"Are Latinos supposed to be grateful that a white superstar, born of privilege, included a racist shout out to our community? Not all Latino ladies are 'cholas' in the barrio, some of them are teachers, writers, engineers and nurses and doctors." -- Robert Paul Reyes
A while back I wrote an article praising the Estonian technopop artist Kerli Kõiv because she represents what I think a true musician should be: modest, compassionate and real. For juxtaposition I am going to talk about Stefani Germanotta better known as Lady Gaga.
I have remained silent for the most part in my dislike of Lady Gaga. I am not a fan of attention-seeking stunts or high fashionistas. I am especially not into mainstream American pop music and Lady Gaga is arguably mainstream.
My real beef with her though, is her privilege. She is from a wealthy background (she used to party with Paris Hilton), she is conventionally attractive, and she is cisgendered, White and skinny. Her inability to accept any of this is troubling.
Somehow there was some kind of rumor that Lady Gaga came from a poor background and that she made herself from nothing, this is patently untrue. In her wikipedia article she is quoted as having said that her family came from modest means and that her parents worked for everything. Her private school upbringing and matriculation to the exclusive Tisch School of the Arts at NYU say otherwise. I have heard the argument before, about parents working hard. My parents worked hard, my dad put himself through medical school on scholarships and crappy cleric positions, but that doesn't mean my sister and I grew up with little means. I have no problem accepting and deconstructing my class privilege.
Another issue with Gaga's privilege is her racism. People hailed her single "Born This Way" as the newest "gay anthem". Hold up, what? I gotta wonder, have these people even read the lyrics: "YOU'RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU'RE LEBANESE, YOU'RE ORIENT".
Excuse me, but that is racist. It is tacitly agreed that using the word "Oriental" is about the same as using the word "Negro" and wholly inappropriate. Political correct-ness aside, this was a stupid word to use in a song dubbed progressive. Orientals are rugs, not people. (Ed. I understand that she didn't use the word "Oriental" precisely but she did truncate the word to fit her rhyme, she refers to races in this line so arguably the word "orient" was referring to "Oriental" or Asian. So STFU.)
Furthermore, the word "chola" is problematic too. The term was originally used as a designation for people of mixed or pure Amerindian descent in the racist classification system of colonial Latin America. The word presently has come to refer to "low income Mexican-American families in the United States" or "Latino gangsters". (see Wikipedia article here). Miguel Perez, of Chicanos Unidos further elucidates in this article. Basically, Gaga is relegating all Latinos to this designation of poor and criminal.
Also, what is this beige bullshit? I guess that's my category.
I just want people to see Lady Gaga for who she is. She is not "weird" or unattractive, that is her makeup and clothing. She is skinny, she is White and she dresses as our society prescribes for her biological gender. What is special about
It's easy to be angry with all of this, but in the end it's like my boyfriend said this morning,“When we're talking about Lady Gaga and Madonna, we’re not talking about women; we’re talking about clothes and makeup.”
(Ed. note: Also, see Lady Gaga's "Little Monster" fans respond to Miguel Perez's article Warning! Very triggering.)