Praying by Kesha: An Analysis
Song by Kesha
Review by Jarad Johnson
Kesha’s powerful new album holds many great gems, but Praying is perhaps the most emotionally charged and heartfelt. Through her video, Kesha challenges rape culture in the U.S. and musically and visually recounts her own struggles with sexual assault, presenting a video that is in perfect harmony with her words. She challenges the ideas that our culture has about conformity and gender ideologies. The song by itself is amazing, but the video compliments and enhances it.
The video presents a strong Feminist message of overcoming and fighting back against sexual assault, of being proud of who you are, and redefining what it means to be a woman. By recounting this personal experience, she’s not only drawing media attention to rape culture, and creating a conversation around that, but also, she’s empathizing and offering hope to other survivors of rape. Furthermore, our societal ideas of what it means to be a woman are extremely conservative and sexist. Most people have a generic image that pops up when the word woman or housewife is said. Kesha rejects this idea, especially the idea of being demure, soft-spoken and lacking confidence. Through her representation of herself in the video, Kesha believes there is no wrong or right way to be a woman, or a man for that matter, and that we should not be categorized and limited in our expressions based on our sex alone. Because the boxes we put ourselves in are ridiculous at best, and small-minded at worst.
The first thing you notice when watching the video is Kesha, and her elaborate, colorful costumes. She presents herself as a very unique personality who likes to outwardly express that individuality. It’s best illustrated halfway through the video, with a shot of Kesha standing under a net wearing multi-colored wings, like a snared butterfly. That’s essentially what she was, and to some extent what we all are: restrained by societal expectations of conformity instead of being allowed to fully express our individuality This also plays into our expectations of gender and gender roles, in which women have traditionally been defined in relation to both male standards and needs. She’s challenging and rejecting all of that nonsense here, advocating for individual expression.
The video was just released, and thus is representative our societies slowly changing attitudes about women. Kesha challenges the idea of male superiority when she says, “I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees”. Not only is this a reference to her assault, but it’s also telling the man who attacked her that she is stronger than him now, and she is righteously angry. This idea of fighting back, of being angry at the attacker instead of blaming the victim, is important to repeat right now in the wake of an assault on women’s rights.
These kinds of backwards ideas that say that rape is the fault of unchaste women, and ideas that blame women for sexual assault, are still ingrained in our culture. However, she’s not just retaliating against her assailant, but she’s also reminding women that they can do the exact same thing, which is not something that traditional patriarchal-based organizations wish to see implemented. This idea of blaming the victim for wearing the wrong clothes or, “asking for it,” is still perpetuated because we still live in a society where the genders are not equal, never mind the myriad of sexualities and gender identities that have been consistently demonized and underrepresented.
In the video, Kesha is essentially letting go of her anger and working through forgiveness. This is most well-presented when she says, “And we both know all the truth I could tell, I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell.” It seems like she’s letting go of the past, and moving forward. When I first had that thought, that she’s forgiving her assailer and moving on, I was confused. It was on my mind for a long time, and I came to realize that forgiveness is a somewhat selfish act, and it’s entirely for your own benefit. Kesha is moving forward and choosing to not be controlled by this incident anymore.
In summary, Kesha’s powerful new song challenges traditionally held gender roles, empowers women and victims of sexual assault, promotes the rejection of societal expectations regarding individuality, and holds the ideas of what women are supposed to be in contempt. She not only shares her process of overcoming a traumatic experience, but also presents an overall message of tolerance and self-acceptance, marking this song an exceptional piece of art.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!