As part of a final seminar in the module “Feminist Literary Theory: Perspectives on Women and Literature,” some of our MA students wrote their own Gaga Manifestos.
The exercise was inspired by Jack Halberstam’s Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal (2012), part of the curriculum in this module. Halberstam (a professor of English at Columbia University, who visited UL last year) proposes Lady Gaga as a symbol of a new kind of feminism, which is outrageous, wild and anarchic.
So for Halberstam to “go gaga” is to go a bit crazy, to be little quirky, break away from convention and think outside the box.
Halberstam concludes Gaga Feminism with his Gaga Manifesto, where he suggests we all embrace the impractical, start a revolution and do whatever seems counter-intuitive.
In this spirit, our MA students have created their own inspiring versions of the Gaga Manifesto, two of which are reproduced below.
Gaga Manifesto by Mark Dooley (MA Gender, Culture & Society)
I believe in doing the right thing, in putting myself in other people’s shoes and considering others people’s feelings. I believe in being aware of how I act and being conscious of how my actions can have an impact on people. I believe in giving people credit for the work they have done and acknowledging the work of everyone around you on a daily basis. I believe in asking for help when it is needed and offering help to those who may or may not be struggling. I believe in standing up for what is right even when staying silent may be the easier option. I believe in keeping people informed of the goings on in life and that not being ok, is perfectly ok as we all experience difficult times. I believe in helping others and doing random acts of kindness because one little act can make a big difference.
Gaga Manifesto by Lauren Cassidy (MA English)
- I believe that Feminism stands for equality. While past perceptions of Feminism have led people to believe that the movement is gendered, I think that Feminism should unite men and women. The term “Feminist” should not be used to denote a certain gender, sex, or sexuality. We should all be Feminists.
- I think that sexuality, gender and relationships do not need to be labelled. Happiness is not only available to a certain type of person. There are many different ways to be happy, and happiness should never be hindered by societal prejudice or limitations. As long as you are living a life that does not harm anyone else, and (if you decide to be) in a relationship that exists between consenting adults, happiness should be completely available to you.
- I believe that in the past, ambition has belonged to men. Ambition should be encouraged in both men and women from a young age. We should all be encouraged to strive for what we are passionate about, and no limitation should be placed on our ability to achieve it.
- I contend that not enough value is placed on pregnancy, childrearing or domestic labour. Before I expand on this point, I would like to state that I do not believe that pregnancy, childrearing or marriage are compulsory. Life should not follow a formula. There is no formula for happiness, or step-by-step Ikea manual on how to construct your life correctly. Similarly, I do not think that childrearing and domestic work should always be a woman’s responsibility, and we need to undermine the stigma around stay-at-home dads. Paternity leave should be extended, as I believe that a father’s opportunity to bond with their child is just as important as a mother’s. I think that men should be encouraged to be active participants in their children’s lives, and the maintenance of their households. Moreover, although producing the next generation, and contributing to a functioning society, I think that not enough value is placed on women’s ability to reproduce. Similarly, the career sacrifices they make to give birth / bring up their children are often essentialised, trivialised, and forgotten.
- I also think that society should engage and invest more in counter culture. Subcultures in literature, film, and art can provide alternative representations of life. Away from Hollywood, heteronormativity is no longer viewed as the norm. Sub or countercultures can expose new generations to fresh perspectives, displacing monolithic visions of the world.
The “Gaga” seminar was organised by Dr Marina Cano from the School of English, Irish and Communication. The module, Feminist Literary Theory: Perspectives on Women and Literature (EH6042), is available to students in the MA English, MA Creative Writing, MA Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, and MA Gender, Culture & Society.
Halberstam, Jack J. Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal. Beacon Press, 2012. Copies available at the Glucksman Library.