July 25, 2008

I kissed a girl…but don’t worry, I’m not gay

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, music, queer, representation, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

Ever since I heard Katy Perry’s song, I’ve been critical and annoyed. I intended to write about it but so many others have already done so, and their views pretty much align with mine, so I thought I’d make a few comments and link to other awesome posts critiquing the song.

I, like many others, see this song as a representation of the casual, non-threatening, “girl-on-girl” performative play that dominates the representations of women’s same-sex attraction or desire. It plays on the exact stereotypes about bi or same-sex female desire that I discussed in my recent post about Tequila’s Shot at Love. The song’s message is that after a little alcohol, I can make out with another female; I may have liked it for a woman’s softness, scent, and feel, but don’t worry, I don’t plan on dating one. Kissing a girl is something “fun” to do, not anything serious that my boyfriend would be worried about–it’s all fun and games and something to do when you’re drunk at the bar.

On many blogs people ask if this is a remake of Jill Sobule’s song from the 90’s, that was very transgressive at the time. It’s not–it’s nowhere near close. Consider:

Sobule:

I kissed a girl, won’t change the world
But I’m so glad I kissed a girl

And we laughed at the world
They can have their diamonds
And we’ll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

For the first time
I kissed a girl
And I may do it again

Perry:

Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don’t mean I’m in love tonight

I’m pretty frustrated that this song is so popular. Its message is not at all daring, and really isn’t at all queer-positive, but instead actually reinforces the status quo vis-a-vis female sexuality (performing as lesbian for male desire, that it’s “hot” for women to casually play around with chicks, but don’t worry, they’ll always come back for a Man), and it is actually a dangerous co-opting and erasure of queer female sexuality.

I was even more annoyed that this song was played at Saturday’s Gay Pride celebration here in Rochester, NY. One interesting thing: almost all the people I saw singing along were…men.

Other Smart posts about this song:

Fatemeh @ Feministe

landslide1 @ feministing community

Cortney @ Feminism/Popular Culture

Laura @ The F Word

…7/29: I just stumbled on this one I had bookmarked a while ago from show me your wits!

4 Comments »

  1. I keep going back and forth about this song. It offends me (for the reasons you sum up above), and yet it also strikes me as interesting because it reminds me of my own “why do we need labels, let’s all be free to experiment how/when/with who we want.” I get this mostly from “ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent” and “it felt so wrong…” I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this opinion, of course, but just figured I’d say how I sometimes interpret the song.

    (Side note: I think the popularity of this song comes much more from the fact that it gets stuck in your head than any of the actual lyrics. I find myself singing it all the time without even realizing it or wanting to.)

  2. 2lesbosgoinatit said,

    We like Katy’s song. In fact, it’s featured in our Lesbo Videos. It’s interesting though. There is a story on our blog right now about 2 female summer associates being fired from a law firm for some drunken kissing. Some of the comments at Above The Law (a legal blog) blame Katy’s song for the attorneys’ decision to lock lips. Anyway, if straight girls do want to kiss another girl – they should be limited by law to kissing lesbians.

    Love and kisses,

    One Lesbo

    http://2lesbosgoinatit.wordpress.com

    PS – we use the same Word Press theme

  3. lindabeth said,

    frau sally benz,

    Interesting thoughts.

    I am sooo with you on the resisting labels thing…but I get worried about the over-representation of “experimentation” as something done post-drinking, in public, for performance, lighthearted never serious, for funsies never for relationship…and of course it never challenges her own identity or relationships.

    The ain’t no big deal, my boyfriend won’t mind bit says to me that we ought not take lesbian desire by a “straight girl” too seriously, and that troubles me especially in a culture whose tolerance for lesbian sexuality amounts to Girls Gone Wild make-outs and hetero girls having sex on film for pay. I mean, there’s nothing “wrong” with the kind of play sung about in her song, but when that is the constant image of female-female desire (and esp. of bi women), I’m really not all that interested in yet one more example of the play with girls/relationship with boys motif.

  4. inde said,

    I agree with frau. I heard about the song before I actually heard the song. Today, I experienced Katy perfoming live on the View and got a bit of a kick out of it. It’s been stuck in my head all day! It’s definitely not a song that will change the world though… I feel like part of the reason she’s getting attention is that she was previously performing Christian music.


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