Why Kesha's Court Case Matters To You (Yes, You!)

I felt physically sick when I saw the outcome of Kesha's court case last Friday, when Supreme Court  judge, Shirley Kornreich, ruled that Kesha could not be let out of a contract with Sony in light of an ongoing lawsuit against Dr. Luke (Lukacz Gottwald), who she says has physically, sexually and emotionally abused her for years which also subsequently led to her eating disorder and mental breakdown. Essentially, Kesha is being forced to continue to work with the man who she says has abused her for nearly a decade.

(Note: In the words of Madeleine Albright "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." Looking at you Judge Kornreich.)

Judge Shirley Kornreich questioned why Kesha couldn't continue to work for Gottwald if they could be separated as Sony had promised. She stated that there has been "no showing of irreparable harm" given that Kesha still has the opportunity to record, that Kesha hadn't provided evidence of the attack, such as hospital records, and stated that it's not appropriate to "decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated".

First of all, you mean a contract that was negotiated without the knowledge that the other person would make your life a living hell, not to mention engage in abuse that could send one to prison for a long time? Should we assume that the only way we are protected from these kinds of predatory people when it comes to corporate legalities is if we add stipulations into our "heavily negotiated contracts" like, "unless one party sexually assaults, drugs and abuses the other"? We don't add that language to our agreements because it's FREAKIN' OBVIOUS that those things shouldn't be happening.

Secondly, keeping a woman under the power of the man she says abused her wasn't a factor in Kornreich's decision which makes me physically nauseous. Kesha doesn't have a video proving her story, she doesn't have a doctors note that she was raped. But shouldn't Kesha's, (and so many other abused women's) testimony be enough to some extent?  Often times women don't call the police or seek medical attention, or delay doing so, because of shame, stigma or trauma. Rape kits often aren't completed or viable for something as simple as fluids are washed off in the shower. It doesn't seem to fair to say that unless you somehow recorded being drugged or raped or abused then your words mean nothing. Sexual assault and rape are notorious for being both underreported and successfully prosecuted. Women often don't report abuse due to shame, trauma or stigma and often don't receive rape kits for something as simple as fluids washing off in the shower. And what about the fact that, as for many rape and assault cases lacking "evidence", Kesha can't "prove" Gottwald abused her, but Gottwald can't prove he didn't. This just goes to show how a man's word is taken with more credibility and importance than that of a woman's, even in legal matters. This is a horrific enough situation for women who have been abused, but it's just flat disturbing that without proper evidence, a predator is kept out of jail, or worse, as in Kesha's case, a woman would still be contractually obligated to him.

It is no secret that systemic misogyny penetrates the entertainment industry through and through. Women in film and music have long been controlled by the men that feel they own them because they are "backing their careers and giving them a name".  This kind of abuse has been quietly built into the structure of music and film contracts and the rampant, and often-documented, abuse of power in the entertainment industry also doesn't make Kesha's story that far fetched.

Third of all,  why should Kesha have to work with someone who terrifies her for good reason? Not having to ever see Gottwald again is not helpful and is largely Kesha's lawyer's argument. He will still control her recording and publishing and therefore have the legal right and ability to bury any future albums which would ultimately keep her from profiting from her work. This kind of financial control is very often seen in domestic abuse situations and, in fact, is a reality in about 98% of abusive relationships. If a woman has no control over her finances or ability to make money and provide for herself, she is far too often stuck in the abusive situation she is in or ends up on the street- which is why 20% of homeless women say they are without a home.

Kesha has received a lot of support from celebrities like Lena Dunham, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to help with her legal expenses, and Jack Antonoff (producer for Swift, Sara Bareillas, and Sia) as well as Zedd (producer for Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez) have not publicly offered to work with Kesha. 

But not everyone has the same sentiment toward Kesha and her case. Tweets have rolled in calling her a "slut", "whore",  "bitch" and "liar, to name a few. Wendy Williams took to her talk show to victim shame Kesha, saying that "Unfortunately business is business, and it sounds like it’s fair," and "If everybody complained because somebody allegedly sexually abused them and was ripping them off, then contracts would be broken all the time". 

This kind of narrative, victim shaming, calling into doubt the allegations of an abused woman, questioning her behavior (we've all heard it before. "what was she wearing?", "was she drunk?", "egging him on by flirting?") is sickeningly common and the reality for millions of women. As a society we need to change our attitudes toward sexual abuse, and it starts with all of us as women and how we stand up for one another.

This case is not just about one woman. The treatment Kesha has faced at the hands of the legal system, commentators and the general public should matter to all of us.

The outpouring of support goes to show that this touches on the horrific experience of millions of women, who continue to face violence and assault.

This is victim-blaming and public shaming at it's finest and sheds like on the bombardment facing those who speak out about sexual violence.

We are seeing the privilege of a man's word being taken with more credibility and importance than that of a woman's.

This is just another one of millions of examples of how the public immediately calls a woman's abuse allegations into doubt and then begins shaming the woman's behaviors in any way possible, questioning "what was she wearing?", "was she drunk?", "was she egging him on by flirting?".

If a woman as high-profile as Kesha is subject to something so sickening, what hope is there for millions of faceless women, not to mention those also subject to other forms of prejudice?

This case highlights how the legal system in this country continues to force women to confront their abusers in court and then continues to harm women by failing to protect them.

At the end of the day, Kesha coming forward and the rally of support that she has received by her peers means something big for women and women in entertainment. Lena Dunham couldn't have said it better when she wrote on Lenny Letter, "

"It wasn't long ago that women in the public eye didn't have a loose-enough leash to reach out and support one another, for fear of losing all they had worked so hard to create.....We are not scared anymore of losing what we worked for, of being branded hysterical or difficult, of being targeted and silenced by men in power. The women in the music industry speaking out for Kesha are proof. And their words will reverberate, inspiring the young women watching them for clues about the good life to speak up too. Soon, no one will accept shame and fear as the status quo. And so, while Kesha is indefinitely silenced, her voice has never been louder."
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