How about we ask men to support Kesha.
For those of you who aren’t aware of the story (and I’ll be honest, up until a few months ago, that included myself), in October 2014 the musical artist known as Kesha (or, in some cases, Ke$ha), filed a lawsuit against her producer Dr Luke, alleging sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence and emotional abuse. She also claimed that Dr. Luke repeatedly drugged her, with and without her consent, and that his continuous abuse caused her to develop an eating disorder (which she had checked into a rehab facility for earlier that year).
Kesha also requested to the court that her recording contract with Dr Luke be terminated, so she would no longer be required to work alongside her abuser. Additionally, in 2015, she sought an injunction with Sony Music Entertainment against working and releasing music with Dr Luke.
On February 19, 2016, the New York Supreme Court ruled against Kesha’s request for a preliminary injunction that would release her from her contract with Dr Luke and Sony Music Entertainment. With the ruling came the comment from the presiding Justice that Kesha’s lawsuit was “asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry” — and because, you know, women are property, so the concept of terminating a financial contract to preserve the health and well-being of a female artist was simply too much to ask. Sorry ladies, try again in a another few decades after you’ve chipped a little more glass away from that ceiling.
The public support from women in the entertainment industry was prompt and fierce. The #FreeKesha hashtag was created, and prominent popstars such as Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae and Demi Lovato all tweeted their outrage over the court’s decision, and their unwavering support for Kesha.
You know who didn’t tweet? Taylor Swift.
You know who copped a lot of flack for not tweeting? Taylor Swift.
You know who donated $250,000 to cover Kesha’s legal fees yesterday? Taylor Swift.
You know who is still copping flack for not tweeting?
TAYLOR FUCKING SWIFT.
Even Demi Lovato got right on in there:
And for the plethora of injustices that this case highlights, there’s something else that irks me even more than Kesha’s debut song ‘Tik-Tok’: With outrage against the mistreatment of women, comes the fierce competition about which woman can be the most vocally outraged against the mistreatment of women. And if you’re a woman, but you choose not to publicize your outrage against the mistreatment of women? Shiiiit girl, are you even female? Or are you just a robot created to perpetuate the hyper-masculine heteronormative capitalist agenda? Hold onto your skirts, ladies, because the backlash against your silence from your fellow chickadees will come thick & fast. And it will hurt.
Now, I’m as vocal as the next popstar who’s latched onto a great hashtag. And I am a firm believer that being loud as hell, stomping my feet & refusing to leave the room of the people in power is absolutely necessary to push the women’s rights movement forward. Anger, when concentrated into relentless advocacy, is a powerful weapon. But what I hate is the competition among women to be the loudest of them all. And what I hate is the finger pointing among women, when one voice just isn’t quite loud enough.
What I also hate is that while we’re so busy turning on ourselves and twitter-critiquing our advocacy techniques into internet oblivion, no one holds men to the same expectation.
So, please do tell me: where the hell are the gents? Why aren’t people looking at famous men and asking them “yo, where’s your #FreeKesha hashtag?” Why aren’t people looking at famous men and asking them “yo, where’s your $250,000 donation?” Why aren’t people looking at all men and asking them “yo, where’s your moral outrage over the fact a repeatedly battered woman is being forced to remain alongside her abuser because she hasn’t fulfilled her financial and contractual obligations of creating eight more albums?”
You know who else is represented by Sony? Avicii, Bruno Mars (who just performed at the Super Bowl AND won a Grammy), Calvin Harris (also known at Taylor Swift’s boyfriend), Chris Brown (though he’s more likely to side with Dr Luke), Drake, the Foo Fighters, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, One Direction (also known as the biggest boy band of the Gen Z generation), Skrillex (also just won a Grammy), Stevie Wonder, Usher and Will Smith.
That, right there? That’s a lot of fucking clout. Imagine if those men turned to Sony & said “yo, #FreeKesha or I’m gonna stop poppin’ out those multi-million dollar singles.” Kesha would taste freedom faster than I can burst through my front door, run to the fridge and taste the sweet salvation that is a good cheese & biscuit.
Women hold each other to such a high standard, but guess what — we need to hold men to that exact same standard. And that’s what baffles me — why don’t we have the same expectation of men? Is it because we don’t expect them to understand? Is it because we don’t expect them to care? Is the prospect of educating men on these issues too cumbersome? Are we protective of our female issues or female social justice space? Is it as basic as not wanting to trouble them?
Well I call bullshit. I expect men to understand, and I absolutely expect men to care. And if a man needs a crash-course on the women’s rights agenda, I’m more than happy to sit down with him and talk about it. I’m protective of our safe spaces — but not to the point that we exclude men from our mass protest movements. Men make up half our population, whether we like it or not — so the point isn’t to beat them, but get them on our side.
And yes, I’m more than happy to trouble them if it means I get what I want.
(“That doesn’t sound like Laura at all” said absolutely none of my friends.)
Men need to recognize moments that damage women’s progress, and guess what lads — this is one of those moments. This is a moment that is telling us “no, it’s still not safe for you to speak up against your abuser.” This is a moment that is telling us “no, women are still not considered more than property and entertainment.” This is a moment that is telling us “no, the court system is not here to protect you.”
Recognize the moment. And recognize that just as women need to shout and scream and throw their financial weight, so do men. Not to the point that your voices drown out what women are trying to say and you’ve hijacked the movement for your own personal agenda. But I have a lot of male friends and colleagues regularly ask me how they can be a better ally to women — well, here’s your shot.
Use the #FreeKesha hashtag on social media.
Contact New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich, the judge who ruled against Kesha’s injunction last week:
New York County Courthouse
60 Centre Street, Room 555
New York, NY 10007
Telephone: 646–386–3363 or 646-386–3362
Contact Sony Music Entertainment. You can call their global headquarters on (212) 833–8000 or write to them at 550 Madison Ave, New York, NY, 10022. You can also click here for the phone numbers for all their country offices around the world.
And if you wanna do like Tay Tay and donation $250,000 — you can! A loyal supporter has set up a Free Kesha GoFundMe page, and they have raised $10,000 in two days.
Kesha’s situation is a gross example of physical and emotional violence manifesting in an entirely unequal and highly transactional relationship, which has then been given legitimacy by an inherently patriarchal entertainment industry, and further supported by an equally as patriarchal justice system. Kesha’s situation is also a stark reminder that for all the progress women have made, we still have a very long way to go.
Rather than snipe at each other for all the ways in which we’re “advocating wrong”, women instead need to listen out for the silence coming from the men’s side of the room. And remind them that silence is complicity, and we’re not standing for your complicity, anymore.
And for the love of god, #FreeKesha because I can’t live through eight more Sony-style ultra-pop auto-tuned highly sexualised carbon copy albums. I just can’t.