Why Ke$ha's New Memoir Is 2012's Answer to 'The Feminine Mystique'

In the 1990s, Judith Butler dedicated much of her philosophy to the notion that the power of the male phallus was in its symbolism for male privilege—and that the subversion of that symbolism could be powerful.

Are we to accept the priority of the phallus without questioning the narcissistic investment which an organ, a body part, has been elevated/erected to the structuring, centering principle of the world?

In 2011, Ke$ha and her mom brought new, can't-be-unseen imagery to the idea of subverting the symbolism of the phallus, and took Butler's idea that "gender is performative" to an awesomely gross level:

I played in the central square of Budapest. ... My mom wore the penis costume that I always carry around with me during the tour and danced around like a crazy person onstage when I played "Grow a Pear."

THE REJECTION OF "CONVENTIONAL" BEAUTY

Robin Morgan, in a fiery 1968 protest against the Miss America pageant, lamented that women who were visible and esteemed in society were under intense pressure to be conventionally beautiful.

Women in our society [are] forced daily to compete for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous 'beauty' standards we ourselves are conditioned to take seriously. ... Conformity is the key to the crown—and, by extension, to success in our Society.

Ke$ha, meanwhile, has been rejecting conventional beauty standards since grade school.

I started making my own outfits when I was young. It didn't win me many friends in school, but it helped me out in the long run. ... My main influences for my stage outfits are pirates and seventies male rock stars like Keith Richards and Marc Bolan.

My face paint changes from night to night. Sometimes I do it myself, and other times I have a makeup artist help me out, but I try to do something different for every show. Then right before I go onstage, I tease my hair to get it as big as a lion's mane.

THE ROOM (OR ISLAND) OF ONE'S OWN

In her 1929 extended essay "A Room of One's Own," Virginia Woolf posited that in order to maximize their creative potential, women just needed some quiet space to be alone with their thoughts.

My belief is that if we live another century or so ... and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; ... then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.

After finishing a two-year world tour, Ke$ha embarked on a trip by herself to the Galápagos Islands earlier this year. Her mission? To hang out with some animals and start writing her second album—a full-length release now called Warrior, due out on December 4.

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.
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Ashley Fetters is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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