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Lady Gaga’s ‘Burqa’ Track Offensive To Muslim Women?


Lady Gaga’s ‘Burqa’ track vocals have leaked and I find the song questionable. I am not a part of any religion that requires I wear a burqa or headdress and by no means do I propose I am getting offended on behalf of Muslim women. However, I think the song is quite diminishing to women who wear burqas. I know it’s a pop song but Lady Gaga is calling her album ‘ArtPop’ thus asserting that these songs are supposed to be of substance and fun.

Now, Gaga doesn’t insult the burqa but I do find her song insulting. Or, I’ll say this, my gut reaction is to say that this is questionable at the very least but I would whole heartedly welcome any discussion on the matter, especially from those who wear burqas or who are of the Muslim faith.

Burqa Lyrics:

Wear it out, harmonize, stability.

Disturb the unaware
Put it on, conceal your hair.
Disturb the unaware,
Bitch I’ve been on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Up until the Vanity Fair part, I like this verse. I think a lot of people find burqas unnerving because they don’t fully understand them. A lot of of people believe burqas are a way for Muslim men to oppress women, but there are plenty of Muslim women who will tell you they wear burqas to observe their faith and in America that is a courageous thing to do. To me, courage, is a sign of agency and autonomy not of a woman who is being told what to do. The Vanity Fair line totally undermines a song that could be a nuanced interpretation of rebellion but instead Gaga makes it about her.

Let’s get it on, religious risky fashion
Let’s get it on, religious risky fashion
Put it on, wear that Burqa all year long
all year long.

Religious. Risky. Fashion. I am rolling my eyes at this. I would not diminish someone’s religious dress to a fashion statement. I think a burqa is a little bit more meaningful than spiky shoulder pads or high waisted jeans. This is why cultural appropriation is a crude form of fashion, it often takes sacred, Holy, or traditional parts of one’s culture and turns them into fun and flashy accessories or worse it turns the lifestyles of regular people into costumes. 

People’s cultures aren’t faces someone gets to put on today because they think they look cute in them, especially when the people of that culture are often judged, oppressed, and face prejudices for participating in those cultures.

I remember in middle school right after September 11, 2001, my best friend, who was regarded as the nicest and smartest girl in school, went around whispering in the ears of the Islamic girls wearing headdresses, “Terrorist. Terrorist.” I was shocked and ashamed. This would not be the first or the last time I witnessed people I know or people around me engaging in hostile islamophobia. No one is going to call Lady Gaga a terrorist for wearing a burqa, they’ll only say she is “eccentric,” as a fashion statement but there are real Muslim women who get regularly harassed for what they believe in.

Burqa, Burqa, Burqa
lets get psychotic.
Burqa, Burqa, Burqa
lets get erotic.

What? Let’s all wear Burqas and make out with each other! This verse doesn’t feel any different than the blackface themed or ‘Mexican’ themed frat and sorority parties of recent memory.

Make them all disagree,
Be the bel esprit.
Beleaguere them with the tea.
Show it off, you’re the celebrity.

Instead of creating a discussion about the burqas, Lady Gaga is merely invoking the word because she knows it will create controversy around her. You can tell Gaga believes ‘burqa’ is taboo because she intentionally censored the word.

By equating Islam with “shock,” Lady Gaga is only reinforcing the stereotype that there is something essentially different about women of the Muslim faith. This is the opposite of inclusion. The reality is Muslim women are just like any other women: fully formed, autonomous people, who happened to have a certain faith.

This song isn’t about burqas, it’s about Lady Gaga trying to sound inclusive or smart even though she totally misses the point. It’s insulting because she is using an Islamic tradition not to raise awareness, not to educate, not to make art but simply because she knows saying it will catch people’s attention. In essence: she is using the plight of many Muslim women as a means to sell records and disguising it as some sort of anthemic liberation.

This may seem harmless but like I discussed last week in the Wadjda article, there is a clear disconnect between how the Western world perceives those in the Middle East. Lady Gaga’s ‘Burqa’ is not explicitly speaking poorly of Muslim women but she is equating them with shock and difference which reduces an entire system of beliefs, beyond the comprehension of those who have not abided by those beliefs, to the equivalent of a thirteen-year-old girl getting a nose ring without her parent’s permission. A culture is not a fashion statement.

Emerald is an editor at CollegeCandy, lover of coffee, and pretend francophile. After studying writing and popular culture at NYU she decided to be a grownup and get a job. Tweet at ya' girl @EmeraldGritty.