Pop sensation of the moment, Lady Gaga, has recently topped one billion views of her videos on Youtube. Her new 10-minute music video Telephone is creating quite a stir. The video has been praised as exemplifying “liberated” female sexuality and Lady Gaga herself has been held up in the media, including by feminists, as a “feminist icon and a gender revolutionary” and “a strong symbolic figure… for the openly and secretly flamboyant of all genders and sexualities.”
In reality, the video is an example of the role the profit-driven media and popular culture plays in reinforcing gender stereotypes and negative ideas about women and LGBT people.
In the video, Lady Gaga is taken to the “Prison for Bitches” which is populated by scantily clad women and predatory “butch” lesbians – hardly “revolutionary”!
The video may be trying to “parody” these ridiculous stereotypes. However, in the context of a society in which both the objectification of women and homophobia are commonplace, the effect is to reinforce them.
The video is full of blatant product placement, with Virgin, Polaroid and Coca-Cola among others given premium advertising space. Also on display are outfits from high-end fashion designers such as Chanel, Jeremy Scott and Viktor and Rolf. There is nothing “liberating” about this.
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which is reliant on the continuation of a culture where women are objectified and judged on appearance. It also depends on the super-exploitation of women workers in third world sweatshops.
The fact is that we can’t seriously challenge sexist ideas if we tie ourselves to big corporations who have a vested interest in perpetuating them. If we want a society where people can be genuinely free about their sexuality and personal identity, we need to take on the domination of the world’s resources, including media and culture, by big business and the profit motive and fight for an alternative based on democratic control, solidarity, equality and respect.