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Chicks with Dicks: Why Is Lady Gaga Asked for Proof but Prince Gets a Pass?

Lady_GagaLady Gaga has been put under the microscope for supposedly being misleading when it comes to her gender representation, by which I am referring to a recent video crotch shot of her at the Glastonbury Festival which supposedly reveals a larger bulge between her legs than one might expect. Personally, I don't really see it, but enough people have been so moved by her supposedly monumental mound that they have been typing out the word hermaphrodite all over the internet with the feverish zeal of a witch hunt.

Why does a barely-there crotch bump on someone publicly identified as female cause people to feel that they have the license to ask her for proof of her genital structure when Prince, a somewhat feminine male whose crotch bump is often barely apparent, is left in relative peace as it concerns his specific anatomy?

Prince Don't get me wrong. I am not calling Prince's male identity into question, but I want to use him as an example of the social divide between those we perceive to be male and those we perceive to be female. Prince can wear conspicuously concealing tailored pants with a pair of heels, but no one calls for him to turn to the left and cough to prove that he, indeed, has the cojones. Lady Gaga's pubic protuberance, though, has people all but asking for someone to break out a speculum, as though the presence of a peener might have anything to do with her role as an entertainer.

Caster_Semenya This divide between what our culture generally asks of women versus men with regard to their sex and gender has been on my mind lately following the Caster Semenya debacle. A gender investigation — including not only visual examination but also chromosome testing, X-rays, etc. — has been requested by the International Association of Athletics Federations after she knocked seven seconds off her previous time and won the 800-meter gold medal at the African Junior Championships in July of this year. No men have ever been forced from competition due to gender variance, but women have for decades been subjected to invasive medical testing when they exceed our cultural expectations of female success. She might look like a lady, but she succeeds like a male, and that, my friends, means that medical science must be called in to rescue us from this predicament.

The truth is that the biology of sex is far more complicated than the overly-simplified XX=female and XY=male science of the chromosomes we were taught in elementary school health classes. There are actually dozens of characteristics that inform us about the sex of a person. Sex is messy that way. In fact, if each of us were to be put through the battery of tests that Caster Semenya might undergo, we would probably be surprised to find out where it is in the male-female spectrum that each of us falls.

So, why does our culture maintain such a strict divide and insist that individuals fall neatly into one category or the other, male or female? I believe that one answer lies in the social hierarchies we have in place that rely on submission of the female:

We cling to this lie of binary genders for the same reason we fantasize about the essential nature of race: to make unjust social hierarchies seem natural. But they’re not. They’re man-made...

I have to admit, though, that I am curious about what Lady Gaga's got going on in her pants, but it's the same kind of curiosity I had when me and the neighbour kid checked out each other's junk in his dad's shed. Really, though, it is none of my busines. It is none of our business.

Believe me, if Lady Gaga had instead decided to strut it as Lord Gaga with a moustache and a man's suit, no one would be asking him why his bulge was so small.

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Hey You

Excellent post.


Great post!


Schmutzie always brings the brilliance:) Great post, darlin'! I should really check out Lady Gaga... I loves me some glammy dancey music once in a while.


Agreed - as PP said, excellent post.

Negative Zero

I know I'm not the "traditional" female. Sure, I have curves, hips, and DD's, but my body hair also grows in extremely thick and fast, indicating a higher than normal testosterone level. I tend more toward the "masculine" in dealing with things, as in, I'm a fixer, rather than a feeler. Does that mean my very womanly, hairy (because that's how hubby and I roll) 'jay doesn't count me in as a woman?


too true !


What if Lady Gaga just has a rediculously large bush? Hmmm? Betchya no one thought of that...they just jumped straight to "chick with dick." I'm not buying it.


I love how Prince manages to 'get away' with being an effeminate male, counterintuitively I think it's part of his sexiness...to women. I think women are turned on by a man who can walk in their shoes, as it were, yet never represents that he is not a man. And sexiness is part of his entertainment value. Maybe the deal with Gaga is that people are more threatened by a possible man in women's clothing because heaven forbid some straight man find her attractive! That's what *I* think is at the root of that issue.

But I don't know that the sports analogy works. I don't agree that sex doesn't matter in sports. Am I misreading your point? I am well aware that there are extraordinarily strong and fast women and my heart goes out to Ms. Semenya (I haven't followed her story) for being put through the ringer. But Lance Armstrong has to pee in a cup every time he gets off his bike and even when he's on vacation. It's part of being an exceptional athlete.

There are biological reasons we have sex divisions (just as in amateur sports, folks are usually divided into age groups - age matters, our biology changes). Men, in general, have more testosterone, build bigger muscles quicker than women, run faster. Men who take additional testosterone build muscles even quicker, recover more quickly and can train harder. Women who take testosterone can do the same and often can keep up with the men. It's why testosterone is a banned substance and why Floyd Landis was stripped of his Tour de France title and why Nina Kraft was thrown out of triathlon for two years.

For the most part, exceptional athletes ARE freaks. Their hearts are larger, their bodies are perfectly proportioned for their sport (see Michael Phelps's peculiarly long torso), and maybe they naturally produce more human growth hormone, testosterone or whatever. And maybe allowing ordinary people to dope themselves into a place where they can compete with these natural-born freaks is the answer to a fair competition. But I haven't reached that conclusion yet; until then, I think the exceptional athletes are going to have to suffer from our skepticism that they are legitimate.


My first thought was Maxipad.


Yes, biology plays a role in our social understanding of what is male and what is female, but our social understanding does not tell the whole story that actual biology does. Read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/sports/22runner.html?_r=1

From accounts I have read, Caster Semenya was born and raised female, and the question in this case is not whether she has been doping to improve her performance. This has nothing to do with taking in outside substances to fool the system. This has to do with a test of her gender, which another matter altogether.

There are a wide array of other biological factors which are natural to her body, natural to many bodies in fact, that are not used under other circumstances to determine whether an individual is male or female. A man by birth in a sport that values a slighter figure and flexibility is never pressured for gender investigation. He's just an excellent athlete. Caster Semenya, a female, though, is a gender deviant and told so.

I do believe that being perceived female in a culture that treats us as second-class citizens puts our display of gender under heavier scrutiny. There is an assumption that certain levels of femininity must be in play. If they are not, the deviance from the "norm" can get you labelled not only masculine but as medically abnormal, which adds a whole level of unnecessary medicalization and body shaming with which many women are familiar.


I may have been a teen in the 80's when Prince was "hot" but I really don't remember ever being confused by his gender?? I think he probably wears "heels" because of his height, and the makeup? Well, let's flashback to the 80's and think about bands like Poison... Makeup was acceptable for men- who were full-blown men without question. Lady GaGa escapes me, maybe since I'm a 30-something mom out of the Billboard Loop. I think i'll file GaGa under the category "kids these days"....

Fraulein Furioso

Great post, definitely some food for thought!


Just chiming in to say Great Post!!
I think you've articulated very well how there are still major inequalities in our society in the treatment of men and women...and what is "allowed" in appearance for each. It's uneven and unfair in all kinds of ways.
It's depressing and frustrating, frankly.

When Caster Semenya's story was publicized, my husband said, "Maybe this will help people to realize that gender is complex."
We can only hope...

Mrs. Wilson

I vote that it was just her Depends.


This is such a great post!

I personally never saw what the fuss was about. I don't see anything on the video.

And people ask me at least three times a week if I'm a man. I think it's because of my name. Or my bulge. Whatever.


This is a great post.

I don't think it is necessarily easier for men than for women. It is hard to get a clear sense of what public acceptance is on acceptance of celebrities. There has been envelope pushing for a while on gender from male celebrities and less from female celebrities. I think it may still be equally difficult for people who are of ambiguous gender, etc. though in actual life. I think there might be more familiarity with those who start off male w/ ambiguous gender or those who cross the gender boundary--but this doesn't mean it is actually safe for either gender to do that. There is a huge amount of anxiety surrounding young boys who identify female. Try to look up anything on girls. There is much less anxiety around girls as tomboys. People are often proud of being tomboy girls. There aren't dozens of treatises written about tomboy girls but sissy boys--yikes. (Or there don't seem to be. Since my child was identifying as a boy for a while it was really interesting to see how there was no anxiety about girls--or even any interest in girls--who do that but hundreds of things about boys who do that. I could find NOTHING about girls who want to identify as boys...For so long the F to M was just invisible and for kids, it still seems to be. It seems like it was just a phase but I did want to understand it and there was nothing out there. Seriously, the information about kids and gender development is either total claptrap or religious anxiety of some kind or just insipid. But that's another story.)

I think gender is very complex. I'm not an expert but people's level of freak out about gender rule breaking seems to depends on the domain. There are times when gender rule breaking is truly threatening and other times it isn't--it seems most threatening when it seems to challenge gender roles or sexuality. It is very threatening for men to be sexually attracted to a person who might be breaking the perceived rules. So that is probably why the Lady Gaga thing is a big deal. But other times, there will be some other gender violation that pushes other buttons. I think the line that gets crossed is the fear of homosexual desire on the part of straight men in this case.

The thing you say about athletics is incredibly interesting...The women category--it isn't just gender crossing but some perceived advantage. I love that NYT article. I feel like everyone in the world needs to read it. It really is a kind of fantasy that there are two perfectly binary genders.


Great post, Schmutzie!


I wanted to talk more about the male fear of homosexual desire, but I ran out of reasonable space to cover it.

I do really think that a large part of the reason Lady Gaga is making the headlines is precisely because of that fear. I find that fascinating, because it is not as though any of the men will find themselves in a room getting sexy with her, but yet I found myself watching videos on YouTube of guys freaking out about it.

I could talk about this for a week.


agreed, how does what is or isn't in her knickers in any way relate to her ability to be an entertainer?

mouthy_broad (michele)

thank you.


I agree with everything you are saying in this post, but in regards to the video, at the beginning, when she gets off the bike, you see something dangling between her legs... (1:05 in the video)


I agree with all the gender inequity arguments made here. When I watched that video over a week ago, I wasn't expecting much, but what I saw made my mouth fall open. How could anyone miss what was dangling? It wasn't just a little bit of something either.


Interesting NYT article; it still makes sense to me to have male/female divisions in athletic competitions, but maybe that's just force of habit. But what's the upshot? If, for example, professional sports were suddenly made co-ed because sex is so fluid/spectrummy, athletes at the female end of the spectrum would mostly disappear...except for "girlish" sports like gymnastics.

Or maybe not. Women seem to hold their own among men in sports like ultramarathons. Maybe we focus our attention excessively on sports where men excel and need to recalibrate our definition of athlete.

You make a very good point that men with "feminine" grace and flexibility aren't challenged for it. Maybe because, while these are talents, they're not threatening ones?

Good post.


Gender is a trap. We should resist strict gender norms at every turn. I believe this but was totally relaxed with my kid and let her do princesses til the cows come home and she has been a gender outlaw since the age of 3. I could talk about gender for months. I hope you will follow up on this. Because basically, if you are following the public spew (no offense to mamapop--I never said it was not an entertaining spew) then I think you will never run out of crap to talk about when it comes to gender.

That was sort of a preamble to: Women are obviously oppressed in ways men are not but for both women and men and everyone in between gender brings certain chains. The one freedom women have--in a bizarre way--is the (moderate) freedom to be a bit open in their desire. Well, women of a certain demographic. Less so in action--but at least our desire often brings fewer freak outs.

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