Controversy is bubbling in the wake of Taylor Swift giving Kesha $250,000–a show of support after a court verdict that upheld a Sony contract which requires Kesha to work with Dr. Luke, a music producer she alleges sexually assaulted her multiple times. After the news of Swift’s financial contribution broke, Demi Lovato, a #FreeKesha supporter, tweeted, “Take something to Capitol Hill or actually speak out about something and then I’ll be impressed.” It was suspiciously timed, so much so that it reads as a straight up subtweet about Swift, but Lovato denied that allegation.
Take something to Capitol Hill or actually speak out about something and then I’ll be impressed.
— Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) February 22, 2016
“There’s no ‘rivalry’ I just give more f**ks than other people and would rather start a dialogue ABOUT WOMEN COMING FORWARD ABOUT BEING RAPED than throw money at one person…I didn’t shade Taylor. If you take it that way than fine. I’m just tired of seeing women use ‘women empowerment’ and ‘feminism’ to further brands without actually being the ones that have the uncomfortable conversations.”
While many are taking to the internet to give props to Swift–and no, not just Swift stans–Lovato isn’t the only one who is skeptical of Swift’s mode of support. Many see quietly giving money to Kesha as a weak way to make a stand, suggesting that Taylor Swift, one of the most powerful women in the music industry, could make a bigger impact and be an even bigger help to Kesha by using her voice to speak out against Sony and Dr. Luke.
So, let’s get this out of the way: Demi is fair in her critique of “women empowerment” being reduced to fickle things like celebrity “squad goals” that get a lot of play in the press as opposed to “uncomfortable conversations” like rape and misogyny. And it probably wouldn’t hurt if Taylor Swift verbally spoke out about Dr. Luke like other musicians have. But if you’re using Kesha’s problems to prompt a battle over what type of performative “feminism” is a best for Kesha, you should probably take a second to think about what the hell you’re doing.
It’s so presumptuous for you, me, or anybody else besides Kesha to act as if we know what Kesha really needs. This is why I’m so uncomfortable with people suggesting that giving Kesha money isn’t important, and that what she really needs are voices of support. I had to refrain from getting into a debate with another writer on this very point.
You don’t get to decide what will actually help Kesha in her time of need, because you aren’t Kesha. You also don’t know Kesha and haven’t nor will ever speak to Kesha. But on that note, who the hell are we to decide that $250 thousand dollars won’t do Kesha any good? I saw several tweets last night wondering, “What will money do? That’s not going to help Kesha.” Well, if we’re going to get real for a second, legal fees are expensive, and Kesha’s career has been side tracked for years due to this and other personal struggles that Kesha has been dealing with. To assume that money is a crass form of support negates this reality.
Plus, let’s just look at the bigger picture here: Saying that money will never do any good for a self-proclaimed rape survivor is incredibly erasing. Sure, money won’t undo history, and it might not even be what a survivor cares about, but there are plenty of rape-survivors who could use money to get counseling, pay for legal fees, relocate, etc. So the assertion that money can’t help victims is just straight up ludicrous.
But more importantly, if you’re making this issue about being Team Demi or Team Taylor, you’re ignoring the biggest problem here: Kesha is being forced to work with Dr. Luke, a man she alleges raped her. The real tragedy is that the legal system thinks that a contract holds more importance than someone’s right to feel safe. So why have I seen more people getting on their high horse about what Swift should have done or hating on Lovato than calling out Dr. Luke or Sony?
Stop turning Kesha’s nightmare into a pissing contest about the best ways to be a feminist or show solidarity. If anything, we should be encouraged by the fact that this is starting conversations about rape survivors and the predatory nature of the music industry. So until Kesha actually comes out and says what she wants and needs in the wake of this mess, maybe it’s not our place to decide that for her.
What’s your take? Do you think that there was a right or wrong way for celebrities in the industry to go about this? Tell us in the comments!