Sapphic Salon: Why Lady Gaga is important for gay women

Natalie Stein
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When Lady Gaga first told a gay magazine she was bisexual at the end of 2008, she was still a rising star. “Just Dance” had just begun switching over from gay club anthem to mainstream radio hit, and sure, she could probably benefit from using her sexuality as a point of interest about her.


Since the original interview, she’s been back and forth on the statement. In December 2008, she told Popeater: “I’m really free-spirited about love and sexuality, which I think is apparent in my music, and even the visuals, which are all very androgynous” but that she didn’t want to “label herself.”

Then in February 2009, she kissed a female cop in her music video for “Love Game” and shortly after, “Poker Face” became a huge hit, featuring lyrics about women like “bluffing with my muffin” and switching between pronouns from he to she.


In May 2009, she told Rolling Stone she is bisexual, “but her attraction to women is purely physical. It’s an aspect of her sexuality that makes boyfriends ‘uncomfortable.’”

And, as of this week, we were still dying to know what the real story was. The person to finally get it out of her was Barbara Walters:

So, based on the interview, we know Lady Gaga hasn’t had anything more than a sexual relationship with a woman (or several women), does that change our opinions of her bisexuality claim? I hope not. Does she need to prove her sexuality to us? Again, I hope not, but she was put in that position. As an incredible gay advocate and in the public eye in a huge way, Lady Gaga’s mere mentioning of bisexuality and embracing of living as openly queer is a great form of visibility. I consider her a member of the team, and I don’t need to know how many women she’s bedded as a form of justification.

The only thing I’m worried about is that it could appear to some, who don’t know much better, that bisexuals are those that are interested only in men for relationships, but will enjoy sexual relationships with women purely for fun. I hope it doesn’t further that awful stereotype, and that Lady Gaga isn’t put in the position of being the poster child for women who like women only while drunk and horny.

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30 Comments Have Been Posted

"I hope it doesn't further

"I hope it doesn't further that awful stereotype, and that Lady Gaga isn't put in the position of being the poster child for women who like women only while drunk and horny."
Amen to that! Gotta love her, though!

I am glad she's speaking

I am glad she's speaking about this and that sexualities are out there for discussion in the mainstream. However I wouldn't say it's an 'awful stereotype' - it's a stereotype sure, but 'awful'? Why? For some people this will be an accurate description of their sexuality and that should be as valid as any other. Someone's sexuality shouldn't be invalidated because it conforms to stereotype. What should be picked apart is the idea that sexualities are invalid, false, a show - just as bisexuality is portrayed and seen by many. People shouldn't have to qualify or prove their sexuality, no matter what it is. Policing is policing is policing.

To clarify, I don't think

To clarify, I don't think that women who only have relationships with men and just sexual ones with women are bad for bisexuality in any way. I mean that those who misunderstand and assume bisexuality is <em>only</em> that are misled and so that can be an awful stereotype in terms of bisexuals who do not identify as such.

I do not mind that Lady Gaga

I do not mind that Lady Gaga likes to safely fit into the "i only get into relationships with men, but will have sex with women" type of 'bisexual' . What I do mind is that people are falling for it and acting like she is an advocate or voice for the queer community. She is a heteronormative, female pop star who realizes she has a large gay following and is capitalizing on it but (once again SAFELY). She is not edgy, progressive or any sort of 'friend' to queers. She is a pop singer who has been promoted (quite smartly) to appeal - but not frighten or go too far- both straight folks and easily persuaded queer folks. She has a couple of catchy songs, that's it. I wish it was harder to catch the public's attention- it seems you throw on a fancy, designer costume, put together a pop-song with below average lyrics and talk about being attracted (but not wanting to date of course) other women and everyone thinks you are this genius, forward-thinking artist / queer advocate. it is frustrating and insulting.

Unfortunately this is nothing new

Not a gimmick

Except with Lady Gaga, it isn't a gimmick. I don't know why people say that, Katy Perry never said she was bisexual, and tatu have said they're not lesbians. That's very insulting to Gaga to say that her sexual preference is just a gimmick.

I don't really consider Lady

I don't really consider Lady Gaga to be an advocate of many things other than making a lot of money from capitalizing on being 'weird' and 'cute' at the same time. She doesn't shock or break any boundaries. If anything- she is ripping off Peaches and Gravy Train but in a much more 'professional' Gwen Stefani sort of way. Let us also not forget this little interview she did:

"But Lady GaGa is not a feminist. ''I think it's great to be a sexy, beautiful woman who can f--- her man after she makes him dinner,'' she says. ''There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever. That's not to say that I don't appreciate women who feel that way. I've got a lot of gay women friends that are like, 'Put your clothes on.' People just have different views about it. I'm not wrong. I'm free. And if it's wrong to be free, then I don't want to be right. Things are changing. We've got a black president, people.''

There are queers who are accepted by the state and those who are not. If you are a 'hot' little blonde, barely pushing the boundaries of gender performance while at the same time titillating the male, heteronormative audience then you aren't advocating much, in my opinion.

You Better Preach It!!

I swear! I don't have a TV and the only radio I listen to now is the Pacifica network, so when it comes to pop culture, I'm usually very behind. I HAVE, however, been a huge Grace Jones fan since, and a huge fan of Peaches since 2000. So when I finally became familiar with Lady Gaga, I was SO not impressed and couldn't understand why anyone else would be.

There is nothing groundbreaking or controversial about her presentation of her sexuality. There is nothing groundbreaking about her boilerplate pop tunes - they're generic. There is nothing original about her persona.

"She doesn't shock or break any boundaries. If anything- she is ripping off Peaches and Gravy Train but in a much more 'professional' Gwen Stefani sort of way." --> EXACTLY THIS. Combined with her stated views about teh eeeeeevil feminism and the way she presents herself as bisexual, I don't think anyone should be impressed. Like it was just said, her image is constructed so that it confirms what I like to call "heteronorms". Not cool.

Just because Lady Gaga is a

Just because Lady Gaga is a media saturated pop star who says that there is a stigma about feminism that gives off the impression of man-hatred (which frankly, I agree with. How many articles and discussions have been published on this very blog about the stigma of man-hating associated with feminism?) doesn't mean she can't be an advocate for the gay community.
And for the record, she HAS declared herself a feminist in the media. From the LA Times:

"During nearly two hours of conversation, she not only reiterates her assertion of total originality but also finesses it until it's both a philosophical stance about how constructing a persona from pop-cultural sources can be an expression of a person's truth -- à la those drag queens Gaga sincerely admires -- and a bit of a feminist act.

"I'm getting the sense that you're a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good," she said. "I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, 'I'm great.' "

Also, this:

"She says she wants her fans to feel safe in expressing their imperfections. "I want women -- and men -- to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they're always trying desperately to hide. I want that to become something that they cherish."

But what is this freakishness, which she hopes to nurture? In songs like "Poker Face" and the new "Speechless," Gaga focuses on women as unreliable narrators, misunderstood or even unable to speak. When she presents herself as a cartoon character or a space alien, she explores old questions about gender, artifice and "reality" using the new language of social media, body modification and transgender sexuality.

These deep issues are her tools, as important to her art as the glitter and latex in which she shrouds herself. "If you're on an island, stranded, and all you have is sticks and leaves and pineapples, you're gonna make a boat out of sticks and leaves and pineapples," she said. "I view glamour and celebrity life and these plastic assumptions as the pineapples. And I spend my career harvesting pineapples, and making pies and outfits and lipsticks that will free my fans from their stranded islands."

We have to remember, as well, that she is only 23 years old, and still finding herself. That's super young to be so much in the spotlight--I can't imagine being 23 and being where she is. I think she is approaching pop music with a maturity and artistic eye that is beyond her years. I'm not especially a huge fan of her songs as music, but I really love to watch her perform, and I think that she is presenting a good and yes, freakish model of pop star/performance artist that teenage girls can appreciate and benefit from far more than they can from Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears. Just because she is not as "indie" as Peaches and Gravy Train!!!! isn't a reason to dismiss her either. She, unlike them, has the power to reach an audience beyond the well-informed indie queer crowd. Lady Gaga is not just preaching to the choir, she's preaching to everyone. And if she continues to use her massive fame to make statements such as the above, she has a big thumbs up from me.

I just read that article, it

I just read that article, it was so insightful!

"She says she wants her fans to feel safe in expressing their imperfections. "I want women -- and men -- to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they're always trying desperately to hide. I want that to become something that they cherish."
--when i saw the 'bad romance' video, it was exactly what i thought about!

im so glad she admitted to being a feminist because i kinda felt like it was always right beneath the surface in her videos and it was only a matter of time before it became clear to her

I was a little disturbed by

I was a little disturbed by the "Bad Romance" video - she is shown being presented to a group of men against her will, and after giving one of them a lap dance, she is SOLD! The next time you see her with the man that BOUGHT HER, they are in a room with a bed, and she sheds her coat to reveal her lingerie. The end throws me off. Am I just not getting it?

No, you're not getting it.

No, you're not getting it. :-) It took me a couple of watches to finally understand the ending, and what happens is that she sets him and the bed on fire with her sparklers in her bra. Next time you watch, look to the left of her at the very end when she's on the bed, that's her john's burnt skeleton.

If you listen to the lyrics, the video makes sense. Her relationship with the man in the song is problematic, and they're caught in a "bad romance" kind of going back and forth, (being "friends" and then lovers) and it's damaging to her. It might seem great on the surface, but deep down, she knows it's bad for her, kind of like how a lot of ex-prostitutes say they felt, that it was great on the surface, but deep down, they knew it was wrong for them, hence the theme of the video.

And at the end, she's a "free bitch", meaning her john is dead, and she's free from the "bad romance."


yeah, the ending of bad romance, she kills the buyer. if she doesn't kill him...he is dead at the end in an airy way.

she has said the video is

she has said the video is about sex-trafficking.

Uhm. So now you have to be

I like Lady Gaga & her music.

I like Lady Gaga & her music. Nice appearance on She's really fighting for our rights!

Lady Ga Ga

Saying she is bi will sell more records to both genders instead of just one. But being half dressed tells me she is trying to use sexuality instead of her voice and creativity to advance herself.

Lady Gaga is a Phenomenon

Lady Gaga was quite candid in her interview with Barbara Walters. I'm so glad that the YouTube video of that interview was embedded in this post. Thank you! Irrespective of whether or not being bi would sell more records and whether Lady Gaga uses her sexuality to her advantage, the facts are these: Lady Gaga HAS IT ALL AND THEN SOME! She has a fantastic voice, is an excellent musician, writes interesting lyrics, is a fabulous entertainer, is incredibly sexy, brave and forthright. If her sexuality and her panties showing help, then good for her! HAVING IT ALL is what makes her more than just another star. It's made her a phenomenon. Rock on Lady Gaga!

Half Dressed?

More like fully dressed, fabulous and THEN SOME. Even the more revealing outfits are tasteful, and cover lots more than most of today's pop stars. I am in awe of her collaborations with designers, and her fashion taste. Check it. I'd just like to say- Kermit the frog dress FTW!

How exactly would that work?

How exactly would that work?

She was already a huge performer of all of the gay clubs, especially in NYC and SF. And a lot of women and high school girls just love pop music and something awesome to dance to (like me). So why do you think she said she was bi to sell more records to both genders? That just makes no sense. She was already popular with gay men and straight women (and I'm sure gay women too), who else would she sell records to? Straight men who typically don't buy pop records? Sorry, but a straight guy isn't going to buy a pop album just because she says she's bi. (FTR, i'm sure there are straight guys who listen to pop music, and I would imagine they'd buy her album regardless if she was bi or straight).

Sure, she dresses pretty provocative, but its stuff she made and designed herself. At her show last night she told a story about how she and Lady Starlight, another female performer, used to sit in her NYC apartment all day, making clothes to go out that night. She said that during one of those sessions, she made the disco bra that she wore in her Just Dance video, and that when she got signed to her label, they asked her if she wanted "nice, new clothes" to wear for her tour and videos, and she said no.

And I find it incredibly insulting to say that just because she dresses that way, it's ONLY for sexuality purposes. Because you know, any woman who dresses scantily is obviously only doing it for sexuality and not because that's just how she wants to dress. *rolls eyes*

Well first of all, I don't

Well first of all, I don't recall her doing that, and second of all, that's not what I said. She's obviously dressing that way for HER, unlike when Britney Spears wore next to nothing because her record label made her dress that way. She wasn't doing it for her, and the sole purpose of her dressing like that, especially in her first music video, was to sell records. Lady Gaga dressing that way doesn't sell her records, the quality of her music does (in fact, I'd argue that the way she dresses deters people from even liking her altogether and because of what she wears, they view her as "just crazy" and that they don't "get it.") So there goes that argument.

Dressing sexy is fine if you're doing it for you, and if she feels sexy doing it for her, more power to her.


Well, if you can conceptualize a reality where a woman's sexuality exists FOR HER rather than SOLELY FOR OTHERS, this shouldn't be too hard. I would love to be able to walk around in whatever. But then, if anything bad happened to me, it'd be *my fault,* right? Even if anything physical didn't happen to me, the stares and leers and sneers would be *what I'm asking for.* Because my sexuality doesn't exist for me, it only exists for others. Right?

Anyone else sick of this bullshit?

Furthermore, did it ever occur to you that she might be <i>exploiting</i> a system that exploits female sexuality? Do we need to look up "subversion" again?

That was a response to Anon,

That was a response to Anon, btw, not Whitney :)


I'm the same kind of "bi" that she is. I am historically hetero, but have been known to be occasionally sexually attracted to women and have acted on it. However, I don't call myself bisexual. The reason for this is simply because I just don't see myself pursuing a female as a romantic partner. It could happen, but I doubt it. So, I just call myself sexually adventurous.

At the same time, though, I don't think Lady Gaga <i>shouldn't</i> call herself bisexual. Like someone previously said, she is what she says she is.

Can We Have Mixed Feelings, Y/N?

I like Lady Gaga & her music. I'm glad she's up-front about her sexuality and that she can advocate for LGBTQ rights on a broad scale. I definitely prefer Lady Gaga's whole Bi-But-Homo-Casual self to someone like Katy Perry for whom a bi identity is just something they adopt for a single song. Still, you never hear someone say "I'm straight, but it's purely physical."

IDK if this is true for all bi women, but if I don't make an effort, my social circle winds up mostly straight. This isn't anathema to my dating life but it does mean that the women I meet tend to be straight or bi in the fashion of Lady Gaga (and let's not even mention the Attracted-But-Not-Acting-So-Straight women). And for a bi woman who doesn't want a fling, it's frustrating when the only women you meet are a)not interested or b)interested in ONLY your body. It makes me feel like my only choices are to ditch current friends for newer, queerer friends; have casual sex with women who don't take me seriously as a potential romantic partner; or be queer in theory and straight in practice. So yeah. I hear about this sort of representation and I feel MORE alone. Great.

I don't think she was saying

I don't think she was saying she couldn't be in love with a woman. She just said she hasn't been. Now, maybe she never will be. But these rigid definitions of sexuality are disturbing. YES, it's frustrating to see false depictions of queerness in the media just to sell records. But I also think a lot of women do write songs about experimenting with sexuality, and those songs and/or videos get turned into sexuality-for-the-sake-of-record-selling by the music industry. Katy Perry included. (Yeah, I know, I'm gonna hear it for that one.) Maybe Lady GaGa isn't just using sexuality to sell records. (Kanye West is openly homophobic, and his records sales aren't hurting for it.) Maybe she's just being honest.

I guess the gist is this: it's hard to <i>ever</i> know if a famous person is being honest or just being marketable. But one way to tell the difference is to look at their actions as well as their words. Lady GaGa attends queer rights rallies and is constantly speaking out on behalf of women and the queer community. Her videos tell stories about the dangers of sexual violence and sex-trafficking. So, is the fact that she hasn't been in love with a woman really a huge issue?

On a personal note, at one point in my life I had only ever been in love with a woman. But I had been attracted to guys. I began to think maybe I would only ever be in relationships with women. (Probably because of society's constant desire to figure out EXACTLY. WHAT. EACH OF US. IS. RIGHT. NOW.) Long story short, turns out I can be in love with either sex (which deep down I knew). For some people, sexuality is very specific to one sex. For others of us, it is very specific to a few <i>people</i> but not sexes. Does that mean there's no room under the queer umbrella for me?

I love that Lady Gaga is not

I love that Lady Gaga is not afraid to be unattractive and totally strange. She's messing with our culture's perception of "sexy." And she's stood up with grace and aplomb to those inter-sex rumors (because a woman can't be successful and ambitious unless she has a secret dick, right?)
And not the last thing I love about her is that she brings a degree of thoughtfulness to the world of pop music that has been missing for a while.

Really - the music industry

Really - the music industry is all about looks, especially for women. It's become a visual medium.

What bothers me is that we - I mean lesbians - are assuming that Lady Gaga's looks equal her "authenticity" level. We don't even know who she really is - we just see her visual presentation. It's her life, she seems comfortable with herself, and she cares about LGBT rights... more power to her, if that's what she wants to do.

I don't see her as a role model because I listen to punk rock and like songs that are about different topics. I have no problem with openly bi, feminine women who advocate for LGBT rights succeeding in the mainstream music industry (if they want to). But I'd still like to see some artists "make it" who are writing real lyrics and have more talent.

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