The more I hear her, the more I ask myself, “Is Lady Gaga a Feminist, or really really anti feminist?” I mean you can look at it one way, she’s paved the way for eccentric pop stars who like to travel in giant eggs, wearing whatever she wants and doing whatever she wants while embracing her sexuality. But then again she also occasionally wears a burka and wrote the song “Born this way” which was set to be a LGBTQIA anthem, but is nothing more than a song affirming an essentialist, neoliberal concept of identity and self, but thats a whole other meat dress.
Today I wanna talk about her latest single with R Kelly (a personal favorite of mine), called “Do What You Want.”
The more I hear her, the more I ask myself, “Is Lady Gaga a Feminist, or really really anti feminist?” I mean you can look at it one way, she’s paved the way for eccentric pop stars who like to travel in giant eggs, wearing whatever she wants and doing whatever she wants while embracing her sexuality. But then again she also occasionally wears a burka and wrote the song “Born this way” which was set to be a LGBTQIA anthem, but is nothing more than a song affirming an essentialist, neoliberal concept of identity and self, but thats a whole other meat dress. Today I wanna talk about her latest single with R Kelly (a personal favorite of mine), called “Do What You Want.”
*Disclaimer* This is not the be all end all feminist opinion on this song. I just thought I’d unpack it and give my feminist opinion with my level of experience. Also this is above all things a fun dance track however many of Lady Gaga’s actions are problematic and if this triggers you no need to read ahead. LETS GET INTO IT.
The lyrics are full of insecurity for something that should be a “feminist” anthem. Saying “I feel good, I walk alone but then I trip over myself and I fall, I stand and then I’m okay, but then you print some shit that makes me wanna scream.” Its like one step forward two steps back. She claims this independence and this not giving a fuckness (its a phrase okay) but then immediately goes back on her word showing insecurity and dependance on this person, R Kelly or the American Media, I suppose.
Then the chorus comes in “Do what you want, do what you want with my body” repeated several times. This is wherein the most problematic part lies. I just don’t like that idea, most of her songs have these essentialist themes about how “I was born this way” and that this inherent sense of self matters above all things, yet this song is about the other person being in control and a sense of this personal insecurity on her behalf is woven through this entire song, something that I find very problematic. Also considering the part of the song saying”you can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind” parts that are feminist aren’t in the chorus, I can’t help but worry that all of mainstream America will just be singing “Do what you want with my body, Do what you want with my body, a concept that in terms of sexuality, I don’t think sounds very consensual and is very troubling especially if all those babies who are in “Born This Way” viral videos start singing and dancing too it, thats just wack and mostly an uncomfortable for me okay.
I’ll admit, Lady Gaga’s personal embrace of her own sexuality seems very feminist but in this song she makes her sexuality a passive thing, despite claiming that she doesn’t care, that R Kelly won’t own her heart, her voice, her life etc she’s claiming that he does have control over her body and it’s not about she herself, embracing her sexuality but instead R Kelly embracing it, and who knows where consent lies with him. I get that she claims that her thoughts, ideas and voice are her own but not caring about what someone does with her body seems problematic to me. Now I get it, its a song, it’s a metaphor you might think I’m an idiot for taking these things to literally, but I’m one of those people who thinks that everything bleeds into the subconscious of America and that this sort of idea that “well I can do whatever with her body hur hur *read in Beavis and Butthead voice*” makes me fucking nervous okay?
And I’m sure, knowing quite a few of Lady Gaga’s songs that this is more about the way the media views her, as if she’s in this metaphorical Bell Jar (yes, I just used a Sylvia Plath simile when describing Lady Gaga’s music..permission to hate me) and I think thats awesome. I just wish the song focused more on that, more on her and less on this metaphorical R Kelly or whatever.
Really fast I wanna touch on his lyrics. SO his whole feature on this track starts with him just listing stuff “Early morning, longer nights, Tom Ford, Private Flights, Crazy schedule, fast life, I wouldn’t trade it in, cause it’s our life” cool R Kelly, all those long nights with Tom Ford must be absolutely bonkers. Then he goes onto a series of suggested cliches, that he could be towards Lady Gaga (even though previously she wasn’t interested) “I could be the drink in your cup. I could be the green in your blunt, your pusher man yeah I got what you want” R Kelly, you know what I want? EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK ASSHAT, I WANT RESPECT IN THE WORK PLACE AND I WANT TO ABOLISH THE METAPHORICAL GLASS CEILING (Hilary 2016). But, I’m sure R Kelly isn’t talking about those things. Then he says “You’re the Marilyn, I’m the President” and this is just a shitty metaphor, really dude, really? Marilyn Monroe, one of the most exploited icons of sexuality in America? And her legacy certainly should mean more than her supposed affair with the President. I mean I guess thats better than Kanye’s “She’d do anything for a Klondiak and I’d do anything for a Blonde Dyke”but I digress.
Then the chorus begins again with him singing, however he is not passive and with a pronoun change R Kelly is in control “Do what I want, Do what I want with your Body” this makes me upset, especially because if they changed the pronouns in the first place for Lady Gaga to say, “I’ll do what I want and you can do what you want and if this is consensual we could have a good time or something,” then it would be feminist. And then R Kelly just kills it when he ends with “and we layin the club like we don’t give a FUUUUUUUUUCKKKK,” and then my dreams of “Trapped in The Closet part 4 have begun again, not that I endorse violence or hip hoperas or anything like that.
Then Lady Gaga goes onto to say, “sometimes I’m scared I suppose if you ever let me go, I would fall apart, if you break my heart, so just take my body, and don’t stop the party.” This one makes me really sad and really exposing this song as antifeminist, you claim this freedom from the shackles of patriarchy and what the misogynist American media thinks of you, yet you’d fall apart if he broke your heart? Lady Gaga NO! We need to be strong independent women and not just talk about not giving a fuck but ACTUALLY not give a fuck.
We need to stand up for ourselves and use our voice to take back our sexuality and not just give it away. And by no means is this one of those feminist “don’t have sex” rants, I want everyone to embrace their sexuality and do what makes them feel good but it’s about claiming it for yourself and not allowing others to claim it for you, especially considering we live in a rape culture, we need to address these issues in pop culture and not just sing so carelessly.
But those are just my thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong, I find this song so catchy and I think if you look at it upon base value it can be just that, a catchy pop song but upon analysis I see why its problematic, and liking things that are problematic is okay as long as you address that they are in fact problematic.