“Same DNA, But Born This Way”: Lady Gaga and the Possibilities of Post-Essentialist Feminisms


(Editor’s note: As part of our increasing goal in making use of digital tools to share JPMS content, we’re enhancing select journal pieces with embedded sound/video, increased linking, pop-up footnotes, etc. From our recent 26.1, we’ve selected Juliet Williams‘s fantastic Amplifier essay. Please share! –O.W.)

Williams, Juliet. ““Same DNA, But Born This Way”: Lady Gaga and the Possibilities of Post-Essentialist Feminisms.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 26.1 (2014): 28-46.

Since bursting on the scene in 2008 with her first studio album, The Fame, Lady Gaga has enjoyed the devotion of an unusually dedicated cadre of fans, affectionately dubbed her “little monsters.” Lady Gaga also has attracted the attention of scholars, leading to numerous tongue-in-cheek media reports documenting the rise of Gaga Studies as a field of academic inquiry (Corona, 2010; Eby, 2010).1 Required reading now includes J. Jack Halberstam’s recent book, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (2012). In the opening pages, Halberstam offers up Lady Gaga as “a symbol for a new kind of feminism” (xii). This new feminism, which Halberstam dubs gaga feminism, “…is simultaneously a monstrous outgrowth of the unstable category of ‘woman’ in feminist theory, a celebration of the joining of femininity to artifice, and a refusal of the mushy sentimentalism that has been siphoned into the category of womanhood” (xiii). As Halberstam explains, gaga feminism rejects the “fixity of roles for males and females” (5) and celebrates “the withering away of old social models of desire, gender, and sexuality” (25). It is a feminism that “recognizes multiple genders, that contributes to the collapse of our current sex-gender systems” (25). In its wake, gaga feminism creates an opening for “new forms of relation, intimacy, technology, and embodiment” (25).

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