When starting this article I started by google-ing “Katy Perry feminist.” Here are most of the complaints against her:
1. “I Kissed a Girl” is heteronormative bullshit that perpetuates using sexuality exclusively to satisfy the male gaze.
2. She is in pop music so she has to be a role model, and yet “California Gurls” etc is super terrible messages to be sending young girls.
3. “UR So Gay” is horribly homophobic.
4. She’s religious and is basically the conservative right in music form.
So. I love Katy Perry. Anyone who knows me knows how much I listen to her music and love staring at her clothing choices and obsess over her ridiculous choices. And I am aware that she really is not a feminist. She has a penis worship song, for goodness sake. But is all this backlash completely deserved?
“I Kissed a Girl” is, in one reading, completely about making out with girls in the safe world of heterosexuality. And it is that, for sure. But for me it takes a slightly different twist. For me, bringing my experience to it, the song feels more like an inner monologue filled with conflict. She kissed a girl, she has a boyfriend, she cheated, she’s terrified. “It’s not what/Good girls do/Not how I should behave” is a lyric quoted a lot in the articles I read about Ms. Perry proclaiming that she is Male Gaze baiting. But listen on, the next two lines are “My head is/so confused/Hard to obey.” Doesn’t that speak at least a little to the actual conflict the singer is feeling? Ok ok, I’m putting a huge chunk of my own perspective in to this, but I think it’s important to take this from both sides. And almost all of the Katy-hating doesn’t attempt to see any other meaning in her words.
Ok ok ok, because a person is famous means they have to be a role model? Ok, Lady Gaga, get your shit together. Ready Ludacris? Gotta stop singing about drugs and sex! I’m sorry, but fucking WHAT? Yes, if you push yourself as a role model then you have an obligation to stick to at least your own moral ideas. However, if your art or music or whatever talks about sex and being sexy and shouting a lot you should not be made to censor yourself. No one person is responsible for the media messages we get. We are each responsible to self educate and filter and help filter those messages for the girls around us. Like in Mean Girls when we see the little girl dancing to the music video. It’s not the music video’s fault, it’s her completely irresponsible mother. Now, I’m not saying that the messages Perry is belting are all totally positive for a young girl, but at least she’s not afraid of her desire for sex and sexuality. It feels a little like slut-bashing. I don’t know, I’m conflicted on this, which is what keeps Katy Perry as a guilty guilty pleasure of mine.
“UR So Gay” is pretty bad. Even as a parody, which the video makes it seem, it’s still pretty hard to defend this one. It’s catchy as all get out, but it’s really terrible at forcing the gender binary and claiming that her self-obsessed and effeminate boyfriend is gay despite his sexuality. So gay in fact that he has no genitals at all. Which is what happens to you when you are really really gay. Oof, Katy, your horribly bigoted Christian upbringing is showing.
Which brings me to my final point. Why oh why is it necessary to constantly mention that Perry started as a gospel singer and was raised by preachers? She has stepped away from it, but not abandoned her connection to that upbringing. She’s not a bad girl. She’s not Lady Gaga. Her best friend is Tayler Swift. So she tends to end her songs on notes of potential matrimony and “true love” but does so with an edge missing from a lot of Swift-esque purity. Which is refreshing. And is why I am not completely ashamed of loving Katy Perry. She sings about love and sex and the fact that you get to want both. And then you get to party really hard but sometimes feel like you’re getting lost in it.
I can’t completely defend her. At all. I just think that the bulk of the arguments against her are pretty one sided. Plus, look at this and tell me about her lack of talent. Le Sigh.