#FreeKesha: A Movement Not Just a Hashtag
Written By Maddy Crehan
If you have even a vague interest in pop music or have a social media account of any sort it’s likely that you’ve come across the #FreeKesha hashtag in the last week. For those of you who don’t know what or who Kesha is last week a US judge denied Kesha Rose Serbert’s request to end her recording contract with Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, despite allegations that he has been physically, sexually and emotionally abusing her for years.
There has been an outpouring of support for Kesha from women around the world, including singers like Demi Lovato, Adele, Taylor Swift, as well as creator of TV series Girls Lena Dunhman’s brilliant essay for Lenny Letter. Since the court ruling last week, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition in her defence. This heart-warming display of women standing up for other women, is just about the only good thing to come of this situation.
The Lenny Letter essay states “Kesha’s case is about more than a pop star fighting for her freedom”. Lena’s so right. This case has highlighted the many ways in which society has fails women. It’s almost impossible to include all of them in one little blog post – but I’m going to try.
The law too often fails sexual assault victims.
Like so many rape or sexual assault cases, Kesha lost due to ‘insufficient evidence’. Sexual violence occurs in private, behind close doors, making evidence a very hard thing to obtain. Talk show host Wendy Williams spoke about the case on her show stating, “[Kesha] wasn’t stupid 10 years ago and neither was her mother when the sexual abuse—alleged sexual abuse—started, why weren’t they rolling camera on it?”. Arrgghhh! This statement completely over-simplifies the nature of sexual and emotional abuse. Why should women have to record their lives on camera in anticipation of sexual assault? Why isn’t the abuse itself scrutinized rather than the way a victim deals with it? Instead of asking ‘why did she wait so long to report it?’ we should commend women for speaking out against their abusers. This long history of either blaming or not believing victims of sexual violence has got to stop.
The music industry is dominated by men.
This is not a new issue, and gender imbalance is not confined to the music industry. Like most male dominated spaces, it is especially apparent the higher up the ladder you climb. Only five per cent of music producers and engineers are women. FIVE PERCENT!! When it’s apparent that men are more inclined to work with, answer to and promote other men, it’s no wonder that the music industry continues to create a hostile environment for women, based on intimidation, abuse and inequality. It creates an assumption that women need men in order to achieve success. This is why it is so difficult for women to speak out against abuse, for fear of backlash or damage to their careers.
The way male and female artists are portrayed in the media differs dramatically.
It is no secret that drugs and alcohol are large factors in the music scene for both female and male artists. In an article for Rolling Stone Kesha explained that, as a teenager with a budding pop career, she sought to be different by talking about sex and drinking but felt that gender stereotypes led people to believe she was a “train wreck” rather than a rock & roll star’. Why are female celebrities condemned for their ‘party lifestyle’ when rebellious menfolk like Pete Doherty, Justin Bieber or Keith Richards are idolised?
Mental health issues are high amongst musicians and creatives.
Research done by Victoria University revealed that people working in the music industry are more likely to suffer from mental health issues than employees in any other sector. This is a real issue. So many celebrities who have been seriously struggling have not received the support they need, because their issues were either ignored, romanticised, or turned into a punchline. We’ve seen this countless times before, with cases like Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and of course, Kesha. After the singer was checked into rehab with an eating disorder, her mother revealed that it was ongoing verbal abuse from Dr. Luke that put her there. He put unnecessary pressure on the young star, allegedly telling her “You are not that pretty, you are not that talented; you are just lucky to have me”. This form of male entitlement and manipulation is far too common, and is undoubtedly a contributor to the mental instability of young female musicians.
The legal system values money above safety.
Despite Kesha clearly stating “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way” the judge concluded “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing”, meaning Kesha is legally required to continue working for a company run by her abuser. In no way is this a system based on justice. It is clear from the world’s reaction to this verdict that people are willing to support women and attempt to end violence against women. It’s time that the law did the same.
As I said earlier there is one significantly positive message to come out of this ordeal; if you speak out, there will always be someone who listens. Kesha released a statement about the case recently on Facebook urging women to speak out about being abused. She states “There are places that will make you feel safe. There are people who will help you…You are not alone”. (See full post here).
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.
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