This is a feminist issue because...The PIC and Lady Gaga


Have you all seen the most recent Lady Gaga video, "Telephone"? In general, Lady Gaga has created quite a stir among feminists--Is Lady Gaga a feminist or isn't she?--and this video is no exception. Since a big chunk of the video takes place in prison, it seems fitting to use it to think about the feminist (im)possibilities of Lady Gaga in relation to prison and the PIC. In Are Prisons Obsolete, Angela Davis discusses how prisons loom large in our everyday lives, even as we work hard to keep them invisible, through our constant and repeated exposure to media images of the prison--in films, television shows...and videos. She writes:

But even those who do not consciously decide to watch a documentary or dramatic program on the topic of prisons inevitably consume prison images, whether they choose to or not, by the simple fact of watching movies or TV....The prison is one of the most important features of our image environment. This has caused us to take the existence of prisons for granted. The prison has become a key ingredient of our common sense. It is there, all around us. We do not question whether is should exist (18-19).
How is the prison represented in this video? What is Lady Gaga doing with (and to) the prison here? Is she reinforcing the idea of the prison as natural and as something that we should take for granted? Or is she de-naturalizing it (or is she doing both)? What ideologies does she reinforce in this video? Which ones does she subvert?

Now that you have watched the video, check out these feminist responses:


  1. One of the articles you linking, mentioned another article ( which I also found very interesting. I don't agree with everything she says, but she raises some good questions.

  2. This video is extremely interesting and I actually have not seen it until just now... I have heard the song many times, but never watched the video and I never realized there was a feminist aspect to the song and so much symbolism in general. I absolutely love Lady Gaga and how she has so much depth in every song she produces. This video I feel like definitely has a feminist aspect, and it's one that I never would've realized without watching the video. I feel as if Lady GaGa was really showing the power of women (her and beyonce). Those two were the leaders in the video, and they are doing things that not even the men are doing. Also, the prison scene was interesting and semi-hard to explain. I can't express if I felt that it was a feminist addition or not. All the women in the jail were women, and they did seem to hold a sense of power. However, i couldn't decide if it was a positive or negative vibe that I was getting. Nevertheless though, this video is a feminist issue and really speaks a loud message in which I'm sure Lady GaGa was intending.

  3. I don't think for one second that this video at all is related to the prison industrial complex. There's a brief flash of a prison fight, and it did have the prison conditions that are subpar, but other than that, the video has absolutely nothing to do with the PIC. The entire video goes to an extreme of sexualizing women and reinforcing lesbian stereotypes that can only be seen in porn. I think if Lady GaGa wants to be a feminist, the last thing she should be doing is wearing outfits that make women look like objects of sex. I'm actually quite offended by the video, and I think videos like this are a feminist issue, but they are not on the side of feminism. On top of stereotyping women as sex objects, she stereotypes the main guy in the video. He's black, he seems wasted or stoned in some way, and he's an absolute pig to the women in the cafe, it's a stereotype we see in movies of black men, and it's a very harsh, offensive one to all males, of any race. Even worse, she shows the idea to kill a man who acts that way, which is an unnecessary procedure in any case. I do agree that she portrays women as the ones with power, but she makes them out to be the stereotypical feminists - the ones that hate all men and all are only interested in women. Lady GaGa is not a feminist because of her videos, not even close.

  4. I have so many thoughts about this video and Lady Gaga that I would like to express but I will attempt to keep this short.
    For the prison component, I really like what the "Why Lady Gaga is a Feminist" blog had to say. This "Prison for Bitches" is a place for women who have gone against stereotypical gender roles and having power in their own lives. Lady Gaga is in prison for killing her boyfriend in the Paparazzi video. That video and Telephone both make it clear that women are killing their boyfriends because of abuse. While I agree with Danielle, that killing someone, even if they are abusive is not necessary, I think the message was not intended to be taken that way. Rather I think the message was simply demonstrating one of the main reasons why women are in jail is for murdering abusive partners. This is not the best way to retaliate by any means, but I'm guessing these women feel there is no other option which says a lot about the way domestic violence is handled in our society. Instead of so much money funding prisons, if more taxpayer money went to improve women's shelters, less women would probably be in jail and there would be less need for prisons.
    I also wanted to mention a part of the video I think is really awesome. The "Why Lady Gaga is a Feminist" blog mentioned the scene where Gaga is dressed only in Crime Scene tape demonstrating that women's bodies are crime scenes. I think its such a creative way to get that message across. While Lady Gaga is definitely not heterosexual, I am still confused at some of her very revealing wardrobe choices. The blog talked about "reversing the patriarchal gaze," which I think she does in a lot of ways, but her skimpy outfits I think would attract more male gazing. That's really the only critique I would have about why she wouldn't be a feminist, although it could be argued from a third wave feminist viewpoint that she's taking control of her body and she's going to do what she wants with it (and she definitely does!)
    To read a further explanation on her choice of shape-shifting attire, read the first part of "Why Lady Gaga is a Feminist here

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This page contains a single entry by sara published on April 20, 2010 11:33 AM.

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