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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jaymes Purdy

Lady Gaga's Response: A Case Study in Linguistic Integrity

How Words Can Conceal and Enable Harm: Article 8



An Instagram post of Dylan Mulvaney posing with Lady Gaga.  Both are wearing black.  The post reads: ladygaga - “It’s appalling to me that a post about National Women’s Day by Dylan Mulvaney and me would be met with such vitriol and hatred. When I see a newspaper reporting on hatred but calling it “backlash” I feel it is important to clarify that hatred is hatred, and this kind of hatred is violence. “Backlash” would imply that people who love or respect Dylan and me didn’t like something we did. This is not backlash. This is hatred. But it is not surprising given the immense work that it’s obvious we still have to do as a society to make room for transgender lives to be cherished and upheld by all of us. I feel very protective in this moment, not only of Dylan, but of the trans community who continues to lead the way with their endless grace and inspiration in the face of constant degradation, intolerance, and physical, verbal, and mental violence. I certainly do not speak for this community, but I have something to say. I hope all women will come together to honor us ALL for International Women’s Day, and may we do that always until THE DAY that all women are celebrated equally. That all people are celebrated equally. A day where people of all gender identities are celebrated on whichever holiday speaks to them. Because people of all gender identities and races deserve peace and dignity. May we all come together and be loving, accepting, warm, welcoming. May we all stand and honor the complexity and challenge of trans life—that we do not know, but can seek to understand and have compassion for. I love people too much to allow hatred to be referred to as “backlash.” People deserve better.”
“It’s appalling to me that a post about National Women’s Day by Dylan Mulvaney and me would be met with such vitriol and hatred. When I see a newspaper reporting on hatred but calling it “backlash” I feel it is important to clarify that hatred is hatred, and this kind of hatred is violence. “Backlash” would imply that people who love or respect Dylan and me didn’t like something we did. This is not backlash. This is hatred. But it is not surprising given the immense work that it’s obvious we still have to do as a society to make room for transgender lives to be cherished and upheld by all of us. I feel very protective in this moment, not only of Dylan, but of the trans community who continues to lead the way with their endless grace and inspiration in the face of constant degradation, intolerance, and physical, verbal, and mental violence. I certainly do not speak for this community, but I have something to say. I hope all women will come together to honor us ALL for International Women’s Day, and may we do that always until THE DAY that all women are celebrated equally. That all people are celebrated equally. A day where people of all gender identities are celebrated on whichever holiday speaks to them. Because people of all gender identities and races deserve peace and dignity. May we all come together and be loving, accepting, warm, welcoming. May we all stand and honor the complexity and challenge of trans life—that we do not know, but can seek to understand and have compassion for. I love people too much to allow hatred to be referred to as “backlash.” People deserve better.” - Lady Gaga

Throughout this series, we've explored the myriad ways that minimizing language can mask and enable hate, prejudice, and oppression. We've seen how words like "backlash," "opinion," and "protection" can be weaponized to make the marginalization of vulnerable groups seem more reasonable and acceptable. But we've also affirmed the importance of using clear, direct language to name injustice and bigotry.


A powerful example of this linguistic integrity in action came in Lady Gaga's recent response to the hateful comments directed at transgender TikTok creator Dylan Mulvaney. After Mulvaney posted a joyful video celebrating the Trans Day of Visibility with Lady Gaga, she was inundated with vitriol and dehumanizing rhetoric from online trolls.


Lady Gaga could have easily brushed off this hate as mere "backlash" or "controversy." Or she could have ignored it entirely and avoided engaging in the toxic culture of transphobia and online harassment. But instead, she chose to make a bold statement clearly calling out this "backlash" for what it really was: hate.


In her response to the hate-filled comments, Lady Gaga wrote, "When I see a newspaper reporting on hatred but calling it 'backlash,' I feel it is important to clarify that hatred is hatred, and this kind of hatred is violence." She went on to affirm her unwavering support for Mulvaney and the trans community as a whole, celebrating their resilience in the face of "constant degradation, intolerance, and physical, verbal, and mental violence."


Gaga's words are a master class in rejecting minimizing language and insisting on moral clarity. By explicitly naming the attacks on Mulvaney as "hatred" and "violence" rather than a more tepid term like "backlash," she denies bigots the cover of respectability. She makes it impossible to brush off their vile actions as simply one side of a contentious debate.


This linguistic precision matters immensely. It cuts through the noise and exposes the ugliness of prejudice for what it is. It draws a bright line between what is acceptable disagreement and what is unconscionable dehumanization. It refuses to let hate hide behind weasel words and false equivalencies.


At the same time, Lady Gaga's response is a stirring call for solidarity and social change. She declares that "people deserve better" than to have hatred minimized and tolerated. She envisions a future where "all people are celebrated equally" regardless of gender identity. She invites us all to "come together and be loving, accepting, warm, welcoming."


In this way, Gaga models the two-fold power of morally clear language she shows us to unflinchingly confront the realities of oppression in the here and now. And her example begs us to imagine and articulate a more just and equitable world. By describing the present with honesty and the future with hope, we light the path forward.


This is the essence of what it means to practice linguistic integrity in the face of hate. It means mustering the courage to choose words that honor the truth of marginalized people's experiences. It means describing prejudice with precision rather than obfuscation. It means centering the voices and perspectives of the oppressed. It means rejecting the linguistic trickery that makes injustice more palatable to the privileged.


When we look at the broader themes of this series, we see that Lady Gaga's response is an antidote to each of the minimizing frameworks we've explored. In the face of rhetoric positioning bigotry as "opinion" or "disagreement," she asserts the clear reality of hate. Against attempts to disguise prejudice as "protection," she names the real threat of anti-trans violence. At a moment when "free speech" is being weaponized to defend abuse, she affirms that people deserve better.


These are vitally important interventions in a cultural landscape where those with power will use every linguistic loophole to avoid accountability for upholding oppression. Gaga shows us what it means to use our words as tools for truth-telling and social transformation. She demonstrates the necessity of naming things exactly as they are, even when it's hard.


If we are to build a society where dignity and respect are truly universal, we will need many more people with platforms and power to practice linguistic integrity. We need journalists, artists, politicians, and ordinary citizens alike to commit to using accurate language that does not minimize the harm of hate, harassment, bullying, bigotry, or prejudice.


It is not easy to confront hatred with clarity. There will always be pressure to use softer, vaguer, more equivocating words. There will always be a temptation to retreat into language that soothes the powerful and placates the privileged. But this is a temptation we must resist if we ever hope to create a world where the full humanity of all people is honored.


We should take inspiration from Lady Gaga's example of moral courage and linguistic precision and commit ourselves to being unflinchingly clear in how we talk about matters of hate, prejudice and marginalization. Let us use our words to speak truth in the face of injustice, even and especially when it's uncomfortable.

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