Celebrity arguments distract from feminist goals

Published March 11, 2016, 3:55 p.m. - 125 views


In October of 2014, pop singer Kesha filed a lawsuit against her music producer, Dr. Luke, charging him with sexual assault and battery. Kesha claimed the abuse had occurred over the course of 10 years, beginning when she was 18 years old.
According to Kesha, Dr. Luke had “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused [her] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.”
The case has recently garnered huge public attention, as on Feb. 19, 2016, the New York Supreme Court declared that Kesha would not be released from her contract with Dr. Luke. The court said that the star’s sexual assault allegations were not enough to remove her from the contract and that she is consequently not permitted to work with any other producers. 
In response, feminists are taking the matter into their own hands. Many are speaking out on the devastating reality of our societally skewed attitude towards women and sexual assault. Demi Lovato, a self-proclaimed feminist, has been extremely vocal about the situation, particularly through her Twitter account. Taylor Swift also showed support, donating $250,000 to aid Kesha with legal expenses. In addition to fervently expressing her opinion that the court decision was both unjust and sexist, Lovato was further agitated by Swift’s actions.
In response to Swift’s donation Lovato tweeted, “take something to Capitol Hill or actually speak out about [it], and then I’ll be impressed.”
Lovato expressed her frustration at what she perceives as “throwing money” at these issues, suggesting that it does nothing to ensure women like Kesha will receive justice. Lovato, and many of her supporters, are of the opinion that opening a dialogue on issues such as these is the only way to find a solution Meanwhile Swift and her supporters believe that the monetary donation was effective in taking action rather than “just tweeting about it.”
Both celebrities identify as feminists, and they live up to this title by supporting Kesha in the face of the alleged, long-lasting abuse by Dr. Luke and inaction of the courts. While passionate and sometimes vulgar, Lovato’s tweets have effectively guided the attention of thousands to the issue.
On Feb. 25, Lovato tweeted, “Women empowerment is speaking up for other women even when it’s something uncomfortable to speak up about.”
While Swift’s donation is a strong demonstration of support, I agree with Lovato: to achieve equality between men and women we must open up a dialogue about sexism. Because she is in such a position of influence, Lovato’s strong opposition has served to draw attention to the severity of this situation. While Swift has also used her influence to show support for Kesha, her actions demonstrated that she is on the defensive rather than the offensive when it comes to feminism and women’s rights. 
If we expect patriarchal cultural norms to change, we must take action to prevent sexual assault. While Swift was not in the wrong to show support through a financial donation, a strong public statement would  have been more impactful.
This whole debacle draws attention away from the real issue. Lovato has good intentions, but she made a mistake by attacking Swift. If strong American female influences continue criticizing one another over the proper way to advocate for social justice, a solidified feminist approach to such events will be unreachable. Celebrities such as Lovato and Swift are responsible to collaborate and support one another on issues such as these. Such aggression is counterproductive and distracts from the agenda at hand.
We need to acknowledge the gravity of the Feb. 19 court decision. The New York Supreme Court ruled that sexual, physical and emotional abuse allegations are not enough to enforce measures that ensure victims will not be subjected to the same treatment again. A musical contract was valued higher than a woman’s safety. What would be enough to guarantee the abuse stops? When will female safety take priority over male profits?

Avery Ellfeldt 19 (ellfel1@stolaf.edu) is from Denver, Colo. Her major is undeclared.

About the Author

Avery Ellfeldt, class of 2019 is a Communications and Cultural Studies, Spanish major.

ellfel1@stolaf.edu

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