Katy Perry-The Postergirl for GLBTIQ Music?

It’s official. Out is completely o-u-t of touch with the LGBTIQ community at large.

Out magazine’s Hot 100 issue features Katy Perry on the cover. And, as a blogger at AfterElton.com says: “It begs the question, ‘What the hell is Katy Perry doing on there?’”

The question is a good one. Perry is a straight performer with a Christian background who really only pretends to go bad on her album, dubiously named One of the Boys. Tracks such as “I Kissed a Girl”, “One of the Boys”, “ur so gay” and “Mannequin” prove that Katy Perry is as heteronormative and homophobic as the Catholic Pope. Only Perry’s a mainstream phenomenon with chart topping hits. That makes her especially dangerous.Katy the Covergirl

So let’s explore the music of Katy Perry a little deeper and find out why, exactly, Out’s choice of Perry as Musician of the Year is like stabbing oneself in the foot.

 

The Music of Katy Perry

If you identify as a feminist or happen to have any feminist beliefs at all, listening—I mean really listening—to Katy Perry’s One of the Boys album will make you feel like you’ve willingly submitted yourself to be tortured. The album is basically the conservative right with a new image. That of the ‘good girl gone bad…but not really’ image. If you don’t believe me…well, let’s go through a few of the album’s tracks.

Take for example the title track, “One of the Boys”. As the very first track on the CD, it makes you wonder if you really want to listen to the rest of the album. (You don’t. believe me.) The opening lines are “I saw a spider I didn’t scream/cuz I can belch the alphabet, just double dog dare me/I chose the guitar over ballet/and I take these suckers down because they just get in my way.”

First of all—how in the world does belching the alphabet help you not scream when you see a spider? Do you mean that by doing that I’ll never scream when I see a spider? And are you stuck in the 70s, Katy? The guitar is more of an equal-opportunity instrument now, it’s really not a “boy” thing. The rest of the song continues in that vein as Perry paints boys as nasty smelling creatures who just wanna make out with girls while the girls are pearly princesses who like reading 17 and shaving their legs so they can make the boys stand in line if they want to date her. Thanks, Katy. We really appreciate all the work you’re doing by putting us boys and girls back into our positions. I’ll go buy my issue of Cosmo now, since I’m a few years too old for 17.

The next track was Katy Perry’s long-lasting chart hit, “I Kissed a Girl.” If you’re still listening to the album, you may want to stop now. It only gets worse from here. This song is a straight guy’s fantasy more than anything else. It’s the musical equivalent of two girls making out with each other so a bouncer can get his kicks and allow them to get in for free. It’s cheap. Easy. And insulting, degrading, and shallow. But that beat is hard to forget once you’ve heard it. And that what makes Katy Perry more dangerous than most neo-conservative fanatics. You can tune them out easily. But trying to tune Katy Perry out… it can be difficult.

Throughout the song Perry assures listeners that she’s straight with the line “I hope my boyfriend won’t mind.” She also assures listeners that while she may be ‘experimenting’, it’s definitely not a serious affair. That girl she’s making out with, the one with the yummy cherry chapstick? Oh, don’t worry. She’s going to be nameless. She was just a pawn in Katy’s game to make herself seem like more of a ‘bad girl’ for her boyfriend. As she sings, “this isn’t what good girls do.”

After that, we have a semblance of a break. “Waking up in Vegas” kills the insults thrown by the earlier songs, as does the not-very-memorable song “Thinking of You.” But thBecause she's so innocent...really.en we have a song Out would have done well to know about before they made Perry Musician of the Year. “Mannequin” is the ultimate in boxed gender/male bashing songs. If Perry identified as a feminist, she would be the kind that Nellie Furtado was referring to. (by the way, if you’re still listening to this album, I’m done warning you. Have fun in your musical torture chamber.)

The second and third verses of “Mannequin” says everything you need to know about the singer’s view of mankind. And then some.  

“[I’m] Usually the queen
At figuring out

Breaking down the man
Is no workout

But I have no clue
How to get through to you
I wanna hit you
Just to see if you cry

Keep knockin on wood
Hopin’ there’s
A real boy inside”

 

 Is this not a warning signal? If this was written and sung by a guy, (“[I’m] usually the king at figuring out/breaking down the woman is no workout”), we’d see a lot of character examination of the artist. But then it helps that “Mannequin” isn’t a hit single. But that’s not the end of the story. One of the Boys hit gold status, meaning the album has sold more than 500,000 copies. The album. Not single tracks.

That means there are thousands of people out there who took the CD home and listened to it and love songs like “Mannequin” because of its great beat. Isn’t it great how a good beat takes precedence over message?

But, I digress. After saying how much she’d like to hit the boy she’s with, Perry continues to say how, because he’s not a real man (he’s just a mannequin), he can’t recognize the fact that her love is real. Oh, and if only he’d let her in and be a “Real Man” she’d fix him. Wow, Katy. I can only hope that these lyrics were vomited up and don’t apply to your real relationships. Because if that’s the case, you need to reexamine what a relationship actually is.

Just sayin’.

South Of Nowhere=More Real than Katy Perry
South Of Nowhere=More Real than Katy Perry

Right after “Mannequin” we have the last very-insulting song and Katy’s first big hit. “Ur So Gay.” Bad spelling aside, this is just a bad song. Where networks like the N (Nickelodeon’s teen network that airs shows like Degrassi and South of Nowhere” are trying to fight back on the usage of the word “gay” as synonymous with “stupid”, Katy uses the word unabashedly to insult her ex-boyfriend.

 

“I hope you hang yourself with your H+M scarf,” she says.

“You don’t eat meat and drive electrical cars,” she says.

“I can’t believe I fell in love with someone who wears more make up [than me],” she says.

“You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys,” she says.

At this point it becomes necessary to take a very deep breath and try to remember the one good line of this song: “You’re so sad, maybe you should buy a happy meal.” That’s a funny line. The one good thing about this song.

The rest….well, let’s take a look. Perry starts the song off by saying “I hope you hang yourself with your H+M Scarf.” Wow. Violence seems to be a recurring theme on this CD. Rather, violence towards men.

Out magazine, you should be very proud of your choice. Really.

Like she’s done with gender throughout the album, Perry starts putting gay people into boxes. If you’re gay, you must be driving electrical cars and vegan. You must be wearing more makeup than her. You must be more interested in myspace than anything else. And the list goes on.

It’s one big insult wrapped into one song.

Oh wait—did I say that “Ur So Gay” was the last insulting song? I kind of lied, but I won’t go into the other insulting song in much detail. A quick premise of the non-single “If You Can Afford Me.” Basically it’s what the title suggests. Ms. Perry seems to think herself the “crème de la crop” and admits to being high maintenance, but a guy who dates her is just gonna have to accept that.

Women, in the world of One of the Guys are girly-girls, and if they break against the grain, they’ll find themselves out of luck when it comes to dating and need a complete revamping so they can become super girly. They like pearls. They’re expensive. They’re all about appearance.

Guys, a la One of the Guys are stinky. They want their girls to be homecoming queens and pretty in pearls. They’re expected to indulge in buying their girlfriends lots of stuff if they want to have a relationship. Oh, and if they don’t fall under these preset conditions…they’re gay.

And queer people, what little time they have throughout the album are either a)experimenting but not real—which only applies to women and b)stupid.

Essentially, Katy Perry is the best thing the neoconservative movement could ask for. They just don’t know it.

And by making Perry the cover girl and Musician of the Year, Out has proved that it is little more than a stray dog, grasping at whatever scraps it can get from the oppressive owner.

There is good news. On AfterEllen.com, the nominees for best Lesbian/Bi Musician of the Year doesn’t include Katy Perry. And she’s not listed as under the Best Straight Ally, either. Clearly, not everyone is fooled by the “I Kissed a Girl” image.

 

 

 

This sign isn't nearly as effective as the subtext of Katy Perry's message. If only they knew, they could work together again, like they did before she got famous.
This sign isn't nearly as effective as the subtext of Katy Perry's message. If only they knew, they could work together again, like they did before she got famous.
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Rough Sports Not For Girls–They’d Get Hurt (NYT cover story)

Part 1 of 3
(disclaimer: My title is not the actual title in the New York Times. The actual title (and link to story) is The Uneven Playing Field.)

“Every girl has a large store of vital and nervous energy upon which to draw in the great crisis of motherhood. If the foolish virgin uses up this deposit in daily expenditures of energy on the hockey field or tennis court, as a boy can afford to do, then she is left bankrupt in her great crisis and her children will have to pay the price.”  –New York Times, 1921 as quoted in Women in Sport: Issues & Controversies.

“Everyone wants girls to have as many opportunities in sports as boys. But can we live with the greater rate of injuries they suffer?” –New York Times, 2008.

 Michael Sokolove *could* have written an important piece for the New York Times. It could have been a piece exposing sports culture as potentially hazardous to the lives of young athletes. It could have been an article stressing injury prevention tactics. It could have been a wake up call for young athletes, parents & coaches.

Instead, his article was part fear tactic that screamed at readers: “LOOK WHAT TITLE IX IS DOING!!! IT’S HURTING OUR DAUGHTERS!!!”

His piece focused on a high school soccer player, Janelle Pierson.  For Janelle, as the article paints it, soccer is more than just a sport. It’s her daily breath, her entire life summed up in one game. When she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (A.C.L.) in her right knee, she went back to the game five months after the reparitive operation. And just 20 months before the operation, she’d had the same injury on her other knee.

No pain no gain.

Sokolove details the parental angst of the Piersons. Maria Pierson, watching her daughter at a game and worried sick that her daughter would get injured-again. When Janelle and an opposing team member were going for the ball and collided, Mrs. Pierson lost it; “‘No! No! Oh no!’ she yelled. She jumped up from her seat and her sunglasses went flying off her head into the row below. Janelle emerged unscathed. Her mother retrieved her glasses and exhaled. For the moment, Janelle was fine.”

Janelle’s dad, on the other hand, was worried more about ‘philosophical’ aspects of Janelle’s choices, and worried about what impact Title IX has on Janelle’s injuries. As Sokolove writes: “Title IX, the federal law enacted in 1972 mandating equal opportunity in sports has helped to shape a couple of generations of girls who believe they are as capable and tough as any boy. With a mix of resignation and pride, Rich Pierson said to me: ‘We’ve raised these girls to be headstrong and independent. That’s Janelle.'”

The article goes on to say that girls-especially the girls involved in sports like soccer and basketball-have a higher risk of tearing their A.C.L’s, that the physical differences between girls and boys contribute to the problems girls face on the field/court/rink/etc,  that tournament schedules play hell on a teenage girl’s body and that girls may well be trying to tough it out just to prove to boys, so often thought of as the “strong” sex, that they can do it.

What the article should say is that sports have a tendency toward injury, especially when the no pain, no gain motto is followed. Especially when teams have hectic tournament schedules that play them hard and often in a short period of time. Especially when coaches don’t do the coaching they should be doing–if a student athlete falls wrong and gets hurt because of a lack of training-that’s a problem. And especiallywhen there’s no injury prevention. While Sokolove says many of these things, it’s all with the gender card highlighted. Instead of shining the spotlight on athletic problems, he’s shining it on the “weaker sex”–so physically different that our athletic abilities are impaired and we place ourselves in danger every time we get on that field.

Sokolove’s article brought up some interesting questions on gender difference. I’ve been used to women in sports and have never thought “hmm, what could the way the female body is formed change athletic ability? Is there really a huge difference? and does it really affect our performance in sports?”

The answers, according to Gloria Beim, MD (physician to the US National Track Cycling Team) and Ruth Winter, M.S.–there are differences, they aren’t huge and they can affect a sport in both positive and negative ways, but either way–the differences are no reason for discouragement from a sport. Just because an athlete happens to be female doesn’t mean she can’t succeed.

The Role of Sex in Sports Performance

The intro to The Female Athlete’s Body Book: How to Prevent and Treat Sports Injuries in Women and Girls (2003), is telling.

“Our female bodies are constructed and function differently from men’s, and that gives us both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, many coaches, physicians, and athletes have not recognized the differences; as a result, female athletes often have inadequate training, suffer unnecessary injuries, and may not reach their full potential.”

In The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports (1995),Mariah Burton Nelson (lead basketball scorer at Stanford in ’78, a pro-basketball player in France and on the first Women’s Basketball League) also notes that there are differences.

Men, she says, have more lean muscle mass (convenient in sports requiring explosive power–aka most of the sports men have invented…shocking, isn’t it!) Meanwhile “less muscle-bound, women generally have better flexibility, useful in gymnastics, diving, and skating. Our lower center of gravity can help in hockey, golf, tennis, baseball, and even basketball.” With that said the question remains: does sex then influence victory?

Not so much, says Mariah. For most sports, success is determined by physical/mental preparation, competitive spirit, self discipline and other non-gendered factors. Men’s strength advantage is marginal…in other words, there’s more variation among individual men than there is between the average man and the average woman.

In the Body Book, Beim &Winter explore women’s strengths and weaknesses in each individual sport. If you turn to the chapter on soccer (chapter 2), you’ll find that the dreaded A.C.L’s are included among the most frequent injury list, in addition to sprained ankles, muscle cramps, broken legs, hurt heads (thanks to the head butting of the ball or other collisions) among others. Unlike Sokolove, the authors do not place fault of injury on the idea that “girls are going to get hurt like this because they’re designed to get hurt that way…” Instead, the authors say “This (insert injury here) could well happen to you. Here’s what to do so you can prevent it. and if it does happen, here’s how you can get past it.”

And they’re happy to add the benefits of a game like soccer, which Sokolove so easily forgets:

  •  
    • Playing any position (minus the goal keeper) is to have a complete lower body and cardiovascular workout-soccer involves all muscles of the lower body and promotes good eye-foot coordination
    • anyone can play (size isn’t as important as it is in sports like basketball or football)
    • Specialized positions encourages teamwork and participation
    • As a sport, soccer helps improve self-esteem and body image.

 In “The Uneven Playing Field,” Sokolove quotes Sandra Schultz, an A.C.L. researcher who teaches graduate courses in athletic training and sports medicine at UNC-G as saying that advocates for women in sports and Title IX will ignore the injuries that come from the battlefield..oops, field, rather…or court… In her view the people that support organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation are going to encourage sports at the expense of individual players.

Well, isn’t it nice to know how critics of girls in sports get to say that while they go on to ignore the benefits of sports and–in addition–the benefits derived from Title IX.

Let’s forget about how after Title IX was implemented, girls in the high school level sports went from 7% participation pre-Title IX to 41.5% in 2001. On the college level, women made up 2% of the athletic participants. In 2001-43%

And from 1987-1999, the number of girls aged 6 and over playing basketball increased 15% to 12.67 million while the number of girls of the same ages increased by 20% to 7.3 million. (numbers from the Feminist Majority Foundation)

Let’s face it. Girls (like boys) just wanna have fun.