Ke$ha…A Feminist?

Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan…Ke$ha? I know, crazy. Yet according to recent media, this assertion might not be as ridiculous at it sounds. Not your typical Rosie the Riveter, Ke$ha has made a name for herself through her raunchy party music. Believe it or not, underneath all the drugs, sex, booze and mountains of glitter, there just might be a lyrical nugget of female empowerment.

I’m not a huge Ke$ha fan myself, so it was initially hard for me to even entertain the idea that a pop star singing “I wanna dance with no pants on” could ever be comparable to the famous feminists of the twentieth century. However, Ke$ha has been recognized for her songs that confront sexual double standards. Critics love her bold reversal of gender roles, epitomized in her unapologetic odes to getting totally wasted and having a great time. I’m not saying that there’s any substance behind Tik Tok other than the potential substance abuse of Jack Daniels. That’s the point. Ke$ha’s lewd lyrics are exactly what they sound like, and in many cases illustrate how male rappers regard women.

This notion is best exemplified by her hit “Blah Blah Blah,” in which Ke$ha basically says she isn’t interested in chitchat, she just wants to get down to business. When asked about writing this hit, the star simply says, “I’m a young, responsible woman who can work and party as hard as any man. So, if I want to talk about drinking and sex, I’m going to do it.” In her own way, Ke$ha confronts social taboos of how women view men, objectifying the latter for a change.  Her music echoes the sentiments expressed by feminists such as Naomi Wolf in her 1991 book The Beauty Myth: “The fact is that women are able to view men just as men view women, as objects for sexual and aesthetic evaluation.”

In her song “Booty Call,” Ke$ha again defies common female stereotypes through bold gender reversal. There are probably a million songs out there sung by female artists about a guy, but how many characterize him as simply a booty call? How many tell him to not get “attached when I call you up trying to get some ass?” I hate to admit it, but Ke$ha’s bold lyrics do stand out as unconventional. The best part is that she doesn’t pretend to hide deeper messages underneath the heavy electronic beats. Listening to her album makes you feel trapped in a loud, endless house party, and that’s exactly what she intends.

Ke$ha’s treatment of men might reflect her unusual upbringing. According to her biography, her mom wanted to have a child, but did not want a relationship. Some sperm banks had reportedly been infected with HIV, so she asked some of her friends to try to get her pregnant. Ke$ha still doesn’t know the identity of her father, but is completely satisfied with the way her mom played both parental roles during her childhood. This might explain why her mother, a songwriter herself, is so influential in Ke$ha’s work. She even danced around in a penis costume onstage in Budapest while her daughter sang, “Grow a Pear.” Talk about a dynamic duo.

While I agree that this evidence does advocate for Ke$ha’s secret feminist side, I cannot be deluded into thinking the artist has the same progressive mindset as some of her feminist contemporaries. Media has attempted to further solidify this theory by delving into Ke$ha’s childhood, fawning over how she used to make her own outfits and calling it a rejection of conventional beauty. Ke$ha herself downplays the effect of her self-styling, referring to her make up as “face paint” and her hair as “a lion’s mane.” Let’s be real for a second here. No matter how much the media tries to portray Ke$ha as a hero, confronting societal standards beauty, it’s undeniable that the pop star still walks out on stage looking hot and dangerous.

In addition, Ke$ha gained a lot of public attention when she decided to take a solo trip to the Galápagos Islands after her world tour to meditate and write her sophomore album. Some tried to portray this mini-vacation as another feminist move, citing Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own” to admire Ke$ha’s surely grueling isolation as a courageous escape from the world. Of course the pop star ate this up, describing her journey as such: “As I sat there on that rock in the middle of the ocean, in a place stuck in time… I was smiling, but I knew that the biggest challenge of my life was staring me in the face. I knew that if I didn’t rise to the challenge and write a spectacular sophomore album, my career could be short-lived. I took a deep breath, meditated, and felt the wind hit my face. I looked at the blank page and realized that I was right back where it all started, a girl with a crazy dream and a notebook. I took my pen and wrote one word: warrior.” Cue cacophonous symphony. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine overcoming a challenge like that. I mean, she has the entire world of feminism sitting on her shoulders. If Ke$ha can’t produce more glittery, auto-tuned goodness…who will women turn to next?

I think I can safely conclude that Ke$ha’s feminist front only holds validity in her lyrics. After her instant rise to fame with the debut of her album Animal in 2010, Ke$ha made it clear she wasn’t looking for the same type of career as Kelly Clarkson or Britney Spears. She wanted fame, and she wanted it now. She’s casually crude and callous to critics. Yet despite all of this, she still deserves some credit for flipping the sexual standards of popular music. •


  1. I’m a parent of two young kids. Most mothers my age have become very ambivalent about feminism. Raising kids while climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t realistic for most of us. So, feminism seemed really out of touch with our day-to-day lives. Yet we still want equality. We just don’t want strict rules to follow.

    Kesha’s feminism is a lot different. It’s not about what you do. It’s more about how you think about yourself and how you approach the world. It’s not about prolife versus prochoice or working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers. It’s still about equality but each woman gets to decide how to live her own life rather than having someone telling her what it really means to be a feminist. It’s something that’s easier to get on board with.

    Kesha is seen as a feminist icon by many teenage girls and young women. That automatically makes her hugely important. Hopefully the next generation of girls won’t be ambivalent while women’s rights are under increasing attack. The fact that she’s amibitious and wants to be a musical icon shouldn’t in any way undermine her message. Or even the fact that she gets dolled up for important events.Kesha has been a trendsetter rather than a follower in music. Hopefully, she’ll inspire more young female singers to spread feminist ideals through their music.

    • If she were so radical she would have a LOT less fans. Of all the artists, Peaches, Otep, who subvert gender identity you reach for the manufactured pop machine that is ke$ha? How is she any different from P!NK?

      She has songs with lyrics like “Fuck Him He’s a DJ” and “Whenever you tell me I’m pretty That’s when the hunger really hits me”. Still focused on using sex for status, still focused on being told she’s sexually attractive by men. If she is this milleniums feminist pioneer, feminism is dead. She knows sex sells, booze, drugs, partying, sell and she’s giving people what they want. She cranks out electropop club hits, just like everyone else.

      You can find droves of Ke$has on any college campus and clubs; the woman fits a million club scene stereotypes. She’s a celebrity with unlimited funds. What exactly is so radical about her partying hard just like all of her counterparts? That’s exactly what the media tells us to do!

      • The thing that make Ke$ha different, and why people think of her as a feminist is because she’s actually admitted to being a “bit of a feminist”. Her reasons for making this music is to level the playing field. In my opinion feminism is equality and the belief that woman can do and say the exact things as men. That’s what Ke$ha is doing. She’s trying to be an example for women to do what they want.

        I disagree saying that it focuses on her being told she’s sexually attractive by men. Of course she has to be considered sexually attractive if she wants them to sleep with her. She isn’t just “giving people what they want”. Maybe she really DOES enjoy sex booze drugs and partying, so she sings about it. Her music isn’t necessarily THAT different but woman like Ke$ha aren’t everywhere in the media. The men definitely overpower them.

        I think your main argument is she’s just like a million other girls, and she is. She’s representing them. She’s saying it’s okay to be like this. If you don’t want to that’s fine but if you do you should be able too. Women shouldn’t be shamed for being those steryotypes. Women should be able to do what they want with their bodies. That’s what Ke$ha wants to show. By no means is she radical (like I said earlier she’s only a bit of a feminist) but that doesn’t mean she isn’t trying to make a change in the media.

  2. Kesha is absolutely a feminist for the new wave of women.
    We are sick of being told that if we show some skin or if we decide to have multiple sex partners then we’re less of a woman or that we deserved to have sexual violence against us.
    From an early age girls are told to cross our legs when we sit, never show too much skin, wait until we’re married to have sex. And frankly, I don’t want to. I like that she’s saying we are women and we can have sex and it is okay.

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