Et tu, Gaga?

gaga.jpgLady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper were in London over the weekend to promote their admirable work with MAC cosmetics. Each woman has had a lipstick color created for her, and all proceeds from the sales of those two colours will go to the MAC AIDS Fund. The Gaga-Lauper campaign specifically targets women, encouraging testing and condom use and attempting to break misconceptions that women and older people are less at risk of HIV infection:
The Daily Mail reports:

“The rate of infection worldwide is higher than ever for women in our particular demographic,” says Gaga. “Those most at risk are women in my age bracket, 17 to 24 [she is 24], and Cyndi’s, which is 38 to 60 [Cyndi is 56]. Part of the problem is that women in those groups are not getting tested. Here in the UK, for example, the statistics are that 73 per cent of women have not been tested for HIV. This is a disease that affects everyone, not just the gay community, and right now it’s mostly affecting women.”

Gaga went on to encourage her fans to have sex only when they feel ready – and to take advantage of the condoms handed out at her concerts, if and when they do. She also reminded them that “you don’t have to have sex to feel good about yourself,” a valuable message in a time when women so often feel like their self-worth is determined by how many people want to have sex with them.
Get serious about your sexual health, protect yourself, don’t have sex until you’re ready, you are not your sex life. These are all great messages, and both Gaga and Lauper are to be commended for putting their considerable influence as celebrities behind such a worthy cause (and for advocating for sexual health in a realistic and respectful way, unlike some other celebrities). But Gaga lost me when she said this:

‘I remember the cool girls when I was growing up. Everyone started to have sex. But it’s not really cool any more to have sex all the time. It’s cooler to be strong and independent.’

Having sex and being “strong and independent.” Since when are the two mutually exclusive? And why do I have a sneaking suspicion that no man is ever going to be told that he has to make this choice? For a man, having sex “all the time” doesn’t affect anyone’s perceptions of his strength or independence. But for a woman, the more sex she has, the weaker and less independent she apparently becomes. Lady Gaga does a lot of things that are inventive and original, and encouraging people (and women especially) to be strong and independent, is great. But this message – this dichotomy that pits strong and independent women against women who have a lot of sex – is a song we all need to stop singing.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation