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About a month ago, someone mentioned three words to me: Body Revolution 2013.  Heard of it?  I hadn’t.  And, no, it’s not a new exercise DVD or self help book.

On September 25, 2012, singer/songwriter Lady Gaga started “Body Revolution” and made headlines.  She publically addressed critics regarding her recent weight gain, first in a radio interview, where she reported, matter-of-factly, that she has gained about twenty-five pounds; she then addressed the same issue via her website, www.littlemonsters.com.  In her response, she created a page on her website called Body Revolution 2013, and posted pictures of herself with
captions that read “Bulimia and Anorexia since age 15” and “to inspire bravery”, among some other comments that illustrate her efforts in building compassion and understanding towards those suffering with body image issues.

Lady Gaga stated on the Body Revolution page, “My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: to inspire bravery.  This profile is an extension of that dream. Be brave and celebrate with us your ‘perceived flaws,’ as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.” In another post, the singer wrote, “Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities.”

Responses from her fans, known as “little monsters” have generally been positive.  Many people immediately began following “Mother Monster’s” example, posting pictures of themselves, exhibiting their own perceived physical flaws: weight issues, scars, etc.

I find myself with some conflicting feelings about all of this.  As a woman, I’m supportive of what I’ve read about Body Revolution 2013.  As a parent of a younger child, I have concerns about Lady Gaga and anything that she does.  Funny how perspectives on things change when you start raising your own “little monster,” isn’t it?

Years ago, I would have checked out her website and thought, “Good for her and everyone else participating!”  I love the fact that young people are letting go of shame and taking back power that someone has held over them because of the way they look.  I love that Lady Gaga is using her fame and influence for something powerful and positive.  I love the fact that she and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta, started the Born This Way Foundation, which raises awareness and empowers young people to stand up to bullying, racism, and homophobia, among other things.

As a mom, trust me, I still love all these things… but I still feel uneasy.  Why?  Well, as a parent, I don’t love the high levels of sexuality and violence in some of Lady Gaga’s music videos.  What messages are these videos sending to the kids that happen to see them?  The lyrics of her songs, while they are cleverly written, full of commentary on social issues, and liberation of different kinds of oppression, when taken literally, are quite adult in nature.  These are messages, that, as a mom, I am not comfortable with my child receiving.

The solution is simple enough.  If you don’t like it, turn it off.  This has been our solution for Lady Gaga and other artists like her in our home.  However, somehow, my seven year old still knows who she is and knows that she is a singer. So there you have it- kids find, learn, and see all kinds of bits of info, no matter how careful we are.

Artists like Lady Gaga, and others similar to her (Katy Perry, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj) have incredible star power and huge fan bases.  And many, many of their followers are kids… whether they planned it that way or not.  I wish that these women would do some things differently, since so many kids are scrutinizing them so carefully.  Everything that they say, wear, sing, including who they date and marry are not going unnoticed by kids.  The influence that they have on kids is huge.  So, while I love and appreciate that Gaga is taking steps to tackle such important social issues, I still feel conflicted because, truth be told, I just don’t approve of many of the other choices she makes.

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It’s a complicated issue.  Lady Gaga considers herself to be an artist, not just a pop star.  Her art is her music, dance, and design, right down to what she wears and how she presents herself.  In an adult world, she can be admired or disliked for her adult themed choices and creations.  However, children (including teens) are impressionable and can be quite affected by what they see and hear.

In my day, it was all about Madonna, and I still remember watching her videos (when my parents weren’t watching) and feeling fascinated and confused.  Am I any worse off for having watched Madonna videos as a kid?  Probably not, but for one thing, Madonna’s stuff is pretty tame compared to some of Lady Gaga’s videos.  Additionally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “As with popular music, the perception and the effect of music-video messages are important, because research has reported that exposure to violence, sexual messages, sexual stereotypes, and use of substances of abuse in music videos might produce significant changes in behaviors and attitudes of young viewers” (October, 2009).

In summary, as a parent, I see both sides.  I applaud Lady Gaga’s efforts to raise awareness about issues that people face and to empower them.  Yet, I am uncomfortable with the adult themes that are present in her art, and despite that, how her art is consistently aimed towards kids.  Seems that the simplest way to navigate a situation like this, is to just to continue to remove the elements of Lady Gaga’s work that is out of my comfort zone as a parent.  Meanwhile, I will support the aspects of Body Revolution that I feel are healthy and empowering for all people.

As a parent, how do you navigate endorsing positive influences while avoiding the negative ones for your kids?

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