One Court Case, 3 Pop Stars, and a Conversation About Women of Color and Feminism

One Court Case, 3 Pop Stars, and a Conversation About Women of Color and Feminism

Demi Lovato is not here for Taylor Swift.

Published February 23, 2016

The Players:




Women of Color

The Timeline:

Last Friday a New York Supreme Court judge denied Kesha’s legal plea to get out of her exclusive contract to Sony and Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe record label, despite her allegations of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse for years from Dr. Luke.

Online, social media users and music stars have shown their support for Kesha under the hashtag #FreeKesha. 

Sunday, Demi Lovato tweeted in response to the ruling:

She then called out “self-proclaimed feminists” with additional tweets:

People were quick to qualify Demi’s words as her throwing shade at Taylor Swift. Not to mention it was also noted that Demi went as far as liking a tweet that called out Taylor’s silence on #FreeKesha.

Taylor Swift responded shortly after Demi’s tweets by donating $250,000 to Kesha and the pop princess released the following statement via her spokesperson, Tree Paine: "In a show of support, Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 to Kesha to help with any of her financial needs during this trying time.”

While Kesha’s mother showed gratitude to Taylor for the money:

Demi still had more to add:

She even had it out with a few T. Swift fans.

Whew! You guys all caught up now?


Before I jump into the meaty stuff, let’s get some things out of the way:

First, Kesha’s story is a tragic one and the court ruling to keep her in her existing contract is completely disabling to her career as a recording artist and no doubt her psyche. I just want to see her do the thing she loves without fear from an alleged abuser.

Second, even though Demi denies her tweets as being personal, history has proven otherwise. After all, her old BFF is now Taylor’s new BFF. Selena Gomez has denied a rift in the past, but there definitely has been some bad blood.

The Issues:

Now, let’s talk about that big, bad F-word. Feminsim.

For starters, I don’t agree with Taylor and her brand of feminism. When her Girl Squad, is full of white, tall, model-esque women, it’s hard to see her as a feminist voice for all. Her elevation in the movement makes inter-sectional feminism feel as though it falls to the wayside in the mainstream. Her feminism doesn’t explicitly account for women of color. Maybe she just can’t relate to the struggle of POC women. Yes, she had Kendrick Lamar on her album, but she also shot her music video “Wildest Dreams” depicting a very white Africa. Maybe she and Lena Dunham share an opinion about their truths, but in her popularity she isolates Black and brown women.  I recognize that she is a Grammy award-winning artist who has broken many records and has millions of fans who are young girls and women. The power and influence of that Girl Squad is strong and “Shake It Off” is catchy, but it doesn’t negate that many of her fans who are WOC watch on mostly ignored when she speaks to feminism.

With that said, I also don’t agree with Demi and the way she came at Taylor. Her judgment in the way Taylor chooses to be a feminist is detrimental to the movement that she’s apparently trying to defend. Demi is essentially criticizing Taylor for picking and choosing when to take a stand, but where was Demi in supporting Taylor when Kanye diminished her success? Where is Demi when it comes to other issues that affect women that aren’t white? Demi chooses to be silent there. Demi chose to show Kesha her support with her words. Taylor chose to support Kesha with money towards her legal fees. Both gestures appreciated by Kesha, at least according to her mother. For Demi, it feels like Taylor’s feminism just isn’t good enough or appropriate, but isn’t feminism, after all, about choice?

We want our pop stars to be role models even though they didn’t choose to have this label. As women and as feminists, the expectations we put on each other, our favorite female celebrities, revered female politicians, and icons when it comes to feminism is unfair and another reflection of the unrealistic pressures society puts on our gender to look and perform a certain way in order to be valued. Currently as WOC, we are automatically shut out of this value system, our voices silenced by mainstream feminists’ ideals that come with an implicit requirement to look and sound like them to be considered worthy of being around them and recognized by them.

But there should be room for all women in feminism, room for our flaws and growth and, most of all, our choice to express ourselves and our support of each other as we see fit for our individual lives and comfortability. I love Beyonce. And as an Indian-American woman, I watched "Hymn for a Weekend" with a sense of uneasiness, because of the cultural appropriation conversation. I wasn’t 100 percent offended with Beyonce wearing henna or acting as a Bollywood actress, but I could see what the issue was. Yet, I still love her. I still love the messages behind "Formation." Does that mean I am less of an Indian woman or that I should completely boycott Beyonce? No, to both. As women we should be able to critique and question each other without tearing each other down. We should be allowed the choice to express our support of each other as we see fit.

With an election season in full swing and the potential for a female president becoming a stronger possibility day by day, the influence of women on the election is growing and these conversations between women about women’s empowerment and feminism are important, especially among young, millennial women. Yes, the major issue of the current topic that has us talking about expressions of feminism is Kesha’s dream becoming a nightmare. And yes, these are white pop stars fighting on Twitter. But more than that, its women pitted against women in judgment of each other’s style of feminism vs. encouraging, and supporting each other in what should be an inclusive movement. As WOC, we are all too familiar with either Taylor’s mainstream feminism or Demi’s alternative feminism leaving us out because we don’t fit into either mold while they debate amongst themselves over ownership. 

With instances of feminism and empowerment being argued in the mainstream, it seems as though we WOC are bystanders in the conversation. Where are our voices? When do we get a say? When do we get acknowledged as equal players?

Maybe in a few months Taylor and Demi will make up, I’m hoping Kesha gets justice, and I’m also hoping that as feminists and women we understand that “feminism” is complicated. Our experiences as people who identify as women, white, POC, LGBT, or any intersection of that are more nuanced than merely sharing a label and our desire to support each other is more important than us all representing feminism in one cookie cutter or radical rocker way. 


(Photos from top: Felipe Ramales / Splash News, Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SiriusXM, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images, Peter Griffith/Masterfile/Corbis

Written by Jimy Shah


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