standing with kesha


A piece by Perry Mayo

Artwork by Mia Gleiberman

Wham, bam, thank you man, get inside my fuckin’ gold Trans Am. As a teenager growing up in a world of social media, insecurity, and the struggle to find an identity, it’s hard to find someone to look up to and to model myself after. There are so many wholesome options, Oprah, or Taylor Swift, for example. How boring. Why not Kesha, the free-spirited, all-accepting, fun loving singer? She’s as misunderstood as the rest of us, if not more.

To any person over the age of 25, singer Kesha is, for lack of a better term, a “skank”. With lyrics like “ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer”, it’s no wonder that she’s overlooked as a serious artist. The 28-year-old singer/songwriter, known for her excessive amounts of glitter and raunchy stage presence, burst onto the scene in 2010 and for the next three years, churned out hit after hit centered around partying, falling in love, and the oh so hot topic of dirty sex. While in the spotlight, the singer has been criticized for her vulgar lyrics and actions, her party-girl image, and her supposed “lack of class”. Parents have publicly torn down the singer, voicing disapproval in every way imaginable. The singer, formerly known as Ke$ha (the dollar sign was dropped later in her career), supposedly has no self-respect, and will do anything for money and attention. Parents, if you look a little closer, Kesha isn’t so bad.

In 2013, fans of the singer recognized that Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, wasn’t giving the singer creative freedom when making her sophomore album, Warrior. Come 2014, Kesha came forward and filed a lawsuit against her record label Kemosabe Records under Sony music, accusing her producer of drugging and sexually assaulting her. The lawsuit details how Dr. Luke forced Kesha to take date-rape drugs, and how she woke up naked in his bed the next day. The singer claims to have been “sore and sick, with no memory of how she got there,” among other allegations. Dr. Luke denies the claims and the lawsuit is still ongoing as of February 2016. Many celebrities such as Lady Gaga (a survivor of sexual assault herself), the three sisters that make up the band HAIM, and the 19-year-old alternative singer Lorde have voiced their support of Kesha, trending the hashtag of “#FreeKesha” on social media. The case has been taken to court and publicly followed for months. Kesha requested to break her contract with Kemosabe and Sony, which states that the singer must record multiple albums with Sony before renegotiating or leaving the label. Recently, the court ruled in favor of Sony Music, and Kesha was not set free from her label. There is something profoundly wrong with a world where the justice system fails to aid a sexual abuse victim due to the risk of losing money. The judge denied injunction, saying, “my instinct is to do the commercially reasonable (emphasis mine) thing”.  The ruling stated that there was no “showing of irreparable damage” and that “she’s been given a chance to record”. Apparently, Kesha is lucky because she can record, even though the singer has stated that she is far too scared to record. The idea that, by law, the singer is being forced to spend hours a day in close proximity with her abuser is sickening beyond belief. She’s being abused, but it’s all okay because she’s recording! Thank God! Dr. Luke’s attorneys stated that the singers allegations came “too late” and were “too vague”, so I guess if the victims don’t speak out immediately, and they don’t detail every horrid event, their rape or abuse isn’t valid? Go figure.

This issue is one of millions concerning sexual abuse and silenced victims. On one hand, it’s angering to hear about this type of issue only being important and brought to the public’s attention because it concerns a well-known white, cis celebrity. However, with such a devastating issue at hand, it’s incredibly brave and selfless of Kesha to come forward with her struggles. Many people in similar situations can look up to the singer as a survivor and someone who can help guide them if need be.

On numerous accounts, the singer has voiced her immense support of LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality, stating, “I will only get married when any two people can marry in the United States”. Her fans, nicknamed ‘Animals’, are all part of her beautiful cult. Kesha has taken advantage of her popularity and her following by utilizing her influence to support animal and human rights, including gender equality. The eccentric singer preaches individuality, highlighting the importance of being yourself unapologetically and taking shit from nobody. Some still believe her to the poster child for a fuck-up. They don’t understand the underlying message that the pop star has been preaching, the vulgarity that most deem “trashy” and “cheap” being a fight for equality in itself. If a man can jump around a stage wearing less than a full outfit, chanting lyrics about sex and excessive drinking without being deemed “inappropriate” and “sleazy”, why can’t a woman? In everyday scenarios, men can be almost as sexual as they please. From crude jokes to blatantly disrespecting women, men get away with a lot more than they are seemingly conscious of. If a woman acted the way a man did, she’d be criticized for being “disgusting” or“hypersexual”. In today’s society, it is deemed normal for a man to be subtly, if not blatantly, oppressive of women. For a singer like Kesha to attempt to level the playing field, it’s a nice change of pace that is welcomed and encouraged. The girl of an 140 IQ, who dropped out of college to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer, is not one to be overlooked.

No matter the circumstances, sexual assault is absolutely never acceptable, and I regret being forced to reiterate this basic fact. Rape is inexcusable, and there is no justification for committing such an act, regardless of age, gender, race or any other defining feature of a human. This case also raises the issue of the music industry and pop culture’s double standard for women regarding image, consequences, and how they present themselves. According to Women Against Violence Against Women, a Canadian rape crisis center, there are several common myths surrounding sexual assault, widely recognized by sexual assault activists and researchers globally. The myths include ‘women lie about being sexually assaulted for revenge or personal benefit’, ‘unless physical harm is done, the victim does not suffer any long-term effects’, and my personal favorite, ‘women who are assaulted as for it by the way they dress or act’.

Some (too many) believe that women will falsely report sexual abuse in search for attention or revenge. They believe that women “cry rape” in an attempt to hurt someone who they want to get back at, which results in others not believing the true rape victims, putting many women and victims in general in danger of not being saved or freed from their abuser who have similar experiences to Kesha. The University of Alberta’s “Sexual Assault and the Law in Canada” states that only 6 % of sexual assaults are reported to the police, and about 2 to 4 % of sexual assault accusations are false, meaning 96 to 98% of the reports are true.  A pervasive and dangerous idea has arisen in the media that Kesha wanted to break her contract with Dr. Luke and Kemosabe Records in order to get a better contract or to receive more money from a different label. The majority of rape cases are deemed ‘false’ while only a small and specific margin of the reported abuses are believed. In reality, the statistic is switched around, where only a handful of the reported abuses are fake, and the majority of the cases are horrifyingly real. The producer claims that Kesha’s allegations are ‘purely extortion’, and his lawyers claim that the story itself is a ‘spectacular and outrageous fiction’. The case at hand is purely about freedom and justice, and money is not a factor for Kesha. The singer has stated via Facebook, “…This case has never been about a renegotiation of my record contract – it was never about getting a bigger, or a better deal. This is about being free from my abuser.” Kesha, who came forth with the allegations in 2014, has been silenced for a long time, and used her music as an escape, until the government and Dr. Luke took that away from the 28-year-old as well. The singer has written songs supposedly about her situation with Dr. Luke, “Dancing with the Devil”, “7 A.M.”, and “Innocence and Pills” being the most widely known. The songs were never released, most likely due to instructions from her producer, Dr. Luke. “Dancing With the Devil” contains lyrics reveal the singer’s struggle with lines like, “So I’m all yours until the end/A holy war, I’ll never win/So I’ll keep dancing ’til I die”, and in a eerie cry for help to her mother, the singer croons, “He’s got my mind (You got..)/He’s got my soul (..Hell to pay)/Mama… he won’t let me go!” The devil in question is presumably the producer who allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted the singer. The songs themselves are enough proof of the damage that the producer has caused. Even if there are no visible bruises or scars, the mental and emotional damage that was and is still being inflicted upon the young singer are enough to impact a human to an unimaginable level and cause irreparable damage. To say that Kesha’s life has been altered negatively because of Dr. Luke might just be the understatement of the year.

Even if someone is prancing around on stage in minimal clothing, covered in glitter, soaked in lukewarm beer, it’s utterly unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if someone writes songs about dirty sex and how bad they want to take you into the backroom of a club because they just can’t wait to get home; rape is never okay. The influential singer has written and sung songs comparing old men to dinosaurs, herself to rapper P. Diddy, and her vagina to a vintage car. No part of her image is an invitation for men to take what they want without consent. The idea of “if she doesn’t respect herself, why should I?” is the epitome of evil. When that statement is made, I die a little. If anything, the opposite should be said. “If I think she doesn’t respect herself, I should respect her enough for the both of us.” Clothing, behavior, and language are no indication for self-respect. There is no mold or image that a woman, or any human for that matter, should have to confine themselves to to be deemed “self-respecting”. A woman could be wearing a business suit and have self respect, and a woman could be wearing nothing, standing on a corner with a cigarette in hand and still have the exact same amount of self-respect for herself that the business woman has. There is no excuse for rape, and no determining factor of self-respect, and no one can determine what to do with another’s body.

In 2009, Chris Brown was the center of attention. He had begun to work on a new album, had a few songs on the Billboard Hot 100, and was set to perform at the Grammys. Also, he was the talk of the town after brutally assaulting a fellow singer and, at the time, his girlfriend, Rihanna. Brown was arrested but released on bail, and Rihanna was hospitalized with noticeable injuries. Brown went through 52 weeks of counseling and is now back to being a successful recording artist. It’s almost laughable at the logic being used. A man horrifically abuses a woman, admittedly, openly, and is able to continue doing what he loves, making a living for himself after the given consequences are fulfilled.  And bigger than just the abuser, how did the attack affect Rihanna? After that night, her whole life was changed. Not much was given in compensation, but she did have a restraining order on Brown. After the attack, the songstress’s entire life was altered, and she is traumatized, yet the focus is still all on Brown. A woman is abused, and then barred from enjoying her craft and supporting herself financially. The instance of abusers being “set free”, in a sense, is not a singular case. The list of abusers in the music industry goes on, including Ozzy Osbourne, rapper Eminem and James Brown, to name just some. What has this world become? We accept abusers, giving excuse after excuse, trying to hold onto the innocence that they surely do not deserve. “He was drunk”, “he was just overwhelmed”, “he wasn’t in the right mind” are all phrases that we toss around too lightly, thinking that the abuser won’t strike again, because “it was a one-time thing”. It should be a no time thing, because abuse should never be dismissed. “It won’t happen again” is the most dangerous set of words that I’ve come across, and the one phrase that should never be accepted. And he should be the one to take full responsibility for the incident, not the victim. The abuser is the sole one responsible.

As of now, there has been no improvements made on Kesha’s condition or rights, and the world is still taking sides on the case, fully titled “Kesha Sebert v. Lukasz Gottwald”. Hopefully, the truth will prevail, and Kesha will be granted the rights and help that she deserves and that the justice system has granted other victims of similar cases. In terms of the bigger picture, I can only imagine that the issue at hand has, with any luck, given other silenced victims the strength to speak out and stand up for themselves after seeing the incredibly brave actions made by none other than an international singer like Kesha Sebert or Lady Gaga.

I stand with Kesha, and I hope you do, too.

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