advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Gaga Politics: Lady Gaga’s AntiRape Activism and”Til It Happens To You”

“The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses

“Til It Happens To You” Lady Gaga

 

To say Lady Gaga is a controversial persona might be a moot point at this stage. Certainly, many revile her many ostentatious looks as “over the top” and her celebrity persona as “attention seeking” based merely on image; but then there are her many droves of fans, her so called “Monsters” who adore these exact traits.

For me, there is nothing so important in the Cult of Gaga as her politics. Unlike many pop stars and celebrity personas with mass followings, one cannot accuse Gaga or shying away from the societal and political issues which affect – not only her – but her fanbase and her peers.

Indeed, Gaga is a well known supporter of the LGBTIA+ Community: her hit anthem “Born This Way” and her own queer activism are proof of this. She actively defends herself as a “bisexual” women – a sexual identity highly contested on grounds of (I am paraphrasing from a selection of argument I have had) “selfishness” and “attention seeking”- drawing attention to the difficulties and controversies currently surrounding claims to sexual identities and preferences facing those who put the B in LGBTIA+.

More recently, however, Gaga has loaned her celebrity status and her vocals to an equally significant issue: Rape.

In the last year, Gaga has emerged at the head of a vanguard against rape in America. Her haunting and emotional tribute to survivors and victims of sexual abuse, “Till It Happens To You” closes the recent documentary on campus rape “The Hunting Ground” and has come to openly identify herself as a survivor of rape, describing her own traumatic and emotional experiences and advocating as a survivor for an end to the rape culture which plagues college campuses and countless men and women.

 

Most recently, on Sunday night, Gaga invited and stood with a dozen or so survivors of sexual abuse and rape having just performed “Til It Happens To You”. The survivors – men and women; white and black – and Gaga raised their clasped hands to thunderous applause,  both audience and performers in tears in this moment of solidarity against the rape epidemic.

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Gaga dedicated the performance, earlier that night via her Twitter, to Kesha Rose – who was recently denied an appeal to break her Sony contract with her alleged rapist Dr Luke

I’ll be thinking of u 2nite. This is not over we’ll stand by u until you are free to live a HAPPY life. Everyone deserves that.

Gaga went on to reveal her gratitude to these survivors and to celebrate their stories and their bravery via Instagram, in an image which, contrasting their grim faced sobriety during their performance, displays their joy and euphoria in their solidarity.

Thank you for standing next to me on stage. Thank you for all the things you said, for listening to my story and sharing yours. I will never forget it. 50 survivors, so brave, relentless determination.

The music video itself is a shocking narrative not only of the rape of different women and the aftermath of their attempted recoveries – but is itself an examination of gender and sexual identity. One of the narratives reveals a young woman binding her breasts – an act which implies her transsexual identity while her subsequent rape can be read as a “punishment” for her identity. The two other primary narratives of the music video, simultaneously, depict the horrors of acquaintance rape – where a seemingly friendly encounter becomes a violent act – and the drugging of two Asian women at a house party which follows with one of the women fighting off her attacker and then aiding her worse-off friend. 

These emotional and, for many of us, all too real narratives take up only two minutes of the 5 minute 25 second video.

What follows is a depiction of the aftermath, when the trauma truly shows. The survivors are depicted with their inner most thoughts tattooed on their very bodies – the instruments of their assaults – from “I am Worthless” to “sometimes I hate myself” and all the thoughts which come with survival and the one hope so many women have following sexual assaults:

“Believe Me”

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And while these three women among others are depicted walking away from their narratives of abuse with those who believe and support them, their is one woman left in the end. A silhouette of the next victim of the rape epidemic infecting college campuses.

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The ultimate message of Gaga’s song is the simplest expression most rape survivors have: “believe me.” And with so many victims of abuse accused of being willing participants, of being too drunk, too naive, too provocative, this statement simplistically describes how many victims feels they will be treated following such traumatic experiences.

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advice, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, postfeminism, sexism, SlutWalk

Postfeminist Protest: Amber Rose’s SlutWalk and Stylish Activism

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock (or simply aren’t aware of what’s going on within the women’s movement…) Amber Rose’s SlutWalk – a long awaited march on the practices of body/woman shaming and rape culture – took place this week, on October 3rd in LA.

A brief history (once again, for those of you under your rock…): SlutWalk first took place in Toronto in 2011 after Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti  advised women:

avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized (Mendes 2015)

While he did later apologise for the istatement, Sanguinetti’s “advice” came as the straw which broke the camel’s back for two Toronto-based women – Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett – who decided it was time to fight back against the systematically inherent messages of slut shaming and victim blaming which implicates responsibility on the victim of rape culture and rallied the very first SlutWalk later that year.Thousands of women flocked the streets in everything from pantyhose and bras to dress suits and sensible heels. Some embedded the namesake in through their attire in dressing as the cultural stereotypical “slut,” others highlighted the fact that what a woman wears will not protect her from its threat and that women’s sexual nature or sexy clothing is not responsible for rape; simply put, rapists are responsible for rape.

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Of course, the SlutWalk movement has hit some bumps. Certain feminist circles felt the movement played to the patriarchal eye by dressing up (or down) for the male gaze while notably, many Women of Colour feel excluded from it’s message – particularly due to the historically based inability for said women to reclaim the word “slut” and to place their bodies of display in such a manner. In an open letter to the SlutWalk movment, the Black Women’s Blueprint stated:

We are perplexed by the use of the term “slut” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress.  Much of this is tied to our particular history.  In the United States, where slavery constructed Black female sexualities, Jim Crow kidnappings, rape and lynchings, gender misrepresentations, and more recently, where the Black female immigrant struggle combine, “slut” has different associations for Black women.  We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label.

The movement, certainly, raises questions about the nature of postfeminist activism. The Postfeminism movement largely encourages women to adopt individualistic and consumerist ideals in order to achieve and perform their liberation and autonomy, a fact which many cultural critics and academics loudly critique and bemoan. Of particular concern for these critics is the lack of communal activism and protest within the postfeminist era – but does SlutWalk not prove this moot? In no way can I state SlutWalk to be a perfect embodiment of feminist activism – as stated, it has it’s issues – and while the tenets of consumerism and the proliferation of “raunch culture” (Levy) prevalent in Postfeminist discourse are problematic, I cannot wholly accept this argument that postfeminist fails to promote or encourage activism. Notably, despite the serious issues which the SlutWalks attempt to embody, one cannot deny the celebratory manner in which these women come together in support of one another and in support of the victims.

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Yes, there are issues relating to the SlutWalk movement which prove it’s problematic nature, specifically – I believe – related to it’s grounding in postfeminist culture.

This, however, did not stop Amber Rose from orchestrating, attending and delivering the grounding speech at her own SlutWalk event this weekend. The ex-stripper, model, actress, fashion designer and artist became of note in recent years particularly due to negative, hurtful and slutshaming comments supplied by her exes (specifically relating to her previous career giving striptease). Rose stood against these criticisms with her sisters brandishing a sign “Strippers have feelings too”

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In an emotional speech, Rose stated that she had been slut-shamed from the tender age of fourteen and spoke out against the double standards which narrowly define women as either prude or slut while heterosexual men can perform and vocalize their sexuality relatively freely.

If the highlight of the SlutWalk is on the issues of rape culture and not the attire of the (potential) rape victim – as the argument against rape itself states – then perhaps the movement need not be portrayed so negatively after all?