"If you want to get a bead on the state of feminism these days," says Nancy Bauer at The New York Times, "look no further than the ubiquitous pop star Lady Gaga." The 23-year-old Gaga says she's "a little bit of a feminist," and holds herself up as "a representative for 'sexual, strong women who speak their mind.'" She shows it with her "gonzo wigs, her outrageous costumes, and her fondness for dousing herself in what looks like blood." But does Gaga's relentless self-objectification really demonstrate that being a powerful woman is partly a "matter of artifice, of artful self-presentation" or is she just complicating "what are otherwise conventionally sexualized performances"? Here, an excerpt:
"The tension in Gaga’s self-presentation, far from being idiosyncratic or self-contradictory, epitomizes the situation of a certain class of comfortably affluent young women today. There's a reason they love Gaga. On the one hand, they have been raised to understand themselves according to the old American dream, one that used to be beyond women’s grasp: the world is basically your oyster, and if you just believe in yourself, stay faithful to who you are, and work hard and cannily enough, you'll get the pearl. On the other hand, there is more pressure on them than ever to care about being sexually attractive according to the reigning norms. The genius of Gaga is to make it seem obvious — more so than even Madonna once did — that feminine sexuality is the perfect shucking knife."