For much of the ’00s, Kesha was something of a dance floor staple. Then, seemingly at the peak of her popularity, she dropped off the radar. Not all that unusual, but she was hardly a one hit wonder and she definitely wasn’t dead. So where did she go?
Then, in 2014, it emerged that Kesha was suing her producer, Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald aka ‘Dr Luke’, for sexually assaulting her and emotionally and physically abusing her from the time she signed with Kemosabe, Gottwald’s Sony-owned record label, at 18 years old. To give you some context, Kesha is now 28.
Gottwald counter-sued claiming the suit was extortion, and eventually, late last year, Kesha requested that her contract be broken so she would no longer be beholden to the six record deal under Sony and Kemosabe that would put her in frequent workplace contact with the man accused of abusing her.
Yesterday, Judge Shirley Kornreich declined Kesha’s request, indicating that she was sympathetic with Sony and felt that it was “commercially reasonable” for Sony to expect the contract to be honoured. For their part, Sony has indicated that it “cares deeply” about Kesha and Gottwald, and would be willing to let someone else produce Kesha’s album, albeit still under the Kemosabe imprint.
Ignoring for a second my immediate gut response to this – visceral rage, followed by sobbing at the picture of Kesha breaking down in court, in that order, just so you know – there are so many things wrong here.
The court has heard a case where a woman has stepped up and testified to feeling unsafe in her workplace on the basis of several alleged criminal acts and, rather than acknowledging that this represents a huge physical and emotional strain on the victim, has chosen to consider instead how nullifying a contract would affect the profit margins of a company already worth millions of dollars.
I want you all to say it with me: corporations are not, and never will be, people. They are comprised of people. Some of those people are victims. Some of those people are perpetrators. Some of those people see things and let them slide. Some of those people see nothing at all. All of those people are individuals with a life that exists outside the interests of whichever corporation they work under. The combined presence of those people, does not make a single entity, and certainly does not make an entity which deserves more respect and compassion than an individual human being.
As we saw with Amber Coffman’s calling out of Heathcliff Berru, speaking up can make a difference. For some reason, it hasn’t here. Kesha’s case sparked a flurry of tweets from other female artists supporting her. Most notably was Kelly Clarkson’s cryptic tweet that seemed to imply that there was, at the least, some knowledge within the industry of Gottwald’s behaviour, given that Clarkson had worked with him before.
Trying 2 not say anything since I can't say anything nice about a person… so this is me not talking about Dr. Luke https://t.co/lLhtUHbmgG
— Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson) February 19, 2016
Disgusted by anyone in power positions abusing their authority. My heart breaks for Kesha and all people affected by this toxicity. Fuck.
— HALSEY (@halsey) February 19, 2016
There are people all over the world who love you @KeshaRose. And I can say truly I am in awe of your bravery.
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) February 19, 2016
I try not to comment on other artists' matters 4 lots of reasons but as an artist & young woman in this industry my heart goes out 2kesha.
— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) February 20, 2016
standing with @KeshaRose through this traumatic, deeply unfair time. send good vibes her way everyone
— Lorde (@lorde) February 19, 2016
But there is no acknowledgement here of wrongdoing by any party. Sony and Gottwald seem to have a policy of deny, deny, deny and it’s working for them. To put it simply, Sony had a sympathetic judge and they worked hard to protect the cash cow that is Gottwald and his Kemosabe imprint.
While it is true that Kesha signed a contract. That contract did not involve signing her life, well being and safety away to an entity that won’t even acknowledge that she has been wronged because that would involve incriminating a powerful man.
Moment’s like Kesha’s case are upsetting because they show women exactly what they’re worth, which is apparently, nothing as an individual and everything as a marketable object.
Honestly? Fuck that. Free Kesha.