all we hear is radio gaga
Gaga Feminism, by J. Jack Halberstam; Published by Beacon Press; Available in Paperback (2013)
How is it that we can shift and alter our perceptions of so many of the building blocks of social life but we still cling to practically nineteenth-century notions of the intimate, the domestic and the private?” asks author Jack Halberstam in the first chapter of Gaga Feminism. He goes on to paint a picture of a crisis of gender and sexuality as techno-shock and rapidly shifting social norms lead to an odd mix of changing expectations in conflict with episodes of hard-headed retrenchment of gender doctrine. Emerging from this chaos of expectations, Halberstam points to the ambiguous image of Lady Gaga as a pioneer of a new, performative rather than essentialized model of gender that is pointing the way to a newer, more tolerant, but more radicalized embrace of this crisis in gender roles.
In a recent interview author Halberstam opined that “academics are never a good judge of our own accessibility,” which is borne out by the uneven tone of Gaga Feminism. This is a “pop gender theory” book that has plenty of playfulness, accessible pop culture references and attitude – and is built on some really solid, interesting and challenging ideas - but is never able to get these two elements to sit well together, or to elaborate these ideas with the clarity and rigour that is the true selling point of academia.
Gaga Feminism can serve as a valuable introduction to a theorist who obviously has lots of interesting things to say. But if you want to get into meatier thought on sex and gender theory, you’re going to need to go from here to a work that’s less shy of being wordy.
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