Our world loves celebrities. Really. We freak out over small feuds that are definitely blown up in tabloids, obsess over who’s dating who, and love, or love to hate, the Kardashian/Jenner clan with a passion. Although our fascination seems to rely on their glamorous lifestyles, I believe that celebrities also have the ability to reflect society’s deepest issues.
Kesha’s case most certainly reaffirmed that belief.
On February 20, 2016, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that Kesha’s contract to Sony Music would not be nullified. This contract obligates the 28-year old singer to make six more albums (SIX MORE) with Sony and therefore, Dr. Luke. The singer filed a lawsuit in October, 2014 against Dr. Luke for sexual assault and harassment, stating that the mega-rich, mega-powerful Dr. Luke had been harming her since she was 18 years old. This ruling forces Ke$ha to work closely with her alleged rapist or, at the very least, in close proximity to him. While she has made no comment about the verdict, pictures are worth a thousand words: the image of Kesha uncontrollably sobbing in an NYC courtroom is easy to understand.
The judge’s ruling requires that Kesha just grin and bear it. Sony’s defense, that the contract should not be terminated, relied on the fact that the music label had poured approximately $60 million dollars into Kesha and should therefore not be expected to deal with the revenue loss that would ensue if her allotted six albums are not produced.
EVERYONE is upset by this verdict. EVERYONE is wondering how this could have happened. Because what is the overarching meaning of Dr. Luke getting away scott free? That our legal system values the “negotiated” contracts of large corporations over the testimony of a young woman. And that is horrifying to think about.
Rape culture is embedded in the DNA of our world. We hear about sexual assaults on college campuses almost daily, updates on the Bill Cosby case (and why his victims took so long to come forward), and then a case like Kesha’s comes into play. Why is this so important? Because it harms rape victims everywhere – women who have been sexually assaulted, and women who will be sexually assaulted.
Kesha’s willingness to move forward in the process of convicting Dr. Luke is more heroic than most will understand. In fact, any rape victim’s willingness to speak publicly about their assault is applaudable… and difficult. Coming forward requires you to relive the experience over, both in front of a jury and in your own mind, and it can be humiliating. (Madonna, who had been sexually assaulted in the 1970’s, has herself said that she failed to report the incident because she felt humiliated.) Kesha, however, is in a particularly unfavorable spot because the public knows her every move… and every gruesome detail of her case. She has no privacy in these proceedings, which makes her actions even more commendable.
While Dr. Luke has not been convicted in Kesha’s 2014 lawsuit against him, it really shouldn’t matter: convicted or not, if there is any suspicion that Kesha was harmed, there should be no direct contact between the two. Sure, the judge agreed that Kesha could work with someone else within the Sony company, but that does not matter. She will continue to “run in” to her alleged rapist frequently, or at the very least, live with the fear that she will.
I hope this case brings to light the fact that women are constantly subject to inequality. Why is it that an accomplished young woman has to even go to court to release her from a contract that binds her to her alleged rapist? That’s almost worse than the age old “she was asking for it” excuse, that’s brought up in many other rape cases.
Several other stars have reached out via social media to show their support for Kesha’s cause, among them Lady Gaga, Mara Wilson, Kelly Clarkson, Lorde, Ariana Grande, and many more. Many with the hashtag #FreeKesha. The next question is, how will Sony continue to respond to these accusations? After all, another hashtag I’ve seen trending is #SonySupportsRape – that can’t be good for business.