Lady Gaga and Deviance


This shocking outfit that Lady Gaga wears in this picture, to her, represents an act of protest against the Don't Ask Don't tell Policy. The on-going effects of this controversial policy, enacted by Bill Clinton in 1993, are still very much present and have been emphasized by Lady Gaga through the means of media. In protest, cultural icon Lady Gaga deviantly wore a dress composed entirely of raw meat and made the statement that "if we don't stand up for what we believe in, if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we are going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones."

Culture and Media

Culture, as discussed in Chapter 3 of Conley’s You May Ask Yourself, is defined as a set of beliefs, traditions, and practices. Fads and cultural trends come and go and at this point in time, Lady Gaga’s popularity is prevalent within pop-culture today. Since she is aware of her popularity in today’s culture, she utilized her “celebrity star power” by highlighting this very important societal issue in her own way. She made this in-your-face statement, knowing that through the media coverage of the event, she would be able to communicate her message to all of the people that were watching as well as all of those who would hear about it later. The awareness was heightened by our instantaneous communication through news and media sources that we have today.

Norms and the Power of Breaking the Norm

In society, we have socially constructed norms that dictate how we dress, and on repeated occasions Lady Gaga has broken the norms that have been set. This dress however, has been the most outlandish “breaking the norm” outfit so far because the materials that make up the dress, raw meat, can signify the killing of animals and the controversy that comes along with that issue. Also, an object, like meat, that is normally used for consumption is considered to be odd when used as clothing. Gaga’s act of deviance was so powerful because its strayed so far from the norm.

Unintended (or intended) Effects

This statement unintentionally (or intentionally) offended a broad range of people. There are so many different groups within our society that have different beliefs on how animals should be used and treated, and the fact that she wore a dress made of raw meat, which deviated from the norm, it was appalling for many people to see. Elissa R. Henken explains in an article in McIntyre’s Practical Skeptic how the level of the “gross-out factor” must increase in order to shock people. It requires more obscenity to “gross-out” the average person, with that being said, Lady Gaga reached a new height to how much someone must do in order to gain attention. In this instance, she deviantly strays from normative compliance to generate discomfort and controversy and this highlights the issue. Yet, the means with which she emphasized the topic had adverse affects, offending some groups that are centralized around animal rights along with others who may have been offended by the wearing of flesh.


In order to address a societal issue, the controversy of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy, Lady Gaga wore a Meat dress to a very publicized event in an act of deviance. Her statement effectively reached a large population of people with her outlandish “breaking of norms.” It is interesting to evaluate the public’s response to Gaga’s statement of protest, in terms of the symbolism that comes along with the using of meat as clothing. Her statement was aimed at standing up for and preserving the rights for a particular section of society, openly homo/bisexual people that want to serve in the military, so that they don’t become dehumanized. The news of this image that she created, through its controversial nature, effectively reached the ears of many people in the very society that created the issue.