G.U.Y.: Gaga & Feminism
While I hate using the word “favorite” when it comes to the idea of ranking Gaga’s music, G.U.Y. (Girl Under You) tests my resistance to the word. Ever since I first heard it, it has never been out of daily rotation on my iPod. As I said after hearing it the first time, “It’s my feminist anthem” and “…made my feminist heart very happy.”
Feminism is nothing new to Gaga. All you have to do is listen to songs like Scheiße or watch videos like Telephone to make this very clear. It’s a current that flows through her work in many ways. G.U.Y. continues this theme, but in ways we haven’t seen from Gaga before.
To understand the power of the song, first you have to understand third wave feminism. Third wave feminism is a movement that began in the early ’90s. It came out of a growing realization that issues like race, gender, and sexuality aren’t just individual facets of experience, they intersect and this “intersectionality” shape who we are and how the world responds to us. Important in connection to G.U.Y. are the ways in which feminism challenges society’s ideas about gender and sexuality.
Society has long told us that there are strictly defined gender roles: men in power and women who are submissive, masculine and feminine. That’s partially why G.U.Y. is so radical, Gaga takes on that belief by saying she finds strength in allowing her partner to take control; she’s not giving up power, she has the confidence to share with the other person. There’s no domination here because she doesn’t “…need to be on top to know I’m worth it, ‘cause I’m strong enough to know the truth.” She is defined by someone else’s standards. Femininity doesn’t mean someone is just passive; just like masculinity doesn’t mean someone is dominant.
G.U.Y. breaks the norm even more because in typical Gaga fashion, she plays with the meanings of words. We see G.U.Y. and we think guy but as we know the acronym actually means “girl under you” and then Gaga calls her lover G.I.R.L. meaning “guy i romance and loves” and says she knows “you’ll wear my makeup well.” She doesn’t just imply a reversal of gender norms, she says it right to society’s face. “Touch me, touch me don’t be shy, I’m in charge like a G.U.Y.” she sings.
As I said before, I’m not into ranking Gaga’s music, but the other initial response I had to the song was that I immediately saw a connection to Dance In The Dark. To me, these two songs are yin and yang. In DITD (as super fans refer to it) we see a Gaga who is clearly not confident in herself and damaged by society’s pressure. She only feels comfortable sexually when the lights are off because “when he’s lookin’ she falls apart.” She feels she needs to live up to society’s ideals; “Silicone, saline, poison inject me…” we hear at the beginning of the song. Is she really the “free bitch” she claims to be? Doesn’t seem like it. Chasing the ideal has taken over.
In contrast, we see an entirely different Gaga in G.U.Y., a woman not hiding in the dark, she is declaring to the world that she’s not only powerful but celebrating her sexuality. As I said earlier, this fits well within the beliefs of third wave feminism, celebrate and embrace your sexuality! Does this mean that she’s now immune to society’s bullshit? No, but she’s not looking for anybody’s approval.
G.U.Y. is a feminist anthem because it challenges society’s oppressive beliefs. It’s unapologetic and rebellious. Classic Gaga, music that makes you dance, and if you pay attention, will make you think. Yeah it’s a song about sex, but it’s also a huge fuck you to feeling like you have to conform.
"That’s the thing that poisoned me from 2013 or 2012 to 2014, "we just want you to look beautiful" over, and over, and over in my head, until I just wanted to look ugly all the time. Please. Don’t tell me not do it cause you know it’s gonna happen.
It really crushed me. I’ve won grammys now, I’ve written albums, I’ve toured the world 4 times, and you’re telling me to look beautiful? that’s what this is about? It’s all back to tits and ass? That’s so sad.”
This album is a celebration. My pain exploding in electronic music. It’s heavy, but after I listen to it, I feel happy again, I feel lighter.
The Fame (2008) - ARTPOP (2013)