What primarily interests me about the video (aside from the beautifully noir cinematography) is whether it is misogynistic or not. The short film seemingly subscribes to the ideology of postfeminism, which locates female empowerment in the ability of the individual woman to make choices (regarding issues from abortion to getting a make-over) rather than in collective action. Postfeminism, packaged by a neoliberal, consumerist society, suggests an empowered woman must not only have the vote or be able to enter into traditionally male occupations, but must also be successful in all areas of her life: career, family, love, self. She must be able to keep it all together, and be able to “take care of herself” to ensure her happy-ever-after. This taking care of the self inevitably focuses on physical beauty, what with the predominance of a celebrity culture and the exaltation of the smart and yet also desirable woman in mass media. Thus, to demonstrate her empowerment, the postfeminist woman is pushed to focus on her body and buys into the products of beauty, like cosmetic surgery, gym subscriptions, diet books, designer clothes, Manolo Blahniks, mineral make-up, and so on. This preoccupation with the body and with desirability thus makes for a hypersexualized image of woman, an image that is not nowadays necessarily condemned (consider some of my friends’ comments that if you’re objectified, it means you’re attractive and should therefore feel flattered).
Enter Lady Gaga and her softly pornographic extravaganza of a video. While pornography is (was?) often defined as products portraying women as sexual objects for male consumption, this definition clearly does not anymore hold. Not only do women (like myself) also objectify men (and other women too, while men also objectify other men), but women have also taken to viewing and presenting themselves in sexual ways, reveling in their bodies and sexuality. Thus, within the framework of postfeminism at least, Lady Gaga’s erotic self-indulgence in the video may not necessarily be construed as misogynist.
The portrayal of women as sexual objects solely catering to man’s needs and desires undoubtedly is misogynistic. However, instead of portraying herself as subservient to a man’s needs, we have Gaga not only resisting her boyfriend’s exploitation of her, condemning his betrayal of her trust, and choosing to take revenge against him, but also apparently shunning male sexual relations altogether. After the make-out scene between her and her boyfriend at the beginning of the video, the sexual acts that follow involve gaga and other women engaging in lesbian activity.
A part of the video that simultaneously attracts and troubles me, though, is the montage of beautiful, doll-like, dead, apparently murdered women. Beautifully filmed, I am concerned that, while depicting ways in which women are abused, such imagery aestheticizes violence perpetrated against women. On the other hand, the montage may be a commentary on how society’s inordinate valuing of physical beauty, its perpetration of beauty myths, serve to oppress and kill, metaphorically and literally, the women who subscribe to it.
I have yet to resolve my ambivalence about this so I ask you, what do you think? :)