As a woman, I’ve been struggling to write a piece about the Kesha and Dr. Luke debacle for a while now. If you’ve never heard of either of these people, fear not. Neither had I before February of this year. [Well Kesha in passing but only because she’d had a dollar sign in her name – Ke$ha]. To keep it brief, Kesha is suing her music producer, A.K.A Dr. Luke, claiming he mentally and sexually abused her for nearly 10 years. Sony has been thrown into the mix because she’s alleging they knew about it. When I first heard of her legal woes, I had all these questions. But I found after reading around, that aside from a tweet from Reese Witherspoon, no one else appeared to. #freekesha was quickly made the order of the day. And it felt as though people were supporting her blindly. I wondered whether this was true and I asked myself why hadn’t I jumped on the #freekesha bandwagon? Why didn’t this story appear so straight forward for me?
Predominantly, it was the question of doubt. Or the lack thereof on behalf of her supporters (aside, of course, from Dr. Luke). I’ve battled with how to phrase this. Whether, as a woman, I should even be asking this question. So here goes. How do we know she’s telling the truth? There are so many things wrong with the fact that I’m even asking this. However, the reality is women have lied before. Worse, we live in a money driven, fame orientated society, that imagining Kesha is making up her claims is not really that incomprehensible. But I feel disloyal. As if I’m helping us regress to a time when many women’s voices struggled to be heard. So I read around. I couldn’t be the only one wondering? People have questioned whether her allegations are to help her get a better deal. Not a lie to get out of her deal, but to negotiate a better one. But aside from that, there are no real claims of doubt. Not that I’ve come across.
Instead I found a timetable of abuse, of eating disorders, of fear of a man not just physically abusing her but emotionally too. The more I read accounts of the same stories, of her mother’s confirmation of her claims, the more I wondered. Why was Kesha suing Dr. Luke? Why wasn’t she bringing a criminal case against him? This led to a barrage of questions and anger at what was appearing a very sad reality. How did this producer have so much power against her? Why didn’t she speak up when she sensed something was wrong? Why didn’t anyone, including her mother, stand up for her? What’s really scary, and has been pointed out by a lot of other people, is the influence a man like Dr. Luke can exert on these young women. Kesha had signed a ten-year contract at the age of 18. A 6 album deal. Is it too simplistic or dramatic to say he owned her? Perhaps. But it helps to understand why Kesha, even after her first claims of being drugged and raped, never spoke up. Do these young women fear a complete destruction of their careers that they would live in silence for ten years?
The answer to that is yes.
I never wanted to doubt Kesha. But such is the complexity of this story, it was hard to negate that little voice. The reality is that she has thrown open a sealed door to the music industry. One many of us never see behind. And while she says she’s trying to help women in general who fear the repercussions of their claims, she is also setting a precedent for young women in the music industry. But what really helped me understand this story is Lena Dunham’s article. Her piece helps explain the fundamentals of this story –
“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”.
To be honest, like Ms Witherspoon, Lena is the only person who’s helped me make sense of this situation. We may never know the truth. It may always be Kesha’s word against his. But the fact is she has come out and said I can’t work with this man for fear of my mental stability. It is a claim that should not be taken lightly. It is a claim that should not be ignored. There are many sides to this dirty coin. A part of me needs her to be vindicated. For it to be found, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is guilty of this. So that any other young woman living in a similar situation, whether she be in the music industry or not, knows that her life will be protected and valued. But life isn’t that clean-cut. And women’s voices are often not heard. And men are sometimes falsely accused of heinous crimes.
But again, maybe that just isn’t the point.
Thanks to The Guardian for the image.