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Femme Disturbance - Live/d Theory

Micha Cárdenas, Author

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Class Based Solidarity

Ke$ha’s lyrics call for femme solidarity based on shared desire in the face of poverty that may be considered a multiracial class-based strategy of resistance to white male supremacy. Using Halberstam’s Queer Art of Failure, one can understand Ke$ha’s embrace of the position of the sleazy, cheap slut as a failure to accept the moral duties of heterosexuality. This failure enables a form of femme disturbance, a rejection of the rational drive for affective labor. Although affective labor demands that one direct one’s affect toward others in return for a wage, such as in nursing or teaching, the hedonistic vision of femme pleasure presented by Ke$ha exceeds such attempts to rationally apportion and direct one’s emotions. 

To indulge for a moment in queer phenomenology, the pleasure of femme embodiment, in my experience, is an individual pleasure that I can experience without recognition from others, and is experienced in direct opposition to the demands of affective labor—that I orient my affect outwardly toward others. Still, the pleasure I derive from wearing patent leather heels, or a short ripped jean skirt, or walking a certain way, cannot be completely separated from the network of semiotic meaning I perceive in those gestures, and the ways that others perceive them. Yet I still experience the pleasure of femme forms of bodily expression as deeply personal and internal in a way that routes around, and exists underneath/independently from, the demands for social interaction according to the rules of capitalist employment. It can coexist with them, but it provides a layer of pleasure that is external to the logic of work, and does not depend on capital to be experienced. Thus, it can threaten the hegemonic logic that pleasure must mean subjugation to the demands of the market for immaterial labor.

Perhaps this logic can be extended to downloading free music from online torrent and video sharing websites, which create publics of listeners who are not generating revenue for Ke$ha’s record label, yet still gain the affective benefits of her music. In the video for “We R Who We R”, the graphics commonly associated with MP3 music player visualizers are used to open the video and again at the crescendo of the song. The imagery hints at the kind of stealing of alcohol and access that Ke$ha argues for in “Sleazy” and “Blow” but translated to stealing music online. The strategies that she proposes like taking drinks off of tables and holding the back door of the club open are a kind of “counterknowledge” akin to “Pirate Cultures” of the past and present, such as the knowledge necessary to download music from a site like, create a playlist and upload that set of songs to one’s mobile device for extended listening and study (Halberstam, 18, 19).
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