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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, Ireland, misogyny, rape, sexism, SlutWalk, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

My University’s Experience With Revenge Porn

I’m more than a little proud of my educational resume – I know, it’s privileged of me to say so, I acknowledge that I have been lucky enough in my race/ethnicity/class that I have been able to achieve as I have, though I have worked hard as a motivated student and aspiring lecturer/researcher. So I’m proud of my college history: undergrad in NUI Maynooth – Ireland’s oldest college with its beautiful heritage and village location – and University College Dublin – boasting in its alumni one of my favourite authors, James Joyce and one of Ireland’s most extensive and innovative gender/sexualities/feminist research clusters – for my MA and PhD.

That pride has been severely bruised this week.

The student’s UCD’s School of Agricultural Science have been linked with a “revenge porn” group-chat page on Facebook. For those who are confused: revenge porn is a relatively recent term describing the process of posting and sharing intimate partner photographs on the web for others to rate and “enjoy.” It’s known as “revenge” porn owing to the wide selection of individuals who post such images following a break up, in an act of punishment and self-vindication (you know, the whole, “she was a whore anyways – sure look what she sent me!!”). That’s the basics of revenge porn, anyways, once you take out the emotional trauma, misogynistic mistreatment and sterilizing objectification involved for the victim. Oh, and let’s not forget: the rape and lad cultures which normalize and trivialize these acts of non-physical violence.

Getting back to my own bruised ego: I was, initially, unsure. Certainly, a university with such a vibrant gender and sexualities rhetoric and collection of researchers couldn’t host such small minded, egotistical (let’s be honest) “lads.” The two schools are, afterall, only divided by a footpath, more or less. Moreover, the Student’s Union has only this year reinvigorated their sexual harassment and affirmative consent efforts, hosting their first SlutWalk last November and holding bake-sales advocating “consent is sexy.” Surely, this establishment of educated individuals wouldn’t contribute to such dehumanizing actions; surely, they know better.

Alas, I was wrong. The college confirmed via email today that they are investigating the allegations and encourage victims and anyone with information to come forward, urging:

While we can deal with the breaches that we uncover or are brought to our attention, I appeal to our community not to show any tolerance for abusive behaviour on social media.  I ask that each one of you recognise your responsibility in this regard.

 

The university’s pledge to investigate the page and potential members is a valiant one – no one should get away with mistreating women in such a manner – but already, the college has failed in one vital aspect.

The subject line of said email, reads:

Inappropriate use of social media

What should be the subject of this email? The use of social media? Or the people behind it and the people who suffer as a result?

The focus of this email should not have been misuse of Facebook but the inappropriate and cruel treatment of fellow students and peers.

Unfortunately, UCD has fallen into the techno-pessimistic trap: blaming the vehicle instead of the driver. We’ve all heard of the potential dangers of social media – for young people, cyberbullying and online predators are posed as a serious threat. But the threat is never depicted as a person at a keyboard, as what it really is. It is depicted as a digital profile page with no corporeal form behind the words and images on screen.

This logic is now applied to the dissemination of “revenge porn” also. It is the websites and domains which support posting and discussing images which are dangerous: this is easier than holding a person or group accountable.

This manner of blaming social media and/or the internet for harassment or bullying explicitly crops the person behind the post or page from the image and therein validates their actions. They are not accountable anymore: social media is.

So I say to the presidents, deans, lecturers, revenge-porn posters, chat groups, victims, students and peers at UCD and anyone else reading this: place the blame on the person responsible. Hold them fully accountable for their actions, these are college educated men who should be punished for such zealous mistreatment and cruelty. Recognize that the women they have victimized deserve some form of justice.

After all, if my ego is bruised, how must they feel?