As most business-savvy entertainers know, buzz and publicity help sell a product. So does controversy.  (Just ask Reza Aslan.)  And Lady Gaga is no stranger to this art, having “leaked” her music a few days prior to its official release before.

This time around Gaga (or perhaps someone posing as Gaga?)  has leaked sample beats of a song called Burqa to help promote her next album, ArtPop.
It’s trying, really trying, to be provocative, cutting-edge, boundary-pushing.     Burqa, of course, is the head to toe covering that some Muslim wear/are forced to wear in certain countries, most notably Afghanistan.

Lady Gaga wearing some pink nightmare of a Burqa

Lady Gaga wearing some pink nightmare of a Burqa from Policymic

Here are some of the lyrics to “Burqa”:

I’m not a wandering slave,
I am a woman of choice
My veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face
You watch, you fancy me cause there’s always one man to love
But in the bedroom the size of them’s more than enough 

Do you wanna see me naked, lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Do you wanna see the girl who lives 
behind the aura, 
behind the aura?

Do you wanna touch me,
cosmic lover?

If this “leak” is authentic, it wouldn’t be Gaga’s first go-round with Burqas.  Here was a previous bad attempt at a Burqa-like outfit in London (2012).
And of course she’s succeeding in generating the controversy/buzz she wanted.

The respected site PolicyMic has a piece on Gaga’s “Burqa problem.”   Loonwatch, which usually deals with Islamphobes, had another.
Alas, #Burqaswaq is now also trending.   (sign of the apocalypse, #517.)

Video courtesy The Best Videos via YouTube

Of course Gaga has the right to sing about the Burqa, or wear one if she wants, even if it’s a ridiculous pink see-through one.
Freedom of speech, and all that.

But let us not, for one minute, confuse all the #Burqaswag references among her fan (“little monsters”, as she affectionately calls them) as something in any way emancipatory, or actually about the women who choose to wear burqa (or niqab) or are even forced to wear one by dominant patriarchal cultures around them. Gaga’s Burqa outfits (and song, if it is indeed hers) does nothing to share the already existing full humanity of Muslim women, or others who wear (by choice, custom, or force) the burqa.   It is merely appropriation of some one else’s clothing by an unimaginably wealthy, white, elite North American woman without in any way altering the reality of the lives of women on whose behalf it pretends to speak.

Appropriation is not liberation.

No, this is nothing short of taking the projected image of an “other” (Burqa-wearing women),
pretending to free them from prison of otherness
and plunging them into an abyss of anonymous hypersexualization.

In short, my response to Gaga here is not to be offended.
It’s more of a yawn.
I am bored.

Madonna, wearing some kind of metal niqab nightmare thingee

Madonna, wearing some kind of metal niqab nightmare thingee from Madonna's Instagram account

You’re trying too hard here, Gaga.  Time to move on.

Yet again, Gaga is proving to be a copycat of Madonna, who had already done the whole appropriating of Niqab/Burqa thing by wearing some kind of a metal face mask.

A Somali Muslim woman had a powerful online response to Gaga:

The thing about this appropriation of the burqa that people need to understand is that people like Lady Gaga haven’t done a thing for the communities [here and abroad] that wear, live and breathe the garb who are subjected to harassment for doing so. The words “appreciation” and “admiration” are painfully hollow when you take a piece of clothing from a community and strip it of its intent and the consequences that come from it. …. People love to scream equality and colorblindedness when such an event arises, but such a world is completely theoretical until we fix these the caricatured perceptions about Islam. The power dynamics here cannot be ignored.

If you want to do something about human beings who wear Burqa, it’ll take more than a hashtag and appropriating their (chosen or imposed) outfit.

Here is a suggestion:  imbibe everything in this powerful response from Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American Muslim poet.

 
Video courtesy urbanrenewalprogram via YouTube

Hammad wasn’t talking about Gaga, she’s above that.   But this is what a liberated human being looks like, one who realizes that her liberation doesn’t come through appropriating others.  Here is Lady Suheir Hammad:  ”Don’t wanna be your exotic”

Don’t wanna be your exotic
Like some dark, fragile, colorful bird
Imprisoned, caged
In a land foreign to the stretch of her wings.

Don’t wanna be your exotic
Women everywhere look just like me
Some taller, darker, nicer than me
but like me just the same.
Women everywhere carry my nose on their faces,
my name on their spirits

Don’t seduce yourself with my otherness
My hair wasn’t put on top of my head
to entice you into some mysterious black voodoo.
The beat of my lashes against each other
ain’t some dark, desert beat.
It’s just a blink…get over it.

Don’t build around me your fetish, fantasy,
Your lustful profanity to cage me in, clip my wings.
Don’t wanna be your exotic.

Your lovin’ of my beauty
ain’t more than funky fornication, plain pink perversion
In fact, nasty necrophilia.
Because my beauty is dead to you
I am dead to you.
Not your
harem girl, geisha doll, banana picker
pom pom girl,
pumpum short coffee maker
town whore,
belly dancer, private dancer
la malinche,
Venus hottentot, laundry girl
your immaculate vessel, emasculating princess.

Don’t wanna be
Not your erotic
Not your exotic.

As is often the case with spoken word poetry, it must be seen and witnessed more than just read.   See Ms. Hammad perform here.

Now that is a message that earns respect for its strength, honesty, power, beauty, honesty, and yes, authenticity.

18 Comments

  1. You must not have listened and understood the song. Lady gaga always has an artistic message, and you have badly misinterpreted it. Here is a response that I agree with http://eraofgaga.tumblr.com/post/57586343589/my-opinion-on-lady-gagas-usage-of-the-burqa

  2. You do realize that this song was just her messing around with some friends one night in a hotel room, right?
    It’s not going to be on an album or anything. Just her experimenting with her friends.

    • Omid Safi

      dear Luther, when she shows up in premiers wearing this type of clothing, and on shows in London, it’s not exactly just messing around with friends in a hotel room. It’s a public statement. She has the right to make it, and we have the right to critique it. Peace.

  3. She did remark that in complete contrast to Born This Way’s politicaly infused music, Artpop will have a lack of responsibility, and listening to the provocative lyrics or Burqa i do see her point. She is a wild character, but she knows her audience. If she continued to churn out “Unity Anthems” her fans and fans-in-denial would tire of her. This is her staying true to her artistic vision, one that is always questionable but ultimately intriguing.

  4. It’s funny how you say that she copied Madonna with this burqa look. You pull a Madonna picture from 5 weeks ago. She announced burqa months back AND she wore the burqa in the picture you’re referencing months back as well. So take that “copy” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

    Also, Burqa isn’t titled Burqa, it’s titled aura. An identity, not a fashion choice. She says burqa all of once or twice in the song in its entirety. She dodges the controversy. But all you reporters have to think about it stirring up controversy.

    Good day sir.

  5. Why do Religious Zealots (all religions but mainly Islam & Christian) , feel the need to dominate people & their individualism & subsequently mentally brow beat them into submission.
    The entire basis of any religion is one of forcing compliance to the money making machine that is the church by subjugation through instilling fear & causing.the humiliation of its followers.
    Every single attrocity ever committed in the history of mankind can be directly attributed to religion &/or greed.
    The biggest offenders of the 7 deadly sins & the most prolific breakers of the ten commandments are the very ones that profess to be above reproach.
    Let Lady Gaga say what ever she wants to say. You have a right to not listen if it offends you.

  6. It’s funny. You’re saying you’re “bored” with gags but yet you’re talking about her and using the fact that you’re “bored” with her to get people to view your blog. Clearly you have no understanding of what she was trying to bring attention to in that song. I suggest you go back and read over the lyrics, but this time get the know it all stick out of your ads and you might understand it better.

    I’m not saying you have to like it, I personally don’t like the song but like the lyrics, but I am saying you should at least give her a bit of credit to try and bring attention to something that is rather important. She could be like every other pop artist and talking about all of the superficial shit that doesnt matter. If you dont like the content fine. The idea behind it is what really matters…

  7. Austin: the word AURA has nothing to do with identity. Aura is the private areas, on both male and female. Men have Auras too. Please don’t think she put thought into this. She’s been on tour, heard different languages and met different ppl. I don’t give her the great smarts to attempt to understand much more than selling pop music to her minions, sorry, I meant monsters…

  8. Lady Gaga is a person with serious unhappiness and discomfort about her own body image (as she has said) and this should be viewed in that light.

  9. We have freedom of expression in this country, and there are many things that I don’t like. I don’t like the fact that the “Book of Mormon” can be satirized without a riot, but I doubt that “another” book could be and you know the book.

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