Rose red, I will make you tell the truth
This article contains material some may find triggering.
(Warning: this article talks about rape, abuse and violence against women. If any of these topics trigger you, please proceed with caution or simply do not read on. Take care of yourself, you’re important.)
I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to write this blog. There was an inevitability about the topic I’m going to address, and honestly I already had a draft written but abandoned it because it just didn’t sound right.
Then, more news broke and I realized I couldn’t put it off anymore.
On Thursday, March 24th, an Ontario court found Jian Ghomeshi not guilty on multiple counts of sexual assault. Ghomeshi, a former CBC radio host and former frontman of the band Moxy Fruvous, has been accused of abuse by at least sixteen people at last count. He’ll face another trial in June, but those of us watching from the outside aren’t exactly expecting much different there.
On February 19th, the world witnessed a New York judge ruling that pop singer/songwriter Kesha was contractually required to continue working with Dr. Luke, a producer she has accused of raping and abusing her on multiple occasions. The court’s decision was that Kesha’s reasons for not wanting to work with Dr. Luke were not valid reasons to void her contract with Sony Music.
Then, on Wednesday, April 6th, Kesha’s charges against Dr. Luke were thrown out all together because the judge discovered Sony had made Kesha an offer: they would let her out of her contract if she would rescind her public accusations against Dr. Luke. Essentially, the courts ruled Kesha was being unreasonable by not accepting this “deal.”
Now, let’s just let this sink in for a moment. The Ghomeshi case ended with “You didn’t act enough like a victim.” But with Kesha, the fault was “you continued to act like a victim, even after you were politely asked to stop.”
None of this is a revelation, none of this was previously unknown, it’s just now we’ve been given a monstrous example the point to…and it still won’t help.
Rape culture is pervasive, so of course it has found a way to nest itself comfortably in music. From Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” containing lyrics that eerily echo what rapists have told their victims, to Blood on the Dancefloor’s Dahvie Vanity waving off repeated rape accusations with “if I were a rapist don’t you think I’d be in jail?!” (given that a very slim percentage of rapists ever see time in prison this argument totally falls apart) to these court rulings and beyond, it is an issue.
It’s not exactly new, either. Kim Fowley was beyond abusive to The Runaways and former member Jackie Fuchs (formerly Fox) openly accused the manager of raping her while band members watched. Phil Spector reportedly pulled a gun on multiple women for not returning his sexual advances, he eventually murdered Lana Clarkson and claimed it was an “accidental suicide.” And I feel I can just say the name Bobby Brown without needing to go into further detail there.
In 1991, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love dived into the audience at a show and was stripped and molested by her audience. During a 1995 interview she said:
“We had just gotten off tour with Mudhoney, and I decided to stage-dive. I was wearing a dress and I didn’t realize what I was engendering in the audience. It was a huge audience and they were kind of going ape-shit. So I just dove off the stage, and suddenly, it was like my dress was being torn off of me, my underwear was being torn off of me, people were putting their fingers inside of me and grabbing my breasts really hard, screaming things in my ears like “pussy-whore-cunt”. When I got back onstage I was naked.”
Hole’s song “Asking For It” from their album Live Through This would address the incident and a photo taken during the dive which seemed to show Courtney smiling during her assault.
Every time that I stare into the sun
Angel dust and my dress just comes undone
Every time that I stare into the sun
Be a model or just look like one
Wild eye rot gut do me in
Do you think you can make me do it again?
Was she asking for it?
Was she asking nice?
If she was asking for it
Did she ask you twice?
In 2000, Sleater-Kinney would release the song “#1 Must Have” which asked the seemingly simple question “Will there always be concerts where women are raped?”
In the end, I’m writing this because as I said before, I had to. I didn’t feel responsible running a music blog and not addressing these news items. But I still don’t know what to say about any of it. We have been aware of this problem for years and yet it still echoes through our music in a myriad of horrifying ways.
If you’re as lost as I am, we’re in good company.
If you live through this with me…