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.
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,
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.
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
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.