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Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  89 reviews
A roadmap to sex and gender for the twenty-first century, using Lady Gaga as a symbol for a new kind of feminism

Why are so many women single, so many men resisting marriage, and so many gays and lesbians having babies?

InGaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, J. Jack Halberstam answers these questions while attempting to make sense of the tectonic cultural
Paperback, 184 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dissertation
In Gaga Feminism, Jack Halberstam tries to present himself as a public intellectual-- and, frankly, fails miserably. This book is at its best when Halberstam presents critiques of the status quo and its pop cultural manifestations, pointing out what's wrong with prevailing conventions around gender and sexuality and what, precisely, is at stake in upholding or challenging them. But his presentation of Gaga feminism as a solution to the problems he poses is anemic and unconvincing. Not only are ...more
I like to read books that let me look into the lives of people unlike myself. When browsing the Goodreads giveaway list I clicked on Gaga Feminism thinking I might get a peek into some lives very different from my own if I won a copy.

I'm pretty conventional, a 64 year old white woman who married at 19 and had her first child at 22. I've been divorced but spent almost all my adult live in a “traditional” marriage. I'm still not quite sure what a gaga feminist is but I don't think I am remotely in
This book is a good introduction to feminism and anti-capitalism, generally. Its accessible, which I like, and easily read. That said, its very chaotic and all over the place, and I can't agree with several points, such as if you're for gay marriage, you're not radical enough. If you're religious, you can't be gaga feminist. Halberstam has pretty narrow views on what radicalism or gaga can look like, its made quite clear that it can't be made in marriage or religion or anything tradtionial ...more
Anne Holcomb
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
I'm officially a fan of J. Jack Halberstam and gaga feminism after reading this book!! This book is not strictly an analysis of Lady Gaga's songs and performances - rather, Halberstam uses the idea of Gaga as a touchstone to discuss several other recent cultural trends that point to an increased diversity in the ways that we "do" gender.

For inspiration, Halberstam looks to children and their media and the diverse ways that kids can understand gender, and analyzes the plots of current romantic
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jack H seems to think we are post feminism and he's advocating a leap into a brave new world of deconstructed gender. It's not clear why he finds feminism so tedious, he mainly seems to find it dowdy. This book is totally entertaining but in his rush to made spongebob squarepants the new icon of feminism he leaves a few issues ignored, like, oh, sexism and misogyny.
The screed against marriage is entertaining but not new, and he's way over invested in romantic comedies as instructional of gender
I have been meaning to read this book for awhile, but never got around to it until this month. I am so glad that I finally found time. It is an easy (and fun!) read, but it covers complex and provocative topics. Halberstam points out the disconnect between academic and popular writings on issues of gender and revolution, and attempts to bridge this gap by presenting academic approaches to these issues in an accessible way. I thought that this was very successful, and I hope to reference this ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I should note that while I admire Lady Gaga for her stand on various issues, in particular the current stand she is making about body type, the only song of hers I really like is "Bad Romance".

So this book is suppose to be about Gaga Feminism which as far as I cann tell for the 3/4 of the book I read before putting it down is crazy feminist. So I am still not extactly sure what it is.

Personally, I think Hallberstam should come to my class where my minority students discuss why Beyonce is a
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Academic J. Jack Halberstam writes about gender theory and queer theory in a way that is more accessible in this trade book. With changes shaking up the economic and political spheres of our world, changes should also be arising in our views of sexuality, gender, family structure, and marriage, but they seem to be lagging behind. Halberstam offers up great examples of a new feminism on the horizon by analyzing contemporary films and news articles from around the world. He/she also intersperses ...more
Catherine Read
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a GREAT book! A must read on so many levels because it is more than just about feminism. It's about gender politics and why we need to rethink some of the institutions and ideas that really aren't working for the vast majority of us. I heard about this book in a presentation at GMU by Dean Spade, author of Normal Life (who is quoted in this book.) Gender politics affect all of us and this is a good primer for reorienting our thinking by shifting our paradigm. It's hard to see what isn't ...more
If you’re unfamiliar with modern/western feminist theory, the first thing to know is that it is generally described as happening in waves. Each wave has been characterized by a different component of the same fight (gender equality): the suffragettes and voting rights in the first wave; the radical New Left and civil rights in the second wave; and the empowered Grrls and job rights in the third wave.

But what if gender equality is the wrong fight? Or, if nothing else, a misguided one that only
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book awhile back, and kept forgetting to write a review. There are really interesting parts of it, but I thought it a bit too repetitive. I received the message, thank you, I don't need it hammered in! This reminds me of my college days, in which an activist group I was in sought to "change the terms of engagement" regarding acceptable forms of protest. This book is about changing all those terms of engagement on a wider social level. For instance, I really enjoyed the section on ...more
Laura Callanan
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
I enjoy Halberstam's playful anarchism. I find it far more compelling than violent rhetorics of anarchic action such as those articulated almost daily from the radical right (while at the same time they decry the destruction of values, clutching their guns). Playful, artistic anarchism has real value for me as a political strategy. I find this book at times a little breezy and superficial--I don't think, for instance Halberstam delves nearly deep enough into Big Love and the ways in which it ...more
Ayanna Dozier
I understand that "Gaga Feminism" is separate from Lady Gaga, but I still find the premise of labeling a "new" branch of feminism after a pop star, who has publicly denounced feminism, to be problematic. Not only that, but a vigorous critique is in order for many of these pop stars who demonstrate "Gaga Feminism" for their troubling relationship to capitalism, a critique that Jack shies away from in the book. Aside from that, Jack manages to write an accessible book that demonstrates the issues ...more
Not completely devoid of value, but overall too weirdly transphobic and misogynistic to recommend to anyone ever for any reason.
Emily Cait
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. Inspired further reading. Will post full review shortly. :)
Overall a read that I enjoyed and found useful for my own thinking, but deeply uneven. Halberstam seems to want to speak to younger generations through “gaga feminism,” named for a Millennial figure, but what is at times approachable and fun writing occasionally veers a bit into the cringeworthy. I wanted something newer and fresher to help theorize generation gaps in feminism, which this book starts to do, but yet is so deeply tied to the period around 2008–2011 that it is a bit hard to work ...more
I'm not sure if I agreed with more than a few ideas in this book. There were definitely points that challenged, some concepts I reverently agreed with, and others I virulently rejected. GAGA FEMINISM was a quick read for me, as I would skip pages upon pages which the author devotes to endless analysis of popular culture. I am quite ignorant and repulsed by a good amount of pop culture today, so I felt that those extended reflections were unnecessary, and, quite honesty, extremely silly.
But when
Liam Arne
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was very fun and the pop culture references were engaging. Certainly less esoteric than most of Halberstam's writing which made it easier to read. I don't agree with all of his analyses but I always enjoyed reading it. Centering the book around Gaga and then decentering her specifically and its chaotic organization meant it was a bit all over the place- but isn't that Gaga feminism in its goals?
Matt Sautman
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Halberstam incorporates a lot more about their personal life in this book than in their other works I've read. [Given that Halberstam identifies as genderqueer in this book as opposed to a transman, I opt for the usage of "their" instead of "his" here.] Although this book may be "somewhat" dated in the past five years, Halberstam's investigation of their own subject position in relation to their girlfriend and her kids, marriage practices, Susan Feludi's lack of awareness about queer temporality ...more
textual silence
Firstly, certain things about this book will 'do it' for readers and certain things won't. I do wonder how such blatant capitalism (of the Gaga ilk - for example, concert ticket prices, merchandising, and the rush to buy clothes and accessories to 'look' like Gaga, to name but a few of the things that serve to make Gaga and Gaga's management team and/or record company obscenely wealthy) is meant to spawn anything new or worthwhile. It seems to me to fit with the kind of 'fashion feminism' that ...more
Brian Palmer
I find some irony in contrasting this with another book I finished today which attacked feminism from a conservative, anti-feminist perspective. In this book, J. Jack Halberstam discusses a new form that will replace traditional feminism. This is made clear in the first pages, where the author describes the well known feminist Susan Faludi (at a conference they both attended) as being "out date"; in a final irony, while the book was written in 2011 when Lady Gaga seemed triumphant, at this date ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a good, quick and worthwhile read.

Gaga Feminism tackles a new world of feminism embodied not only by pop queen Lady Gaga, but also Dory from Finding Nemo, Thomas Beatie, Spongebob Squarepants, and Yoko Ono. Halberstam won me over immediately by calling for an end to the gender binary, but then s/he started to lose me at times. For instance, the author's criticism of gay marriage wasn't completely convincing, even if it was something I needed to hear. I would never advocate against anyone
J. Jack Halberstam offers a radical, revolutionary, anti-capitalist vision of the future... based a round a highly commercialized pop star. What's more, any political opinion Lady Gaga has ever given is dismissed as not important, likely because Halberstam doesn't agree with her. Apparently, the fact that Gaga wears weird outfits is all that's required to make her a revolutionary icon. That, and her song "Telephone" is supposedly a masterpiece of musical genius, an opinion that's debatable.

Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought I would disagree with about half of this book and I was about right - some parts I found very interesting, inspiring even. Others I was very skeptical of, e.g. claiming we live in a "postcapitalist society". I would say the type of capitalist society we live in has definitely changed from the original capitalist structure, neo-capitalist or neoliberal capitalist perhaps but I would say we are definitely still very much living in a capitalist society. Also, the claim that women are ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always been a fan of Halberstam's work and this book is no exception. Although I approached the topic with apprehension Halbertsam uses Gaga's work and approach to her art as a starting point for queer anarchism. While filled with interesting analysis of popular culture, television and film, the idea is as Halberstam suggests always to have fun.

"Lady Gaga is, by her own admission, a fame "monster"; she is positively Warholesque in her love of attention and absolutely masterful in her use
I actually finished reading this months ago, and had this long post/comment written in my head, tying together marriage and health insurance and why health insurance ought to be severed from marriage. Because really, health insurance should not depend on one's marital status. But I didn't write the post and I can't reconstruct my argument without re-reading the book, which was a library book on interlibrary loan, so...

To quote: " could argue that everyone should have the option to extend
Rachel Hills
According to the Goodreads scale, this really should be a one-star review, because I didn't like this book. But I'm giving it two stars because one would suggest it has no redeeming features, and I don't think that is the case at all.

"Gaga Feminism" is a provocative, fairly accessible introduction to queer theory, presented through the lens of the pop star Lady Gaga. The central thesis is that instead of focusing on equality between men and women, or between gay and straight people, we should
Christine Prevas
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Halberstam's work, but I was a little worried when I picked up this book and found a broad thesis that seemed to amount to using Lady Gaga as a symbol for a "new kind of feminism . . . (pheminism?) of the phony, the unreal, and the speculative." I'm not a huge Lady Gaga fan, exactly, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the actual discussion of Lady Gaga ended after the introduction and made way for Halberstam's usual readable, radical queer feminism that I loved so much in ...more
Epiphanie Bloom
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This text advocates for a revolutionary feminism which owes most of its inertia to Communism, with a little bit of anarchism thrown in. Halberstam describes individualism as a chimera and dwells on Zizekian views, which left me cold, but it was nevertheless a creative attempt to mobilise people into active rebellion against state-sanctioned norms. There are many useful and intriguing ideas in it, like the potential for families to be destructive to the individual, the rejection of the norm of ...more
I'm.... not really sure what to say? What *can* I say? It's absolutely horrible. The book tries to present itself as sexy and theatrical, but really it just comes off as incredibly tryhard. And that's not even the worst part of it. The introduction and the first chapter are basically an apologia for pedophilia, obviously not outright, but filtered through "Theory" language. Even more, the book is implicitly Islamophobic in its claim to be "against all forms of religion." Obviously, religion ...more
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Gaga Feminism; sex, gender & the end of normal 1 5 Nov 12, 2013 10:40AM  

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Jack Halberstam (born December 15, 1961), also known as Judith Halberstam, is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature, as well as serving as the Director of The Center for Feminist Research at University of Southern California (USC). Halberstam was the Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California at San Diego ...more
“...we need to think about sex and gender in a more ecological kind of framework, understanding that changes in one environment inevitably impact changes in other environments. Gender here might be thought of more as a climate or ecosystem and less as an identity or discrete bodily location.” 5 likes
“In a crisis, do not remain calm, do not look for the nearest exit, do not stick your head in the sand; do agitate, do make things worse, do run screaming through the street, and do refuse to return to business as usual. Business as usual is what created this mess in the first place. Business as usual has meant that businesspeople and corporate fat cats run/ruin the world and artists are out of luck; it has meant that education, spirituality, sexuality all must function on a business model and every attempt to make changes is greeted with a pragmatic question about whether changing things will also mean making money. Making money cannot be the goal of the new feminism. Putting women in positions of power is not what gaga feminism wants. What gaga feminism wants cannot be easily summarized, but it is not an independent bank account, not a profitable nonprofit; mama does not want a brand new bag. Mama wants revolution.” 1 likes
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