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 policy. But 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.