A recent performance of the song in Austin, Texas involved some degrading visuals, including an artist vomiting paint on the singer. With Stern, Lady Gaga was direct in her description of what ‘Swine’ is about. She said:
The song is about rape. The song is about demoralization. The song is about rage and fury and passion.
Stern told her that he feels like she must have been raped. Lady Gaga didn’t want to enter that territory. She responded in the way that many survivors of sexual assault might, saying:
Let’s talk about happy things.
But it didn’t take much more prompting from Stern for her to indeed enter that territory. She spoke articulately and confidently about the fact that, at age 19, she was raped by a man who was twenty years older than she was.
Lady Gaga said horrific things happen to women “every day.”
On the way to stardom, Lady Gaga “went through some horrific things.” She came out of a sheltered Catholic school background into the world of music production, where she was so harassed and assaulted — including the rape — that she wondered:
Is this just the way adults are?
Admittedly, the music world has steep challenges for women, but sexual harassment and rape are certainly not unique to that culture. Lady Gaga said:
It happens every day and it’s really scary and it’s sad.
She said several times that, like many survivors of rape, she wasn’t willing to admit, even to herself, that anything had happened. It took several years and a lot of therapy to come to terms with the fact of rape.
And then the singer took charge of her pain and transformed it into something else. She transformed it into art. She told Stern:
I’ll be damned it somebody’s going to say that every creatively intelligent thing that I ever did is all boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me.
I’m going to take responsibility for all my pain looking beautiful and all the things that I’ve made out of my strengths. I did that.
From that transformation came much more. Lady Gaga gives much credit to Tony Bennett — a father, a grandfather, a brother, a friend — and the collaboration with the legendary singer for bringing her to a sense of completion. She invites Stern and the audience to experience the wonder of that by saying:
Can you imagine after all that time and after all that, how I was feeling? — then having Tony Bennett — he is so loving…
He wants nothing from me but my talent and my friendship.
Acceptance is a healing gift.
Bennett wanted nothing more than for her to be herself. That’s the most healing gift anyone can give another human being, whether male or female, survivor of sexual violence or not.
Stern’s cohost, Robin, observed that that’s all the young singing phenomenon wanted. Lady Gaga echoed the sentiment:
That’s all I wanted all along.
You can listen to the power of Lady Gaga’s words here:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179626111″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
Featured image: cc 2012 Andrea Wilson via Wikipedia