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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

I have something positive to say about popular culture for once

This column was inspired by the fact that I got a request for “a feminist interpretation” of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’. Apparently among my wider peer group I’m now the ‘go-togirl’ for all things feminism. This is something that I like.

Anyway I heard this song awhile ago, and like my friend was struck by the catchy tune and rockin’ beat. I thought it was quite funny, but dismissed it as another case of lipstick lesbianism – you know – girls kissing girls in order to play into a male fantasy, as opposed to because well, they want to!

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

And I was all set to write a furious column full of vitriol (‘cos that’s what us feminists do right – we’re fun killers of anything sexy) about how this was another example of women being objectified and it was offensive to real lesbians. And how times haven’t changed since I went to parties as an innocent 15 year old girl in the Hutt, tipsy from the four RTDs my parents had bought me and suddenly found myself in a group of girls kissing all my friends with one eye on the idiotic boy that I liked in the corner who was spraying Tui all over his friend.

But then, in true feminist method, I took a closer look at the lyrics. In a way the song is really positive. She’s defiant in owning that she enjoyed it – I kissed a girl and I liked it – and apart from the obligatory mention of the boyfriend, no other guys are mentioned at all – i.e. in the background cheering her on.

She also gets a little bit political on it…

Just human nature,
It’s not what,
Good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

Other feminist bloggers have interpreted that this points to how kissing a girl is only acceptable when the female is obviously heterosexual – Perry is acknowledging that this isn’t what good girls do. However, in acknowledging her actions as transgressive, she is commenting on the heterosexist and sexist society we live in, which normalises heterosexual behaviour as part of being a ‘good woman’ and constructs anything ‘other’ as deviant and wrong. The very fact that she says she’s confused and finds it hard to ‘obey’ (this draconian heterosexist regime) is a powerful act of resistance! Booya!

The video complements my interpretation perfectly. On the surface it looks you’re your typical Rhianna or Britney video. Katy Perry is pretty hot in a conventional way as the camera pans up her legs to reveal her skinny bod clad in a gold minidress. She is clutching a cat though. Which is the first sign that this video might differ from the norm.

There ain’t a man in sight in the video. Just lots of hot girls bopping away in their fishnet stockings and corsets, putting on make-up and having pillow fights (they must be taking the piss here! Am I wrong in saying that in her cheeky grin while she’s pillow fighting I see a subversive glint in her eye?) Later on we see Katy in a Garden of Eden type setting surrounded again by hot girls. A gentle nod to the famed island paradise of Lesbos? You might think I’m crazy but when you consider the lyrics…

Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it

We do get lots of shots of her cleavage and her stroking herself. And yes she wakes up at the end of the video in bed with her boyfriend. But she looks disappointed!

Overall, it’s a song that might appeal to lame-o guys and Paris Hilton wannabes, but under the surface there’s a cheeky woman saying I kissed a girl and there ain’t nothing wrong with it. Women rule mofo. Yes it’s mild and tame, but does that make it bad?


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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