I bought Katy Perry’s One of the Boys,* and was immediately struck by how misogynistic and homophobic the CD is. I was going to go through problematics of each track one by one, but then my ears started bleeding.* So, I’ll instead bring up one major issue for me and a BUH? discussion launcher.
To begin! The titular first track, “One of the Boys,” sets up a straw-man argument, where the narrator describes herself as an exceptional female, to borrow Adrienne Rich’s term for a woman who gains acceptance in a group of men through reiterating a set of stereotypes about women and then constructing her identity as not-that. Perry sings about how she’d tape her boobs down because they’re a nuisance, she prefers guitar over ballet, and isn’t afraid of spiders, all of which mean she’s one of the boys and the dude in question doesn’t see her as a love-interest. She starts researching girliness by reading fashion magazines, and comes back to school ready to wow him. That’s pretty standard-fare, but in conversation with “Kissed a Girl,” the next song, you start to realize that Perry’s doing something really whackadaisical.
1. She’s positioning herself in contrast to an essentialized kind of femininity — one defined by sexual accessibility, passivity, and “prettiness.”
2. This is a consumable femininity and a consumable sexuality– Perry’s able to take on the trappings associated with it (I think because narratively she associates herself with the masculine, active subject as a result of her role as an exceptional female) and is herself able to (harmlessly) objectify that feminine sexuality. Perry’s said elsewhere that the song is about going out and seeing some really hot girl and having a girl-crush moment. She’s also said it’s about sleepovers. How odd, since I thought it was about kissing.
Anyways, that seems pretty cut and dry, right? But wait — there’s more! What do you do with “Ur So Gay?” Jennifer Kesler and I were chatting online about this song and decided there are too many layers of messed up to pick just one. For someone who begins by talking about alternative ways to be female to then go on to talk about the “gayness” of boys who don’t like boys yet drive electrical cars, don’t eat meat, and shop at H&M is just… odd.
So what do you think, y’all? How many layers of nuts can YOU find in the song “UR SO GAY?” Best answer wins my copy of this regrettable CD.
*Please, judge me later for my love of pop.
*Seriously, the only worthwhile track on this CD is “Waking Up in Vegas” — and even that’s just a less awesome aural version of this: