Why Lady Gaga's body-shaming is so disturbing
On February 5th 2017, Lady Gaga made a memorable performance upon the stage during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Following a period of executive orders turning from outlandish nightmare to reality, her passionate vocals were a salute to her overall message. As a musician, Lady Gaga uses her voice and songwriting as a reflection of herself in a way that is meant to highlight the significance of her ideals. Her choice of playlist included not only some of her past hits, but also “This Land is Your Land” and “God Bless America”. While her performance wasn’t overly laden with politics, these subtle challenges to the recent Trump administration were enough to show her thoughts on the importance of equality and acceptance to a wide audience.
Lady Gaga has taken advantage of her influential status in pop culture numerous times in the past in order to show support and solidarity for sexual assault survivors, the LGBTQ community, as well as fight to educate the public on mental illness (specifically PTSD) and the prevalence of rape culture in our society. Although some believed that the Super Bowl Show could have been more “politically charged”, Lady Gaga used her chance to advocate for a country she loves, while still willing to admit needs to change, in a peaceful and respectable manner. In addition to her influential performance of “This Land is Your Land”, Lady Gaga chose to perform “Born This Way”, a song that blatantly promotes pride and commends strength in the LGBTQ community. This can be interpreted an artist’s choice to entertain an audience with a past hit, or as a deliberate stand-off to some of the politicians who have been recently put in charge. However, given Lady Gaga’s past fights for equality and presence at protests, it might not be too difficult to determine which.
Taking all of this into account, it seems natural for people to use this performance as an opportunity to spark healthy debate and possibly come to terms with some of the uglier issues plaguing America lately. However, many people have felt compelled to voice their concerns on a topic far from what Lady Gaga has been trying to spotlight: her body.
I hope any of the people who watched at home, or found her performance on the internet days later, took all the positivity that was meant to be broadcasted during Lady Gaga’s performance as they could. Her show was remarkable and involved so much energy and enthusiasm that I am honestly surprised anyone even noticed her body. While attached to a harness, she leaped from the stage of the stadium and landed on a platform in her high heeled boots, continuing her performance. She proceeded to sing, while doing flips in the air, until moving on to the next song, where again she matched the high energy and liveliness of her backup dancers. She consistently hit every note, and even harmonized with her own background vocals, while, again, keeping up with dynamic and active choreography. Anyone else who has tried to enthusiastically sing and dance can tell you, that is hard.
As a musician, Lady Gaga repeatedly puts herself in a position of vulnerability when she composes her own music, releases her recordings, and puts herself up onstage in front of thousands of onlookers to perform. It is a debasement of her overall performance as well as disrespectful to Lady Gaga as an artist, to specifically label an exposed midriff as displeasing to the eye, when it is by no stretch of the definition overweight. Taking what is meant to be a show that highlights unity, equality, and acceptance, and turning it into a reason for critiquing a woman’s body is both a fundamental injustice to the performer, and highlights an underlying injustice to young women across the world who are influenced by the media daily.
While it seems everyone knows how doctored the photographs pasted across magazine covers and advertisements are, it doesn’t to change the fact that companies are promoting an unrealistic image for young adults to aspire to. People preach every day about how easy it is to love yourself and appreciate your body, but fail to understand that while we know models in photographs are photoshopped and no one looks like the advertisements do, someone somewhere is still putting them up for everyone to see and thinking, this is what people should aspire to. Understanding what is a real image is one thing, but being able to accept yourself when they are still pinned up and dangling in front of you wherever you go, is another. At some point, regardless of what you know to be true, you still have to fight off the knee-jerk reaction which is what you’ve been led to believe a body should look like for years.
Although I am disappointed in the people whose only take away from Lady Gaga’s performance seemed to be her body, my hope is rekindled by the shock and angry backlash the critiques accumulated. Becoming complacent in the face of this type of negativity is unacceptable. In a time where America is facing some pretty difficult politics and social harmony, refusing to be content with shameful ideals is the first step in fighting back. It’s time we praise big laughs, wide smiles, and full hearts, instead of stomachs. It’s time to stop admiring your negative space.