The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Feb. 5 2016 5:16 PM

Tinder Is Blocking Bernie Sanders Fans for Using Matches as Campaign Targets

In an era when politicians must master Snapchat and mimic the lingo of Broad City on Twitter, it was only a matter of time before grassroots campaigning seeped into a digital platform built purely for sex. Now, Tinder users who “feel the Bern” are maxing out their right swipes to canvass their matches on the upcoming presidential election and get them to sign up for text updates on the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Buzzfeed reports that Tinder has blocked one New Jersey 23-year-old, Robyn Gedrich, from using the app after several users reported her for spamming them with the same request: “Do you feel the bern? Please text WORK to 82623 for me. Thanks!” She sent that message to dozens of matches each day for two weeks straight. Gedrich started her tack after becoming disillusioned by the men she matched with on the app. She decided, without any directive from the Sanders campaign, to try her hand at political persuasion instead. “These guys are disgusting. They’re just looking for sex and that’s it,” she told Buzzfeed. “So if they’re going to swipe right, they might as well do some good and donate to the man, the myth, the legend: Bernie.”

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Tinder locked another young woman, married Iowan Haley Lent, out of the app for using it as a campaigning tool. Lent told Reuters she paid for Tinder’s premium privileges so she could change her location to New Hampshire and match with potential voters there. One man from California told the BBC that the tactic stemmed from a feeling that Sanders wasn’t getting enough mainstream press to reach young voters.

These renegade Sanders swipers have gathered in a Facebook group, Bernie Sanders’ Dank Tinder Convos, to share screenshots of their text conversations with matches. With encouraging comments and plenty of ridicule for Tinder matches who respond to Berners with Trump talking points, it’s become a kind of support group for people who use the dating app to canvass singles in their area. “Let's take over Tinder with Bernie Sanders convos,” the group’s mission reads. The screenshots show a lot of backlash from unwilling marks: One calls a Berner a “feminist cunt ass bitch,” another says “Donald Trump or die cunt, now eat my butt,” and several start their conversations with requests for blow jobs. It’s making the Facebook group a kind of consciousness-raising space around the absolute garbage men fling at women on Tinder.

“While I find it pretty hilarious to see women/men campaigning through Tinder, it is also massively sad to see how desperate/horny most guys are on Tinder,” one man posted on the group’s wall. “Holy shit, I was completely unaware.”

Then there’s the woman who posted a screenshot of her Tinder profile, which shows a pair of naked breasts with a translucent rendering of Sanders’ face layered over her areolae and nipples. “Free the nipple/feel the Bern!” one group member commented. Another responded with a few dozen instances of the word fap. “No, that is not what we're doing here,” a woman told the fapper, “unless you're jerking off to the thought of Bernie as potus.” At the intersection of Tinder and campaign comms, that’s a perfectly logical objective.

Feb. 4 2016 5:18 PM

Russians Feel Bad That Leo DiCaprio Has Never Won An Oscar, So They’re Making Him One

Poor Leo DiCaprio. Late last year, the Revenant star’s girlfriend turned 25, so they had to break up. Then, in his acceptance speech for a Golden Globe award in January, DiCaprio caught flack for trying to make his latest film into an issue movie about the rights of indigenous peoples. (It isn’t.)

And now, the embattled aging heartthrob has one further indignity to suffer. Mashable reports that a group of Russians have started an “Oscar for Leo” campaign out of pity for DiCaprio, who hasn’t yet won that coveted golden statuette.

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Campaign organizer Tatyana Yegorova told TASS that she and her fellow DiCaprio fans, who all live in the northeastern Yakutia province, are collecting gold and silver to melt into their own award for the actor. They believe his turn in The Revenant deserves recognition—and if the Academy doesn’t oblige on February 28, “Oscar for Leo” will.

Yegorova says the award will measure at least 30 centimeters high and be ready in two weeks’ time. It will feature a man holding a choron, a traditional Yakut vessel for drinking, which will be “a manifestation of people’s love for the actor.” At press time, more than 100 people have donated to the cause. The Academy may never let DiCaprio live his best life, but thankfully, the people of Yakutia always will.

Feb. 4 2016 4:35 PM

Men Spend More Money and Time On Clothes Shopping Than Women

American men spend $10 more than women on clothing and accessories each month, according to a new survey from the Boutique @ Ogilvy, a fashion public-relations firm. The company’s poll of 1,232 men aged 18 and up found that they spent an average of $85 per month, compared to the average woman’s $75. Accordingly, the report estimates that the menswear market will expand at almost twice the rate of womenswear, growing 8.3 percent to become a $110.3 billion market.

The $85-$75 split was first reported last year by Budget Sense, which also found that men spend 20 percent more time shopping than women do each week: three hours, compared to women’s two and a half. They also frequent more stores than women each week and are twice as likely to go online shopping.

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This discrepancy, which defies conventional wisdom that pegs women as clothes-obsessed shopaholics, isn’t a new development: In 2012, men were outspending women in online shopping by 20 to 30 percent. It’s not a U.S. trend, either. A 2015 survey of 1,094 British adults found that men spent an annual average of £660 on clothes, while women spent £612.

At Details, Justin Fenner chalks the gender clothes-spending gap up to manufacturing costs: Men’s clothing costs more to produce than women’s clothing, he hypothesizes, and those costs are absorbed by customers. But studies have shown that products marketed to women are priced higher than nearly identical products marketed to men, a margin some retailers have blamed on higher manufacturing costs for women’s products.

A simpler, more likely explanation is that men make more money than women, so they can afford to buy more or better quality apparel. Men’s clothing might cost more because most of the fast-fashion brands that enable cheap shopping at high volumes primarily cater to women. Thus, there are few cheap outlets for menswear, and fewer retailers in general, which enables each to charge higher prices. There’s also the matter of workwear standards. Men have fewer acceptable clothing options for business attire—usually some combination of suits, slacks, ties, and button-downs—while women can be more creative with less expensive separates.

In recent years, fashion itself has become more accessible to men who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves fashionistos. Between the bevy of new men’s fashion startups and all the attention lavished on metrosexuals, lumbersexuals, and just plain sexuals, it’s not hard for men to find an entry point into caring about their clothes. A full 94 percent of the Boutique survey men said they have a “defined” sense of style. Whether or not they succeed in dressing the part, the power of positive thinking bodes well for their gender’s aesthetic future.

Feb. 4 2016 1:46 PM

Why Aren’t Governments Telling Men to Prevent Zika Pregnancies, Too?

The hypothetical unborn are having a red-letter 2016 so far. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooks up laughably strict recommendations for women’s alcohol abstention during their childbearing years, nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are advising their female residents to avoid getting pregnant for the next year or two. That’s not because the fast-spreading Zika epidemic bears any particular threat to pregnant women—the virus is basically harmless, and 80 percent of those infected experience no symptoms. But Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes stunted head and brain development that has shown up in thousands of babies born to Zika-infected mothers in recent months. Health officials are asking entire countries’ worth of women to prevent their hypothetical pregnancies in order to protect fetuses that have yet to materialize.

It’s a prohibitive order in nations such as El Salvador and Brazil, which are home to some of the world’s strictest, most punishing anti-abortion laws, and other Central and South American countries where contraception is extraordinarily difficult to access and afford. It also ignores one full half of the conception equation: sperm.

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Women do not get pregnant on their own, in a female-only vacuum. Men have an equal role in conception and, in the midst of a looming public health nightmare like the Zika epidemic, preventing it. But health ministers aren’t asking all men to give up procreative sex for the foreseeable future—that would be insane! They’re asking women to take on the entire burden of warding off a potential hemisphere-wide microcephaly crisis.

Now that Zika has been sexually transmitted, too, it makes even less sense to focus all Zika-mitigation advocacy efforts on women. Governments can educate men about condoms and make male-barrier contraceptive methods more accessible. They can ramp up anti–sexual assault efforts, since hundreds of women will get pregnant through rapes they should not be expected to prevent. In Zika-afflicted nations, as in the U.S., men make up most of the right-wing powers that preoccupy themselves with blocking women’s access to abortion. Want to know a great way to prevent women from getting pregnant and wanting abortions because their fetuses might have microcephaly? Don’t tell women to stop getting pregnant—tell men to stop having sex with them.

“Why does the very suggestion of any government recommending men to practice abstinence for two years seem like a joke? The cultural reflex to hold women accountable for male lust and subsequent reproduction is so ingrained that we don’t even notice the asymmetry,” Paula Young Lee writes of Zika-related health advisories in Dame. This attitude has a long legacy in public health policy. Gardasil, the human papillomavirus vaccine lauded for preventing most types of cervical cancer, was originally only tested on girls, which meant that its 2006 Food and Drug Administration approval was only for girls. The FDA didn’t approve the drug for boys until 2009, and until 2011, it didn’t make the list of recommended vaccines for boys, making it the only vaccine ever recommended for just one sex. This despite the fact that men get HPV, too; an estimated 70 percent of all head and neck cancers are caused by the virus, and genital warts know no gender. Preventing transmission through herd immunity is arguably the most important purpose of vaccination, but in the case of HPV, one half of the herd avoided the trouble and cost of that prevention.

The Zika anti-pregnancy recommendations also stem from a history of paternalism around fetuses when it comes to federal government agencies like the CDC, which recommended that all heterosexually active, fertile women who aren’t on birth control abstain from alcohol on the off chance that they get pregnant. The private sector, too, has occasionally branded all women with periods as potential babymakers. A 1991 Supreme Court case, United Auto Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., addressed a battery manufacturer’s policy that banned all fertile women—but not fertile men—from jobs that would expose them to a certain level of lead, which could harm fetuses. Women of childbearing age were also barred from jobs that would advance to roles with such lead exposure. Johnson Controls’ “fetal-protection policy” was meant to relieve the company of any liability for birth defects in its employees’ potential future children. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the policy constituted gender discrimination that violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Had the decision gone the other way, millions of women who currently work jobs that expose them to toxic materials could have been fired—all to safeguard a generation of babies that doesn’t yet, and may never, exist. 

The countries that are telling women to avoid pregnancy haven’t codified their recommendations into law, but the spirit of the directive is the same. When an institution tells a woman when, whether, and how to get pregnant, ignoring any harm-reduction measures or risks she might be willing to take, it’s prioritizing the health of an imaginary fetus over the quality and autonomy of an actual woman’s life. Such an order is patronizing in any case, especially without safe, legal, accessible abortion services. But if public health concerns must prevail, men shouldn’t get a free pass. 

Feb. 4 2016 1:08 PM

Babies With Three Parents? Bioethicists Say That’s A-OK.

A government-convened panel of scientists and bioethicists have decided that it is ethically permissible to go forward with an in-vitro fertilization technique that uses genetic material from two mothers and one father to create an embryo, “so long as significant conditions and restrictions are in place.”

The procedure is known as mitochondrial replacement therapy. To do it, doctors take a donor egg containing healthy mitochondria and remove its nucleus. They then replace it with the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and use sperm from the father’s egg to fertilize it. The resulting embryo gets the majority of its genetic information from its parents and a tiny amount, 0.1 percent, from the donor egg. (Mitochondrial DNA contains 37 genes and is only found in eggs; nuclear DNA contains an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 genes.)

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There are number of serious diseases that mothers can pass along to their children by way of the mitochondria, which are the intracellular organs that serve as the “digestive system” of the cell. Currently, mothers with mutated mitochondrial DNA are advised to use donor eggs if they want to have children. Because mitochondrial sperm is only found in eggs, and not sperm—and as such only mothers can pass down the associated diseases—scientists recommend limiting the procedure to making only boy babies for the meantime. This way, if there are any unforeseen side effects in a three-parent baby’s mitochondrial DNA, it will not be passed down to future generations.

The recent decision is the result of a panel convened by the Institute of Medicine, at the request of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says it will review the report, but won’t be able to approve any clinical applications because of a recent Congressional ban. As the Washington Post reported, the omnibus fiscal budget bill for 2016 prohibits any procedure “in which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification.”

According to an NPR story on the procedure, some critics fear that it could introduce unforeseen errors into the human gene pool that might lead to new diseases. Others worry that it is a slippery slope from replacing mitochondrial DNA to the creation of designer babies, offspring that has been genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be disease-free.

These issues came up in the debate over three-person babies that took place in the United Kingdom last year, where the procedure was ultimately okayed on the basis that the potential benefits outweighed the risks. At the House of Lords, Lord Robert Winston, fertility doctor and in-vitro-fertilization pioneer, said, "I don't believe, my Lords, in spite of what we've heard this evening, that this technology threatens the fabric of society in the slightest bit." The majority agreed.

Feb. 3 2016 5:28 PM

DJ Marissa Mayer Says She Doesn’t Lay Off Yahoo Employees—She “Remixes” Them

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has a brilliant plan for upping the ailing company’s morale, a Jedi-level mind trick that’s bound to make sacked employees feel better about their fates. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Mayer has steadfastly refused to use the word “layoff” to describe the thousands of jobs eliminated since she joined the company. She even forbade her managers from uttering what she called “the L-word,” instructing them to use the term “remix” instead.
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That’s right—DJ Mayer and the Management Consultants are dropping a round of hot hits sure to make your booty shake and your retirement savings quake! Put the needle on the record, strap on your boots with the fur, sit your wife and kids down to tell them the world-crushing news, try to quell that oncoming panic attack, and get ready to PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR-TAY! The beats won’t stop till the sun comes up, the bouncers kick us out, and you’ve taken a second mortgage out on your home!

It’s party promotion 101: When the current mix of people gainfully employed at a company isn’t producing enough money, the DJs at the top of the club-kid ecosystem must mix it again. And everything—even a demoralizing, lengthy list of beloved co-workers who’ve been let go this quarter—sounds groovier when it’s preceded by an airhorn blast. ¡Dale!

Telling her employees they’ve been remixed right out of the workforce is DJ Mayer’s last attempt at a mainstream hit. She’s tried making everyone work in the office instead of at home; the better to hear her newest dubstep joints. She’s tried offering free food, unaware that most employees need 30 minutes of rest after eating before returning to the dance floor. She’s tried gallows humor: In January, she reportedly told attendees at a companywide meeting that there’d be “no layoffs—this week,” draining the last of their morale’s figurative bottle of Jägermeister.

What will the new mix sound like? Probably a few years behind the times. The struggling company’s lavish 2015 holiday party had a Great Gatsby theme—an ill-advised move, considering the themes of overconsumption and lonely rich people that run through that novel. But it was strangely apropos: The ’20s fad that resurfaced in parties and fashion was so 2013, when the Great Gatsby film remake dropped—by 2015, it was the Yahoo of party themes. Even DJ Mayer couldn’t remix that dusty track into something hip.

“I don’t think people want to be mollified—they want to be respected and trusted with facts so they can plan their lives—and also help,” a source told the New York Post of DJ Mayer’s scheduled recording sessions. Uh oh—just wait until the sales department hears about her remastered edition.

Feb. 3 2016 1:34 PM

Motherhood Is Challenging Enough Without the Facebook “Motherhood Challenge”

There are many reasons to envy mothers in the United Kingdom. They’re entitled to 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, have access to heavily subsidized child care, and are more likely to get paid equally to their male counterparts. Still, life’s not all a cup of tea for those mums across the pond. Over the past few weeks they’ve had to endure something called the Motherhood Challenge.

Here’s how it works: One mother nominates another mother to post three pictures that make her “happy to be a mother” or “proud to be a mum” and to tag other people she considers “great mothers” to do the same. Most of the Motherhood Challenge photos on Facebook are sweet and banal—the kinds of pictures parents share on social media even when they’re not taking a challenge. There are vacation shots, baby shots; sometimes dads even make the cut.

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Still, there’s something off-putting about sharing these photos in the context of a “challenge” for “great mothers.” Flic Everett wrote a scathing critique of the Motherhood Challenge phenomenon for the Guardian, questioning whether its purpose “is to prove what a great mother you are, or merely to challenge your friends to prove that they are too.” Everett sees the challenge as yet another example of the simultaneous fetishization and diminishment of motherhood, a modern-day incarnation of the Victorian era’s “angel of the house.” Others are joining in the fray, questioning whether the challenge is insensitive to women who have lost children and struggled with infertility, and why there isn’t a challenge for fathers.

Non-mom comedian Ellie Taylor has chosen to protest in the medium of the challenge itself. She posted a series of photos on Facebook featuring her passed out in bed with a bottle of wine. “I was nominated by myself to post five pictures that make me happy to be a non-mother. Such special memories.”

While I personally don’t use Facebook to share happy parenting moments, I get why moms want to do it. Being a mom su-ucks sometimes; it can be thankless, exhausting, and can even make you worth less at the office. Sure, there are moms who use social media to idealize parenting, but there are also a good many who would just like to take a moment to share the good stuff. Posting the picture of the cute baby or the soccer game becomes a chance to stop and recognize what is gratifying about the whole endeavor.

The problem with the challenge isn’t the way it encourages moms to share the moments that make her “happy,” but the way it reinforces the idea that there is such a thing as a “great mother” and it is up to one’s peers to determine whether a woman is one. As I’ve written before, mothers would really benefit from less scrutiny and judgement, no matter how they fare. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be tagged as “great”—nor would I want to be not tagged at all. If a friend called me great it would make me feel as if they’d been studying me and my child and comparing us to others. That gives me the creeps. If nobody tagged me as a “great mother,” then I would wonder why I didn’t measure up. It’s kind of a lose-lose.

Facebook’s recently been doing some analysis on the way moms and dads interact with their service and they found that parents post more photos, videos, links, and status updates that non-parents. Also, “new parents’ posts about their babies receive 37 percent more interactions from relatives and 47 percent more interactions from friends than their general posts.” This suggests that parents don’t need the Motherhood Challenge to encourage them to share more on Facebook. Whatever benefits are to be gained from posting those happy moments are happening already—for the “great mothers” and the rest of us.

Feb. 3 2016 1:01 PM

CDC Says Women Shouldn’t Drink Unless They’re on Birth Control. Is It Drunk?!?

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report recommends that women of childbearing age who are sexually active and not using birth control stop drinking alcohol altogether. “The risk is real. Why take the chance?” the CDC’s principal deputy director says in the press release accompanying the report.

The agency’s logic is that about half of all American pregnancies are unplanned, and many women don’t know they’re pregnant for the first month or so. But it’s the kind of swath-yourself-in-bubble-wrap thinking that has turned modern pregnancy into a nine-month slog of joyless paranoia.

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The CDC has been a leader in the better-safe-than-sorry school of pregnancy care for at least a decade now. A 2006 report recommended that all women between menses and menopause should take folic acid, avoid smoking, and maintain a healthy weight to prepare for healthy pregnancies, just in case. Critics at the time accused the government of viewing millions of women as “pre-pregnant,” regardless of whether they were planning on having babies soon, or ever.

The latest recommendation to avoid alcohol completely is obviously out of step with the way many “pre-pregnant” people live their lives. (Imagine how the birth rate would drop if women never took a sip.) But unlike the well-tested advice to take folic acid, it is also unnecessarily restrictive of women who are pregnant or trying to be.

The CDC’s recommendation is also out of step with the way many women already conduct their pregnancies. A 2012 report from the agency itself found that older and more educated women were significantly likelier to drink during pregnancy than younger, less-educated women are. And many doctors seem perfectly comfortable with moderate alcohol consumption in the late stages of pregnancy. When I told my doctor that I was enjoying a glass of wine per week in my third trimester, she didn’t bat an eye.

With the obligatory caveat that heavy drinking in pregnancy can be extremely damaging, the commonly repeated notion that there is “no known safe amount of alcohol” for pregnant women is seriously misleading. As the economist Emily Oster pointed out in her 2013 book Expecting Better, there is also no “proven safe” level of Tylenol or caffeine, and yet both are fine in moderation during pregnancy. Oster pored through reams of research on alcohol and pregnancy for her book and concluded that there is simply no scientific evidence that light drinking during pregnancy impacts a baby’s health. (In one frequently cited 2001 study that suggested light drinking in pregnancy increases the chances of a child displaying aggressive behaviors, the drinkers were also significantly likelier to have taken cocaine during pregnancy.)

The backlash to this dose of sanity was swift and severe, as Oster detailed in Slate, but I recommend her sanity-preserving book to any pregnant woman overwhelmed by advice like the CDC’s. What the heck, I’ll go CDC-style and recommend it to anyone who could possibly ever become pregnant, at any point in the future, no matter how small the odds. Why take the chance?

Feb. 3 2016 9:31 AM

Reese Witherspoon’s Next Project Exemplifies a Certain Brand of 1-Percenter Feminism

On a December night, a high-powered Wall Street financier shows up at a holiday shindig to make small talk with colleagues who go by sobriquets like “Ballsy” and “King.” She stashes her three children’s Christmas presents in a corner, hoping to avoid reminding anyone that she doubles as a mom. A few hours later, she emerges from the bathroom to find that the men have decapitated her daughter’s new Barbie and are using her head as a miniature football.

This is the first scene of Maureen Sherry’s Opening Belle, the new Wall Street comedy set in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis; Reese Witherspoon has already made plans to star in a movie based on the novel. Subtlety is not the book’s primary register; workplace sexism is its foremost theme. Since Sherry spent over a decade at the investment bank Bear Stearns, it’s hard to know whether some of the most over-the-top displays of what Sherry’s protagonist terms “Neanderthal behavior” are fiction or memoir. (In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Sherry recounted the time a male colleague stole her breast milk out of the office fridge and drank it on a dare.) Either way, it’s the first of the string of narratives set in and around the financial crisis—most recently the Oscar-nominated film The Big Short—to frame its story through a female perspective.

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The book exemplifies a brand of 1-percenter feminism; protagonist Isabelle Cassidy does find out her nanny has taken on a mortgage she can’t afford, but the ethics of Isabelle’s profession are an afterthought in what is primarily a comedy. According to the Times, Sherry decided Isabelle should have an income of roughly $3 million a year—far less, it’s implied, than that of her own family—because she “wanted her to be relatable.” It seems unlikely that relatable would be the word that occurs to most readers (and eventually, filmgoers).

The most appealing parts of the book portray an uneasy alliance between Isabelle and the other women in her office, who come together in what they call the “Glass Ceiling Club” to discuss and ultimately take on the patriarchal powers that be. These are not feel-good scenes of a rising tide that lifts all boats but rather prickly and sometimes duplicitous negotiations between characters who want to advance their collective without sacrificing anything themselves. In an early scene, Isabelle is nearly kicked out of the club by a woman whom she recruited to her company and lied to about the sexist culture of the place. “Belle is a good salesperson, but a lousy friend,” the woman says. At least we know this about Witherspoon’s upcoming movie: It will pass the Bechdel test. 

Feb. 2 2016 5:56 PM

Lady Gaga Will Perform a Tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys. Ugh.

Lady Gaga will perform a solo tribute to David Bowie at the Feb. 15 Grammy Awards, according to a report from the New York Times. Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich says Gaga was already slated to sing during the ceremony, and though after Bowie’s death in January many other musicians asked for a shot at a Bowie tribute, Ehrlich decided a three-to-four-song Gaga medley would be best.

What a shame. Bowie’s dazzling, decades-long career and ever-evolving persona changed the culture forever; his fans would be hard-pressed to deem any single performer worthy of his final tribute at the most-watched music event of the year. Tributes are inevitable and necessary—the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, for example, brings contemporary musicians together for live musical tributes to its medal recipients each year, and they’re usually beautiful and heartfelt. But posthumous celebrations are a taller, and tougher, order. Tributes feel less like a definitive statement when the honored party still walks the earth.

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And Gaga is a particularly disappointing choice for such a visible tribute to the beloved pop icon, despite her stated adulation of his work and persona. "When I fell in love with David Bowie, when I was living on the Lower East Side, I always felt that his glamour was something he was using to express a message to people that was very healing for their souls,” Gaga told the Hollywood Reporter just before Bowie’s death. “He is a true, true artist and I don't know if I ever went, 'Oh, I'm going to be that way like this,' or if I arrived upon it slowly, realizing it was my calling and that's what drew me to him.” She continued: "I thought it was interesting to dress like a fashionista and kind of envelope myself in this plastic image and sing things that are very heartfelt and wrap them up in something kind of not heartfelt.” Gaga is a savvy businessperson and a talented singer; she has successfully navigated the global music economy and given us a few genuinely inventive pieces of art. But she is not, however she might like to style herself, this generation’s answer to David Bowie.

It’s true that both Gaga and Bowie have played with gender in exhilarating ways. Gaga has endured Gawker-fueled rumors that she was born male, and, like Bowie, embraced masculine and feminine tropes with equal fervor in her early days in the spotlight. Lindsay Zoladz writes of Gaga's early career:

When it came to female pop stars, we were still reeling from the Britney-Christina-Jessica era, during which the only acceptable kind of femininity that presented itself was au naturel—eternally sun-kissed and low-cut-jean ready and never having anything too weird or opinionated to say. In this world, Gaga’s take on femininity—all boxy silhouettes, cyborgian dance moves, and grand, Warholian pronouncements—was, to many, utterly illegible. “I’m not going to make a guy drool the way a Britney video does,” she said in an early interview. “[W]hat I do is so extreme. It’s meant to make guys think: I don’t know if this is sexy or just weird.

But Gaga’s musical nods to social justice themes (“Born This Way,” “Til It Happens To You”) have been heavy-handed; her social media advocacy has been muddled. And one of her most popular anthems, “Born This Way,” advanced a reductive, enduring narrative around gay identities—as opposed to Bowie, who opened new avenues for sexuality and gender expression that didn’t revert to a birth-based biological imperative.

More importantly, her early boundary-pushing output has often been mistaken for a cultural revolution. As Nathan Heller wrote in Slate in 2011, “For all of her attention-getting gambits [and] gnomic utterances…Gaga is basically a totem of the cultural establishment, an agent of the reliable old forms more than radical new ones. She claims to be a ‘monster,’ but she's in fact pop's leading conservative talent.” Much of Gaga’s appeal used to be based on pure shock; now it’s predicated on the whiplash she orchestrated to elicit some kind of surprise from her audiences at the revelation that she can “actually” sing, all while playing “Imagine” at athletic competitions and winning TV awards looking like a Marilyn Monroe double.

This isn't an argument for some other performer to take over the tribute. None of the other scheduled Grammy performers— Adele, Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd, Carrie Underwood, Sam Hunt—would make a better solo Bowie tribute, because Bowie’s legend is greater than the sum of its parts. A few covers of his songs, which must either try to imitate or transform his talents, will never feel sufficient. So how to enact a proper posthumous homage? David Bowie lived a dozen lives in his career. Just show them to us in a humble, respectful montage.

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