Kesha and the slow growth of better pop-culture feminists

Kesh performing a sound check at the MuchMusic Video Awards in June 2010.

Photo by Jeff Denberg - http://bit.ly/2xlpInf, CC BY 2.0, http://bit.ly/2yKJBFC

Feminism is trendy right now. It's popular and controversial. A perfect storm.

In it's wake is Kesha, the 30-year-old female pop-star who is this years biggest feminist icon.

Everyone has their own idea of what feminism is or what it should be. I'm the last person who can write about it with authority. I can, however, write about my own understanding of feminism and how I'm seeing it's advocacy being presented in popular culture. 

I write Kesha is 2017's biggest feminist icon because of the ripple effects her very public personal struggles and her new album is having on other mainstream female pop-stars.

After losing a supreme court case against Sony, her record label dead-set on having her produce five-more albums with her producer/rapist per contract agreement, she began rallying other female celebrities behind her cause to prevent other women from being similarly abused.

No, Kesha isn't singing excerpts of feminist manifestos like The Second Sex or Sister Outsider.

No, Kesha isn't getting people to take 400-level college electives to end their prejudices. 

No, Kesha isn't making public major demonstrations of activism alongside others.

Yes, Kesha is being raw and transparent about her supreme court battle against her former label.

Yes, Kesha is allowing her trauma as a rape victim to be publicized.

Yes, Kesha is encouraging other female pop-stars to challenge male power structures that institutionally take advantage of and wreck professional musicians.

It's these yeses that make Kesha 2017's biggest feminist icon.

The fact she's making popular figures notorious for making their appropriation of feminism messy now take a step back and rally together against a clear act of oppression is iconic.

Getting people like Taylor Swift, Demi Levato, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, or Lady Gaga to talk about these issues with their fan bases is huge. This is mainstream advocacy in it's most basic and natural form. It is working well.

Journalist Ann Friedman wrote a column titled, "So You're A Celebrity Who Calls Yourself a Feminist. Now What?" In this column, she addresses how messy it is to be a celebrity who proclaims feminism and is then expected to live it out.

"Indeed, thanks to social media and a generally more feminist culture, they’re free to speak up. But those celebrities still have to work within industries renowned for their sexism and racism." 

Friedman says the stakes are higher, so how they are vocal or what they choose to vocal about is selective and sometimes controversial. Their feminist evolution has a tweet-trail and professional consequences on their legacy.

"I’m not interested in the inevitable beef over “who is the real feminist.” I’m not interested in making sure all celebrity women embrace the label or live their beliefs in a specific way. I love that it is cool for celebs to speak up in defense of women."

What is important, Friedman believes, is that the trend now stems from important causes as opposed to it stemming from marketing campaigns trying to profit off of the movement.

Sometimes a teenage girl needs to hear Kesha sing, "I'm a motherf'ing woman, baby, that's right," before reading a 300-page essay with instructions on how to tear down the patriarchy.

Feminism has a grip on society. People with a voice are running with it. Consumers will shape it.

Right now, Kesha is important. Today, Kesha is iconic. 

Lance LijewskiComment