David Bowie, Glam Rock, And Gender Rebellion -- By: Candi Finch
JBMW 21:1 (Spring 2016) p. 12
David Bowie, Glam Rock, And Gender Rebellion
Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas
As many in the world mourn the passing of musical icon and innovator David Bowie, the influence of his 1970s androgynous, Glam Rock alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, lives on in contemporary discussions about gender.
Bowie, who died from cancer on Jan. 10 in New York City at age 69, was a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose career in music, film and theater spanned more than four decades.
Even if you are not a child of the ‘70s or if you would rather just forget the era that brought us lava lamps and bell bottom pants, Christians need to be aware of the social commentary and change during the era of Bowie’s emergence.
From Kate Millet’s “Sexual Politics” that argued that gender was essentially a cultural construct rather than a biological reality to second wave feminism’s mainstreaming of Simone de Beauvoir’s claim in “The Second Sex” that one is not born but rather becomes a woman, the concept of gender became a hotly discussed topic.
In fact, before the late 1960s “gender” and “sex” were used as synonymous terms. However, in 1968, psychologist Robert Stoller desired to explain why some people felt they were “trapped in the wrong bodies” so he pioneered the use of the term “sex” to denote biological traits and “gender” to describe the amount of femininity and masculinity a person exhibited. The distinguishing of these two terms has had a disastrous impact.
Glam Rock As Gender Rebellion
What does all this have to do with David Bowie? Within the swirling social discussions on gender in
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the 1970s, Glam Rock entered the mix, and David Bowie became one of its most acclaimed practitioners. Glam Rock, also called glitter rock, “began in Britain in the early 1970s and celebrated the spectacle of the rock star and concert. Often dappled with glitter, male musicians took the stage in women’s makeup and clothing, adopted theatrical personas, and mounted glamorous musical productions frequently characterized by space-age futurism.”1
This style of music and performance was regularly called “gender bending” or “gender rebellion.” The lyrics often touched on taboo topics and pushed the boundaries of sexual norms as seen in Bowie’s song “All the Young Dudes” that became a Glam Rock anthem (he wrote this song for the English rock band Mott the Hoople):
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