A brief review of Gaga Feminism by J Jack Halberstam

Response to Gaga Feminism by Jack Halberstam

Glenn Booker  12/3/13

 I was disappointed by this book; I guess I expected more depth from it.  Here’s why.

1)      His analysis of gay marriage missed some huge points.  I agree that it’s largely a white queer issue, and probably isn’t a concern for most LGBT people of color (~p. 107).  And I agree that rights shouldn’t be marriage-dependent (p. 108; more on that later).  But I think he glosses over the motives for wanting ‘marriage’ as being too heavily dependent on tax benefits (p. 96) and health care (~p. 110), and ignores the 1000+ other benefits in our society for being married.  He pitches gay marriage as being solely an issue for white middle class (and up) queers to conform to society under the pretense of changing society (p. 97); whereas I think it’s more a statement of the meaningfulness of the relationship and the desire for society to recognize that relationship as being just as valid as any other.

2)      He disdains ‘reactive  politics’ as being weak (p. 104) but then defines gaga feminism as being ‘the wrench in the machinery’ (p. 141).    His role of gaga feminism is to be contrary to the status quo, but once the status quo is brought down, I don’t see a way for gaga feminism to become the new norm.  He despises structure, ‘we organize separate from organizations’ (p. 140) and hints that gaga feminism is related to anarchy, ‘gaga feminism leads the way to an anarchist project of cultural riot and reciprocation’ (p. 137).  But given people’s history of rampant greed and violence, can he seriously expect us to want anarchy?  Somalia, anyone?  Anarchy is the wet dream of the 1%; no pesky laws to get in the way of power and profits.

So if gaga feminism is the new wave we’re supposed to embrace, what kind of world would it create?

I was hoping for more practical solutions, which granted may be a silly expectation for a book based on Lady Gaga.  What if, for example, we took gaga feminism and used it to inspire editing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)?  What if we took the law books and threw out all restrictions based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or marital status?

  • The original ERA starts: “Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
  • How about instead:  “Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state or local government on account of sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or marital status.”

I suppose you might need some refinement to keep pedophiles and zoophiles from getting protected under that law, but otherwise this might simplify our legal system a lot, and make way for recognizing the full spectrums of sex, gender, and consensual sexuality.



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