“I’ve worked hard towards this moment, and I think it’s an important message to tell my fans: even if you’re going through a dark time… don’t ever give up. You can always make your way back to the other end of that circle and find your happiness again.”  



By now many have seen or of heard of Lady Gaga’s infamous SXSW performance featuring puke artist Millie Brown. But I suspect those fixated on the shock value of vomit are missing the point of the entire performance.

The track Swine, as Gaga said herself, is about “rape and rage”. It’s about the awful things that have happened to her during her pursuit of “The Fame” (or “The Lie”). While she hasn’t come right out and said it or accused anyone in particular, those who paid attention for the last few years may have picked up on the trauma, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. For instance, 2011’s video for Marry the Night finally addressed the drug-fueled breakdown she had after being dropped from her first label, even suggesting she may have miscarried as a consequence. Since ARTPOP was released, Gaga has been vocally critical of the recording industry that finds talents and squeezes as much money from it without regards to artistic integrity or human fragility. Then again, I figured they would start yanking on the leash once she wasn’t able to sell as much. The industry only allows artists to be as “creative” as they want so long as it brings in the cash.

But it was her remarks about what it’s like for women in the music industry that were an unsettling reminder - the misogyny, the hands on thighs, sitting on laps…things most male artists probably will never have to deal with. She admitted she did things she’s not proud of, to do whatever it took to advance her career. Yes, she’s made her own decisions and must deal with the consequences of her actions. But I think it further proves the systematic problems that all women deal with. It doesn’t matter how talented or smart a woman is, there is always someone reminding her to get back in the kitchen, that she’s of lesser value, or she’s worth nothing. An object for others to do with as they please.

I’m sorry so many were offended by it. I’m sorry there was no “trigger warning” but that’s Life. It seldom gives you a heads up. And yet I find it ironic that we are subjected to near constant depictions of violence on TV, in movies and video games. But the moment a woman throws up, it shakes the very foundations of the Internet. Blood and gore, violence against women and children, even rape jokes (I’m looking at you, Seth McFarlane) are fine. But a woman expressing a painful issue - that many can, unfortunately, relate to - is deemed inappropriate and offensive.

Swine is about RAPE.

It’s not about bulimia*

It’s about the trauma a person lives with. The deceptively upbeat track is like the facade a victim puts up. Perhaps they can deny the experience if they put on a mask, make it seem like things are OK when they’re really in turmoil. Rape is a subject that isn’t taken seriously enough. It’s frightfully appalling how ignorant people are on the subject. It never ceases to amaze me how people don’t know when the line is crossed, what actually constitutes rape or that it isn’t really about sex but power over another.

It’s disturbing to know so many famous women have endured the trauma - hell, that ANY WOMAN OR MAN has endured it. I nearly cried as I listened to Fran Drescher recount her horrible experience when she and her female friend were raped at gunpoint as her husband was tied up and forced to talk to his mother on the phone during the entire incident. Rape doesn’t happen to “bag girls” or “bad boys”. Rape is an assault against another’s mind, body and soul. It happens to the rich, the poor, every race, religion and gender.

And we really need to start taking it seriously.

I’m not telling people they’re wrong for being disgusted or disturbed by the performance. It’s just that there are so many people jumping on the “Gaga glamorizes eating disorders” bandwagon that the point is missed entirely. Could she have not used Millie? Sure? Could she had just poured paint on herself? Yeah. But I don’t think it would’ve had the same visceral impact. Because, like it or not, it made you feel something and I suspect many of you didn’t want to feel anything other than what you already wanted to. I, for one, think that is the mission of art. To provoke a reaction, to make you think and to get people talking. The last artist that was able to do that, for me, was Marilyn Manson. But that’s a whole other discussion.


* During The Monster Ball tour, from 2009-2011, there was a video interlude played at every date of the show. Created by Nick Knight, it was the first instance of Millie Brown vomiting on Gaga. But that time it was about bulimia. However, despite the sparkling projectile puke, it was a satire on the nature of “beauty”. Especially the unrealistic standards to which women are held and the lengths at which they go to to achieve that “perfect” look. In order to be “beautiful” they must hurt themselves, literally making themselves sick for the approval of others. The fashion/beauty industry helps to glamorize eating disorders.

Gaga has also admitted to dealing with bulimia and it’s even referenced in the Marry The Night video.

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