NOTE: Pop Culture Boner has a new home and a new podcast. You can listen here, if that’s your jam.
I’m gonna preface this blog by saying that Lady Gaga is not really my cup of tea. She cuts and pastes elements from people that have been more innovative and creative than her to make a boring pastiche of average. And that’s just the most superficial of her problems. Anyway, here’s her new video. It’s pretty dull.
So, whilst attempting some sort of Grace Jones/Madonna crossover Gaga actually utters the words “Pop culture was in art, now art is pop culture in me” which is one of the more self-indulgent things I’ve heard recently. But this is just me taking pot shots. My real problem is with her leaked song, which is either titled Burqa or Aura, depending on who you ask. Here is what that sounds like:
Ignoring her attempts to make herself more interesting by trying to sound like a blend of David Bowie, Nico, Grace Jones and that weird hard house you find at raves that you’re not sure how you ended up at because you’ve been blacked out for the past 4 hours, my main problem with this is the phenomenal shitshow that passes for lyrical content. I’m not just talking about the chant of “Dance, Sex, Art, Pop” either, although I too can chant words through autotune as though they have great meaning. At the moment I’m leaning towards “Cry, Eat, Sleep, Repeat” for my next single. The choice lines that have irritated me are:
I’m not a wandering slave, I am a woman of choice
My veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face
You watch, you fancy me cause there’s always one man to love
But in the bedroom the size of them’s more than enough
Do you wanna see me naked, lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Enigma popstar is fun, she wear burqa for fashion
It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion
I may not walk on your street or shoot a gun on your soil
I hear you screaming, is it because of pleasure or toil?
It’s not the first time Gaga has dabbled with appropriating the burqa. In late, 2012 she wore not one but two incarnations of the burqa to a Philip Treacy show at London Fashion week, the worst of which was probably this hot pink sheer monstrosity (which has, conincidentally, been the image linked to the leaked track on many a music blog):
And with these new lyrics, she’s taken it to a fun new level. [Dudebro voice: But Alex, like…what’s problem or whatever?] I’ll tell you what the problem is, friend. Take a seat and I’ll tell you in great detail…or maybe like a little bit of detail before I get bored and link you to an article written by someone more articulate than I. Anyway…
You may have noticed that in recent years (or not-so-recent, I guess, depending on your perspective) there has been a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment in the Western world. A culture of fear has been perpetuated, to the point that just kind of vaguely looking a bit brown is enough reason to be shot multliple times – see: the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot 8 times by British anti-terror forces, ostensibly because he wasn’t white and happened to be near the site of a terrorist attack, and that’s just one example I can name off the top of my head. In a political climate where that kind of thing can happen and you will still get a significant chunk of the population going “Ah yes, but he looked like a threat and he was near the site of the bombing so I can see where the police are coming from”, perfectly normal, happy people exercising their religious freedom become walking targets.
In the case of Muslim women, the wearing of the burqa has come to be associated with total oppression. Which is obviously bullshit. I don’t feel like I should have to go into why that’s bullshit, so I’m just going to link you to this blog: Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things. It’s obviously not all about Muslim women, but you get the gist. Muslim women are not tragic, oppressed figures in dire need of assistance from an all-knowing white, Western saviour. They get shit done.
However, Lady Gaga (ever the innovator) has taken the other really gross path that people sometimes go down. The lyrics are disgusting fetishising, sexualised bullshit. She’s turned the burqa into a fashion object – she literally says it’s a fun, enigmatic fashion object – and then made it some sort of alluring, mysterious role-play with a lover who eventually gets to see what’s underneath. Projecting sexual imagery onto someone else’s religious attire is offensive and disrespectful. In a climate where religious dress and the wearing of the burqa is demonised, it becomes even more important to listen to Muslim women’s voices, hear their opinions and respect their agency. Instead Gaga has steam rolled over intersting, valid and insightful commentary from Muslim women in favour of making some flippant sexual remarks about peeking underneath covers.
Speaking of interesting and insightful commentary from Muslim women… I am not a Muslim woman. So, now comes the time when I suggest some further reading for you:
If I wear a burqa, nijab.. or hell even a fucking hijab, I’m a stupid, brown savage who has no capacity to think for herself. But when Gaga wears it, its revolutionary and fashionable. People love to scream equality and colorblindedness when such an event arises, but such a world is completely theoretical until we fix these the caricatured perceptions about Islam. The power dynamics here cannot be ignored. – From this post from Tumblr user maarnayeri
Or perhaps this article, which has a slightly different point of view. There’s a plethora of voices out there. It’s getting late. I’m getting lazy. I have expended all my energy being mad. Google it, folks. I’m going to bed.