Kesha’s contractual dispute with Sony has been dominating headlines and sparking much-needed discussions about rape culture, corporate greed and institutional sexism. The bestselling singer-songwriter’s legal battle with her record company — and “alleged” rapist, producer Dr. Luke — has led to an outpouring of support from the public and celebrities alike. Adele, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are among the many who have publicly stood up for Kesha and other survivors of sexual abuse.
Kesha’s case really seems like a turning point. We can’t think of another time where famous women have been such vocal advocates for a fellow entertainer in a sensitive situation like this. And it’s not often — if ever? — that you hear about sexual assault at this high a level in the entertainment industry. Dr. Luke is an incredibly powerful, influential and lucrative figure in the music industry — but that’s not stopping the furious rallying cry of the many who are openly identifying themselves as Kesha’s allies.
It really feels like the tides are, at long last, changing. These public figures either a) Don’t think they’ll face professional repercussions for standing by Kesha and/or b) Don’t care what price they’ll pay because they care so much about Kesha, and the other, more wide-ranging issues at play.
Much has been written about Kesha, her case and what both the legal proceedings and reactions to it mean in the big picture. We’ve collected some of the most noteworthy pieces below, with highlights from each.
Kesha’s music has been featured in “21 Jump Street,” “Glee,” Pitch Perfect 2″ and many other films and television shows. Her acting credits include “Jane the Virgin” and 2015’s live-action “Jem and the Holograms.”
Sony could make this go away. But instead the company has chosen to engage in a protracted legal battle to protect [Dr. Luke’s]’s stake in Kesha’s future. Although the company insists that Kesha and Gottwald never need to be in a room together and that he will allow her to record without his direct involvement, they are minimizing what Kesha says regarding how Gottwald’s continued involvement in her career would affect her physical well-being and psychological safety.
Sony could make this go away. But instead the company has chosen to engage in a protracted legal battle to protect Gottwald’s stake in Kesha’s future.
So let me spell it out for them. Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?
That explanation is really for the judge, Shirley Kornreich, who questioned why — if they could be physically separated as Sony has promised — Kesha could not continue to work for Gottwald. After all, she said, it’s not appropriate to “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated.” Guess what else is heavily negotiated? The human contract that says we will not hurt one another physically and emotionally. In fact, it’s so obvious that we usually don’t add it to our corporate documents.
To be clear, Kesha’s case is about more than a pop star fighting for her freedom, or a $60 million investment in a shiny commercial career. It’s about more than whether Kesha can strap on her cool leotards and make another album, free from a man who she says terrifies her. It’s even about more than the systemic misogyny of the entertainment industry, or the way that women in music and film have long been controlled and coerced by abusive Svengalis and entities larger than themselves. (Think: the studio system of the ’40s and ’50s, when starlets were essentially chattel. Think: Ike and Tina Turner.) What’s happening to Kesha highlights the way that the American legal system continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers.
Nico Lang in Salon:
In a recent statement, [Sony] company claimed that being stonewalled by her label is actually a good thing for Kesha. The singer filed an injunction with the court to expedite the case, worried that time off might harm her career. But Sony insists that’s hardly the case: In court documents leaked by TMZ, Sony claimed that years away from the recording studio helped D’Angelo and Justin Timberlake mount impressive comebacks. The company argued that Kesha “could be the next Adele.”
The spin is so insidious that the sleight of hand all but escaped mention in the press — because who doesn’t love Adele right now? After the Grammy-winning success of “21,” which launched three No. 1 singles, the British singer waited four years to release another EP. That album, “25,” has broken every record in the book since bowing in November. Her third album sold an unbelievable 3 million copies in its first week — at a time when people don’t buy CDs anymore.
But the reason Adele took that lengthy hiatus was to have her first child (who was born in 2012) and build a new family with her husband. In an Instagram postpublished before the release of “25,” the singer wrote, “Sorry it took so long, but you know, life happened.” It absolutely was not to escape her alleged rapist, and to equate the two is appalling.
Unfortunately, that’s par for the course for companies like Sony, as a culture of sexual assault is too often the definition of “life” in the music industry. For many female musicians, producers and executives, this is the reality that they must deal with every day. As Vice’s Rachel Grace Almeida wrote earlier this year, nearly every woman in the music business has her own story of unwanted attention, sexual harassment or assault — often from men in positions of power and authority.
What is the worth of a woman? What is the worth of her body, her safety, her heart, her career? And once you determine it, how does it hold up to the worth of a man, a business, a conglomeration? Or does it not hold up at all? …
Kesha, a 28-year-old woman who’s been working in the music industry for a full decade, might think she knows what’s best for her. She might think it’s in her best interest to sever all ties with the man who allegedly raped and continually hurt her, but — really — what does she know? Sony’s invested $60 million in her career, their attorneys reminded the judge — what’s an emotional and physical violation compared to that?
“Our interest is in her success,” claimed a Sony lawyer. “Our interest is in Dr. Luke’s success. They are not in the least bit mutually exclusive.” In other words, we know what’s good for her. And what’s good for her is recording six more albums with a company that heard her claims of abuse and said, “Your story means nothing.”
That Sony would take this line of argument is gross enough, but far grosser is the fact that the court agrees.
“My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing,” ruled Shirley Kornreich as Kesha sobbed openly in the back of the room.