One of the Boys: Is it OK to like Katy Perry?

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?

Heart breaker, sucker-eater, lady hater?

“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.

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About Charlotte

In an attempt to figure it all out, I've broken the world up in to tiny pieces and am conquering them one at a time.
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6 Responses to One of the Boys: Is it OK to like Katy Perry?

  1. Marc says:

    It’s Pop music, the mistake I think most people are making is in over analyzing it, lyrics don’t need to mean anything after all (not even what they actually say).

    Also I’m not sure you can really blame her for lyrics on songs where she is one of three or four writers (and knowing Pop music, might not really be one of them).

    So yeah listen to whatever music you want and unless the person actually does horrid shit outside of saying random stuff in songs, I wouldn’t worry about it to much 🙂

  2. Charlotte says:

    I agree and disagree. I think it’s important to take in to account the messages we get from pop culture and analyze them because if not we may get brain washed.

    Also Katy Perry is one of 2 or maybe 3 people who write her songs, so she’s totes legit 🙂

    But yeah, when it comes right down to it listen to what makes you happy. But don’t be afraid to think about it.

  3. Nathan Kamal says:

    I can agree that it’s important to take in pop culture, but also vital to remember that unless it’s inarguably didactic, it doesn’t have a message, just an impression we receive from it. Hence, your being able to have said perspective “I Kissed a Girl.” And being without message, we’re basically only arguing what we want to see.

    So, uh, yeah…Katy Perry is the mirror that art holds up to the world when she’s kissing another girl.

    Also, as for the role model, as Bob Gibson said: “Why should I be a role model for your kid? You be a role model for your kid.”

    • Thanh says:

      Love the Bob Gibson quote you posted. If anything, I completely disagree that pop stars have to be role models and I hope with every fiber of my body that the world did not work that way. I’ll use the pro wrestling example: would you want children mimicking dangerous moves on each other? Apples and oranges compared to music, I agree. I suppose my opinion is that I don’t like any sort of idolizing in any shape/form. I relate more to the humility of a struggling artist so that their craft remains pure.

  4. Michael says:

    Lady Gaga writes 100% of her own material (despite the jealous exboyfriend who swears he suggested her stage name and therefore deserves boatloads of cash). And 90% of it is designed simply to fit a meter. “Rah rah ah ah ah”-THAT is pop lyric writing. Does the fact that it is written as sort of a filler gives a lot of amateur psychologists license to treat it as a deep look into the writer’s mind?
    I say no. Just like sex and violence in video games, sex and violence on tv, sex and violence in print, sex and violence in (insert media here), it pays to be outraged. To write outraged articles that maybe 75% of people think are ridiculous, but get the other 25% up in arms without having to bother actually experiencing an artist’s work. It pays.

    • Michael says:

      P.S. I fuckin’ HATE cherry chapstick, and now it’s going around and around in my head >_<

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