deviates from the norm, and subverts the established system that attempts to govern the populace.

GBF: How Different Forms of Homosexuality Function in the Modern Patriarchy

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One popular trend that originated in the 90’s is the concept of a Gay Best Friend. A Gay Best Friend, or GBF, defined in today’s context, is a male-born homosexual that now expresses feminine qualities. These feminine qualities may often be exaggerated. A Gay Best Friend implies an extravagant, theatrical, and stylish individual. Because of these characteristics, Gay Best Friends are desired for their utility. They serve the purpose of providing friendship for feminine women over common ground such as shopping, style and gossip. This highly coveted relationship seems identical to a female homosocial relationship, but it is structurally very different in that the GBF is accessorized rather than appreciated.

The idea of a Gay Best Friend arises from women’s desire for a mock homosocial relationship. Since they typically express femininity, there is much common ground shared between the female and the Gay Best Friend. The most distinct quality of a Gay Best Friend is the manner in which they behave. A Gay Best Friend provides a woman with a secure, platonic relationship with a masculine figure, without the social pressure for a romantic or sexual relationship. Also, the Gay Best Friend usually expressed exaggerated versions of their perception of femininity. Women often covet these hyper feminizations because they often express dominating features, which are typically coveted by a woman who is disheartened by the oppressive forces of the patriarchy.

All self-identified homosexual people are subjected to the patriarchal-based homophobia that exists in modern society. In the case of homosexual men especially, the line between homosexuality and homosociality is very distinct, and this can be explained by the necessity of homophobia set by the patriarchal mechanism of heterosexual relationships (Sedgwick 698). Homosexual males threaten the foundation of this structure and because of this, the social presence of homosexuality has become taboo. This inspires a lack of confidence and fosters embarrassment of their sexual orientation. The Gay Best Friend differs in that they hold confidence in their sexuality. Some people may distastefully label them “flamboyant”, but, to some this may just translate so confidence. This differentiates them from other homosexual individuals, because their considerably “disagreeable” lifestyles should cause them to oppress their sexual tendencies, but instead they choose to take pride in both their sexual and gender identities. This is what differentiates a stereotypical Gay Best Friend from other homosexual males.

So, you would think that they would closely identify with females through their gender expression, and sexual preferences right? Actually, the answer is no. Although they express feminine qualities, Gay Best Friends structurally serve a different purpose than females in society. Homosexual individuals lie as outcasts in the patriarchal model whereas females serve the purpose of being the submissive companion for masculine men. A GBFs attempt to express their perception of feminine characteristics often tend to be a dominating form of the already existing social-norms expected of women. For instance, the “edgy” or ”sassy” presumption associated with Gay Best Friends is actually more masculinized in contrast to the expected “docile” and “submissive” nature of females. This quality is the basis of a structural difference that exists between the female and the Gay Best Friend. So, even though women and GBFs share similar mentalities, the ideologies forced upon them cause them to be structurally different individuals that serve different functions in society.

So, taking into account all of the different functions each gender and sex serve, there is not a comfortable place in the patriarchy for the Gay Best Friend. They are forced into a limited and foreign category, one that consequentially caricaturizes their assumed qualities and accessorizes the essence of their being. This result is a trendy, superficial desire for individuals who express these qualities while overlooking the patriarchal oppressive forces that are exerted upon them.

“Bad Blood”: How Non-intersectional Feminism Harms Minority Women Everywhere

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The most publicized drama surrounding this year’s Video Music Awards features Hip-Hop artist Nicki Minaj, and Pop singer Taylor Swift.

After seeing that her videos were not nominated for either Video of the Year or Best Choreography, Minaj took to Twitter to vent about her disappointment of the nominee selection committee for this year. She tweeted about how the majority of nominations for Video of the Year feature women with slim physiques, which notably contrasts with the women in her video, which all have thick body types. Taylor Swift saw this rant as a personal critisism towards her “Bad Blood” video being nominated for Video of the year, and she defensively replied to the tweet by scolding Minaj for supposedly attacking her. Minaj then replies by clarifying that she was not directly referencing Swift, and that she was instead addressing another issue, one that Taylor should have been able to identify and acknowledge. Swift tried to quickly change the subject, but the damage was already done. She had already revealed her ignorance of the subject Minaj was addressing, which is the discrimination against black female artists in today’s context.

The “Anaconda” video broke records by attracting 19.6 million Vevo views in the first 24 hours after being released. This video featured dancing in various fashions, with a large focus directed towards their thick body types. The choreography features dancing such as twerking, and other dance moves that accentuate their non-traditional body types. These features qualified the video for a nomination for the “Best Female Video” and “Best Hip Hop Video” categories, but despite the record breaking views and the appraisal from the media, this video was not nominated for any of the “big” categories such as Video of the Year and Best Choreography. For this reason Minaj publicly expressed her dissatisfaction in this year’s nominee choices, and she identified the problematic discrimination used against her in this case.

The problem that Minaj is addressing is the discredit that black female artists face. While Minaj’s video is considered entertaining, it is not viewed as a legitimate art form. It qualifies for more specific subcategories such as Hip-Hop or Best Female Video, but these categories do not coincide with the white, male dominated culture of today. Hip-Hop has a connotation of black culture, and this paired with the label of female implies a lower-class citizen. This means that anything created by and for these demographics is automatically discredited as an art form. Lorde would describe this as degradation of art, and she would attribute this degradation to the inability to recognize difference as an enriching quality rather than a deteriorating deviation (Lorde). In order to understand a foreign art form, one must understand the culture and background which influences said art. This would lead art to be fully appreciated within its context.

This is a problem that Minaj immediately identified, but others were not so quick to see this inequality. When Taylor Swift defensively replied to Minaj’s tweets, she was demonstrating that she did not fully understand the problem that was being addressed. Swift describes herself as a feminist, but one problem with modern feminism is that many white women fail to address the further disadvantage that face women of color. Because of white privilege engrained into our society, the default for women’s rights benefit white women more often than not. Lorde rigorously critiques this problem, as she explains that ignoring the differences of race perpetuates these inequalities and disadvantages. Instead of helping the progression of all women, this type of feminism only works in favor of white women (Lorde). Failure to address an issue actually does nothing to relieve that issue, even though it may seem so. This twitter instance is an example of how the non-intersectional feminism movement of today creates a façade of progression and security for all women, even though this force is only working towards white women, who naturally benefit and hold power over the entirety feminist community.

Nike: Just Do It?

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Imagine this: you are walking through campus and you happen to pass by one of your good friends. You stop to chat for a few minutes, and during the conversation you notice she is wearing this exact outfit: a fitted workout tank top, a sports bra, yoga leggings, ankle athletic socks, and athletic shoes. Is it reasonable to assume she is going to a gym to exercise? There is a chance she is, but there is maybe an even higher chance that she is not. This reason being that that idea of athletic clothing has been so far removed from its original purpose that such a point cannot be assumed.

Athletic clothes are designed to enhance one’s workout routine by providing a wide range of motion and other appropriate features. There are different types of materials which make-up athletic clothes, the most common being spandex, polyester, and nylon. These materials are flexible, durable, light, and in some cases, they absorb moisture. These attributes improve one’s workout effort, but they also make for very comfortable loungewear. For this reason, people make a habit of wearing athletic clothes in casual-everyday settings such as going to class, running errands, and other miscellaneous occurrences. These people would argue that these types of clothes are worn out of practicality rather than utility. So, then is it fair to assume that athletic clothes have, or will eventually shed the athletic aspect of its definition, or was it really even there to begin with?

Once upon a time, athletic clothes were solely used for exercising. Attire such as yoga pants, athletic tank tops, basketball shorts, and t-shirts were exclusively seen within the confines of a gymnasium or recreation and wellness center. This would be an example of a strong simulation-simulacrum relationship. From the simulacrum clues we can draw a conclusion to the respective simulation. This was true maybe a decade ago, but in today’s context this is not exactly the case.

Jean Baudrillard would argue that, in current popular culture, the simulacrum is completely divorced from the simulation. The simulacrum, being the actual clothes, now bears very little meaning in regards to the actual athletic connotation that was once very relevant. The idea of athleticism/health and wellness would be the simulation. We can define this as such because this idea is attempting to replicate “the real” through mediation. “The real” is the objective idea of what the simulation is trying to represent, but it is something that is not perceivable to the human conscience. Even the most objective conclusion any person can draw will have the slightest trace of mediation, and the entire concept is not valid. Mediation occurs in the form of language, and through the different forms of representation and communication. So, in this case, the athletic clothing (simulacrum) and the idea of athleticism (simulation) are tools used to replicate “the real” (being exercise or athleticism) in the past, but the evolution of connotation has brought them further away from their reality. This is all in regards to the notion of athleticism or health, but what determines a specific clothing item as athletic, comfortable, or even practical?

According to Baudrillard, there is no definite answer (actually, there is an answer, but according to post-structuralism, it is beyond perception of the human mind). One method of explaining this phenomenon would be the idea that these standards form as a result of external ideologies and popular culture. For example, what defines what athletic wear is? Why is it used in the way that it is used? There is no scientific law that states how to categorize any object. Baudrillard would argue that all of these classifications are social constructs, meaning that they have no actual meaning at all. Think about it, there is no real reason why this type of clothing should be considered “athletic”. If you are thinking that the nature of the material defines it as such, you have to think even deeper. What states that athletic wear has to be flexible with a large range of motion? Why not wear stiff, coarse material instead? What is the purpose of exercising, and who determined it as so? And, last of all, what is the purpose of athletic clothing in today’s context, and how did it evolve as such? These are the types of questions that gave rise to post-structuralism, and in turn kindled the revolution of thought process in literary criticism.