Entertainment Industry and other works

by Ellen Gillingham

J. Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Queer Action/Queer Ideas)

1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?

This book charts what it means for feminism to go gaga, and it proposes gaga as a practice, a performance, and as part of a long tradition of feminism on the verge of a social breakdown (3%).  This book models the art of going gaga: a politics of free-falling, wild thinking, and imaginative reinvention best exemplified by children under the age of eight, women over the age of forty-five, and the vast armies of the marginalized, the abandoned, and the unproductive” (3%).  The Preface deals with how the author deals with gender talking to his stepson and children in general.  Halberstam declares that adults should be retrained when training children about gender.  He connects “Gaga” to a form of feminism that “grapples with what cannot yet be pronounced and what still takes the form of gibberish” because there are not words (10%).  The first chapter “Gaga Feminism for Beginners” comments on Faludi’s comments on gaga feminism.  Gaga feminism is defined at the politics that bring together meditations on fame and visibility with lashing critique of the fixity of roles for males and females.

It is a scavenger feminism that borrows promiscuously, steals from everywhere, and inhabits the ground of stereotype and cliché all at the same time.  Gaga feminism is also a feminism made up of stutter steps and hiccups, as a clear in the world opened up in Telephone in both the music and the image: the off-beat, flickering, humming aesthetic that the video creates depends upon the liveliness of objects in the Gagascape (and the inertia of the human bodies), and it creates a beat for Gaga that is best represented as a sonic form of hesitation.  (12%)

Halberstam poses Gaga feminism in the form of the hypothetical.  The next section includes an analysis of romantic comedies and mumblecore films, which provide images of parasitical masculinity.  This relates to gaga feminism, which proposes a closer look at heterosexuality because it imagines that men and women will feel liberated by ending normativity.  Concluding the chapter, Halberstam lays out some basic principles of gaga feminism about the unexpected, transformation, counterintuitive, antireligious, and outrageous.

The second chapter starts with the issue of Thomas Beatie.  It shows the gender flexibility that is an increasing part of our sense of embodiment, and the new arrangements of the familial.  Halberstam thought the most important idea from the “pregnant man” is that he is an indication that a new politics of reproduction has emerged.  He also looks at Firestone, who saw the elimination of sex distinction.  Halberstam saw this as a Marxist analogy and correct in saying social change is inevitable because things change in relations to each other.


2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?

What do movies like The Switch, The Back-up Plan, and Baby Mama say about society? Why did they emerge as popular from 2008 to 2010? and are they still popular?

What do songs like “Call Me” by Blondie, “Hung Up” by Madonna, and other telephone related songs add to the discourse of “Telephone” and answerability?


3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?

Looking at the video for “Telephone” by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé in the section “Beyoncé on the Phone for Gaga” shows a lot about Gender and Spectacular Consumption.  For example, the scene in a women’s prison with butch prison guards and tranny inmates shows the prison of representation in terms of stereotypes and images in institutions with otherness.  The plot is about a feminism that focuses on knowing and unknowing, hesitation, and “embracing your darkness” (45%).  It asks for transformation by placing women in a nonnormative gender scheme being in control of the relationship instead of the man.  Ultimately, telephone imagery speaks to Gender and Spectacular Consumption by serving as a symbol of heterosexuality as a push and pull, but fixed in place, not mobile, and restricting.


4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is

presented in the essay?

The author introduced ideas about popular music involving telephones as symbols of heterosexual dating.  I would like to add Dorothy Parker’s “A Telephone Call.”  Parker is a member of the Algonquin Round Table, from the “Golden Age” of American Humor.  Her short stories have generally been regarded as playful fictional satires, depicting stereotypical female behavior and providing little more than comic pieces of amusement

for either public or academic audiences.  However, Dorothy Parker’s stories seen from the perspective of modern feminist theory, shed new light on the way in which a woman’s image, status, social roles, sexual behavior and relationships are to be read in literature.

“A Telephone Call” is one of her short stories from the 1920’s about a woman waiting a call from a man.  It is a satire, which critiques the constraints of society and the different places men and women occupy it all through the telephone. In the story, the woman goes through a range of emotions such as, anger, hope, and despair.  Parker highlights the gender power dynamics, and the problems of etiquette in these relations.  The telephone is a symbol of specific social rules that place men and women in different and unequal positions of power.


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