Skip to content

Lady Gaga’s Aura

September 5, 2013


I usually don’t write about pop music, but my friend Steven is a college professor who frequently uses pop culture as a tool in his writing classes. This week, I saw a post on Facebook that read the following:

“”Controversy” by Natalia Kills
“Aura” by Lady GaGa
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke
“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
“They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson

Pick one issue presented in the lyrics of one of the songs and write an analytical essay where you discuss the issue at length; dissect and analyze the lyrics, inject your own thoughts, and include outside research in which you either research the controversy of the song itself (ex: “Blurred Lines” being criticized for glorifying rape culture, or the exploitation of Muslim women in Gaga’s “Aura”), or research a particular issue presented in the lyrics (like the use of bath salts and “Molly” in society from “Controversy” or the criticism of the Catholic church in “Same Love”) and discuss it’s relationship to current popular culture.”

I have listened to the song a couple of times this early morning in Beirut, and read the lyrics several times as well. The song starts off promising, with the beginning, “I’m not a wandering slave, I am a woman of choice, my veil protects the gorgeousness of my face.” For me, this goes along with what many Muslim women I know have told me about why they feel covering their body, whether it be with a hijab, nikab, burqa, or something else, actually empowers them. They own what they offer to the public world by tastefully concealing the curves and shapes of their bodies.

There are a couple of things to consider. First, let’s be clear on what a burqa is. And a nikab. And a hijab.



Image courtesy of Brad McCormick

Images courtesy of Brad McCormick

This is a garment that is worn by some Muslim women that believe that their faces should not be seen by men that are not their “mahram” for them. This would include men whom they cannot marry, such as their father, brother, uncle, or son. Not all Muslim women wear the burqa, or adhere to the belief in the Qur’an of modest dress. But many do as well. Okay? Moving on.

Next, let’s continue to the chorus of the song.

“Do you wanna see me naked, lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura, behind the aura?
Do you wanna touch me, cosmic lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura?
Behind the aura, behind the aura, behind the aura?”

This song sets a dangerous and unfortunate notion that sexualizes the women underneath the burqa. Women in the Middle East often have to contend with enormous issues related to wearing some sort of covering, not only as part of their religious practice, but as protection from harassment. This type of language only encourages viewing women as sexual objects who are asking for men to “peek underneath the cover.” Just to use the country of Egypt as an example – even when women are covered, they face a daily nightmare of sexual harassment. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, more than 99 percent of Egyptian women reported being sexually harassed. And amongst the intense protests and passion of the opposition in Egypt in Tahrir Square this July when they forced the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, women were being assaulted and raped. 

Umema Aimen  wrote in The Washington Post, “[Aura] perpetuates violence against women and contradicts the message in “Monster,” in which you condemned the “wolf in disguise.” In “[Aura],” you seem to suggest that by tearing off your clothes he is fulfilling your fantasy. It is a dangerous message that does not just affect Muslim women but all women. No woman wants to be tormented with unneeded attention, to be stalked and to be told that she was asking for it.”

But to go further than just reading criticisms online, I wanted to make sure though that my thoughts are not an orientalist way of looking at exploitation of Muslim women by asking my friends in the region.

One of my friends from Jordan messaged me this morning regarding my questions on the song. “I think this song was not meant to empower women more than it is to create controversy, viewing the burqa as a sex object hardly empowers women, and when she says “I’m not a wandering slave I am a woman of choice” what makes her think they’re slaves to begin with, in some cases yes women are forced to wear it but in others no, they wear it by choice so that doesn’t fall in with being a ‘slave.'”

Another friend from Jordan quickly chimed in. “It actually disgusts me the way she talks about women as objects. The point of hijab is not to be looked at this way and to be judged for whats in our head, yet she says first that she’s not a slave and she hides her beauty and then she talks about herself as a body. I see it offensive to all women, not just women in burqa.”

Further, I have a very good friend here in Lebanon who is constantly giving me new insights into life for women in the Middle East. When I finally dragged a response out of her, this is what she said. “Muslims in the West are always falling under stereotypes that are jeopardizing their freedom to practice their faith. One of my friends had to remove her veil after the Boston attacks in April because she was being harassed on the streets. People have the freedom to express their reservations on some of the practices that religions have, however, to ridicule and mock a symbol that represents a religion is pure ignorance and an act of intolerance.”

Certainly, there are people who think otherwise and three people are hardly more than a handful of opinions, but I do believe that this is representative of the way a lot of women from this region feel when they listen to this song.

In any case, I think like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga got what she was asking for by making this song: attention from controversy. And perhaps some may think we are all wrong in our criticism because ultimately, maybe not that much is changed by a single song. But this one song, combined with someone with her global reach, who has 59, 010, 967 likes on Facebook, she does have an impact. It has an impact. Even though her lyrics at the end seem to take back the significance of her singing about or wearing the burqa at all.

“Enigma popstar is fun, she wears burqa for fashion
It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion
I may not walk on your street or shoot a gun on your soil
I hear you screaming, is it for pleasure or toil?”
Passion has consequences. And I know lately I have been tying in Syria to every blog post, but now more than ever, it’s important for Americans to try to understand people in the Middle East. Look at what ignorance this song spawned in this Tumblr. Check out the #BurqaSwag.
What she does, for better or worse, does have an effect and obviously creates trends. And her pack of wild monsters follow them blindly. Let’s just hope nobody else does.
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: