Feminism / Music / Veganism

Lady in Red…Meat: Should We Condemn Lady Gaga for Wearing a Meat Dress?

Okay…the meat dress.  As we all know by now, Lady Gaga donned a raw meat dress (yes, folks it was real) for the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).  As the resident vegan at work, my colleague Nai exuberantly asked my thoughts on the whole situation.  I love Lady Gaga; she’s crazy, kooky and a fantastic performance artist (not that I’m an art expert).  I sing along to her songs, particularly when they’re blasting in bars with some margaritas and my Lady Posse (yes, I did just use the term “posse”…I’m bringing it back retro style).  But yes, the meat dress appalled me.  Now as we all know, Lady G has worn all sorts of elaborate and over-the-top attire, from lobster hats and masks to bubble dresses and even a dress made of stuffed Kermit the Frogs.  But the meat dress sparked quite the shitstorm.

All over Twitter and the blogosphere, people have been up in arms about the meat dress, complete with matching meat hat and purse.  Many, including PETA, declared it offensive, crude and gross, while others just shook their heads in confusion.  Actor Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”) even sported a sushi dress when she went on the Tonight Show.  In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, a vegan who politely cringed as Gaga approached in her flesh frock, Lady Gaga explained her reasoning behind the dress in a sort of convoluted way,

“Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. I as you know, am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. However, it has many interpretations. But for me this evening, if we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones.”

Apparently, Lady Gaga hoped to make a statement about standing up to the military’s unjust Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policyBut here’s the bottom line: had she strutted onstage in a leather dress, no one would have uttered a peep. People wear leather jackets and shoes all the time.  Yet many of us rarely discuss the cruelty that goes into making such attire.  The only thing separating Lady G’s meat dress and a pair of Jimmy Choos?  Loads of chemicals preventing the dress from rotting.  As Ari Solomon on Huffington Post astutely asserts,

“Skin is considered to be one of the most significant economic by-products of the meatpacking business. The leather industry tans the skins and hides of billions of animals each year. Most leather sold in the US is made from the skins of cattle and calves that have suffered in factory farms. High-priced calfskin is actually a by-product of the veal industry. How luxurious!…So, while we all pretend to be shocked and appalled and scandalized by the antics of a pop star, perhaps we should simply take a look in our own meat racks, I mean, closets.”

In her interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga also proclaimed, “I am not a piece of meat” as she held up her Japanese Vogue cover, in which she wore a meat bikini.  It’s interesting that she uttered those words.  In her controversial book The Sexual Politics of Meat, activist Carol J. Adams looks at the links between feminism and vegetarianism.  Looking at how our society connects meat-eating with masculine virility, Adams correlates slaughtering and eating animals with sexism, patriarchal attitudes and violence against women.  Gaga’s gown certainly spotlights oppression, of animals and perhaps the objectification of women too.

As a vegan, I shudder at the thought of dead flesh touching my skin or my lips.  Lady Gaga’s meat dress disgusts me, yet it doesn’t drastically differ from leather clothing.  Both come from dead carcasses.  Protesting wearing animals certainly wasn’t her original intention.  But if her shocking attire spurs people to rethink their own wardrobes, then perhaps her crazy stunt was worth it.

13 thoughts on “Lady in Red…Meat: Should We Condemn Lady Gaga for Wearing a Meat Dress?

  1. I watched the MTV music awards, if only to ogle Katy Perry & enjoy Chelsea Handler, and much to my annoyance, there was Lady GAGA, fame whore extraordinaire, front & center.

    I lived through Madonna in the 80’s, i don’t want to revisit it again in 2010.
    GAGA, with her minimal talent, and ten billion props, giving shout-outs to her, “little monsters….”
    No wonder the music industry is collapsing like a house of cards.

    Her meat dress, while initially amusing, had little to do with any grand, subliminal statement, and more to do with stealing all the headlines, the following day.
    And that she did, Mission accomplished.
    She thrives on attention, shoving her brand down our collective throats, and i’m sure her label was ecstatic.

    I’m sure she would have slaughtered a cow onstage, had that assured her even more ATTENTION.

    “Look at me! Look at how artsy & kooky i am!”
    Even her name is lame (hey, that rhymes).

    Still, the most confusing aspect of last Sunday’s MTV awards show, to me, was Eminem.

    When did he become so freaking serious?!!
    Has he killed off, “Slim Shady?”

  2. I agree with you Megan. People always go crazy about phenomenon, and don’t pay attention what’s really important. Yeah, I didn’t like the meat on Lady Gaga. She is attracting way too much attention, isn’t she? It’s like many other things. For example, female genital mutilation. It’s a symptom of much bigger problems: education, female status within the society, etc. etc. etc. Homosexuality issues as well. people focus so much on what they think homosexuals ‘do’ and not see what they ‘are’. Humans!

    Oy vey.

  3. Gaga is always on the move to make a statement in everything she does, I don’t think it has to do with the attention to her, more the attention to what she does and why. (Julian, as one who professes his love for K-Perry you don’t really have a lot of room to condemn Gaga for posing)

    Is the meat dress in bad taste? To P.E.T.A. and similarly-minded parties, absolutely. However, even as someone who has seriously lessened his meat and dairy intake with the knowledge of where these things come from, I still own and wear a leather coat and leather boots in the winter. It basically is the same thing, just boiling something down to it’s base materials, so it would be wrong of me to condemn Gaga’s statement as poor, especially as her whole message was on an entirely unrelated topic. Obviously she doesn’t feel the same way as many people out there condemning her, but perhaps that’s simply because no rationally-minded people have helped educate her on that topic as of yet.

  4. Part of Kitty Purry’s (i mean, Katy Perry’s) charm, is that she does not take herself too seriously.
    There is no grand statement to song’s like, “Waking up in Vegas” or “California Gurls.”
    You won’t see Katy shooting torpedo’s off her breasts, in hopes of enlightening her fans to the plight in Iraq.

    Gaga wears a sirloin steak on her head, in defense of the gays (?????)
    Gaga dons a flower pot & shows her opposition for all the repressed artists, eaten & chewed up by the industry (????).
    I’m all for self-expression and pushing those boundaries, but Gaga is NOT doing that.
    She’s a poor imitation of Lene Lovich & Madonna, all wrapped up in a shiny, easy to swallow, dancey beat.
    It’s the equivelent of Marilyn Manson shocking all the Goth kids in the 90’s, by repackaging Alice Cooper’s late seventie’s schtick.

    Delve a little deeper, Gianni.

    Gaga is pretentious, Katy Perry is precious.

  5. Wait, I’m confused. Are you saying it’s blasphemy for Katy Perry to shoot whipped cream out of her breasts? Cause I think that’s pretty cool.

  6. okay lady gaga is amazing and the fact that she is wearing a meat dress doesnt even add up to all that good she has done. so what it was real meet get over it. Wearing it was for a purpose, a good one not bad. I am thankful to have someone like her standing up for gay rights.

  7. As a vegetarian, I was more than a little grossed out by Lady Gaga’s meat dress. On top of that, I’m not sure I understand her justification. It would be interesting to hear more on that from here. She’s a very smart lady and I’m sure she has her reasons. As for your blog, I really enjoyed it. You raise a great point with regards to how different the reaction might have been had she worn leather instead. Also, I have never heard of “The Sexual Politics of Meat” but it sounds like a fascinating read. Thanks for posting!

  8. I found this after bouncing over from Freshly Pressed (congrats on that by the way), to your Meat-Free Monday’s post. I was very happy to come across a strong voice like yours writing on topics like veganism and animal cruelty. We can use more people like you, everywhere.

    In this article, your views and assessment are spot on, I believe. So many of the reactions and analyses to this original story were shallow, or focused too greatly on Gaga herself. You did a good job of digging deeper, and your last paragraph really nailed it. You were also very sharp to point out the hypocrisy regarding leather goods, & people’s statements or positions regarding the Gaga story.

    By the way, I’m a vegetarian myself, working together with my spouse on making the change to veganism. I’m so glad to have found your blog, partly because I think it will support us in that effort. Being new to wordpress.com – you are my very first subscription! Thanks. I will be taking up similar topics myself, and seeing your posts provides me with great motivation.

    • @microscapegoat, Thank you SO much for your detailed and thoughtful reply. I’m incredibly flattered by your kind praise. Congrats on your new blog (it’s an exciting yet overwhelming undertaking at times!) and on your transition to veganism…good for you! I wish you the best of luck and hope you enjoy what you read here 🙂

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