#FreedomForKesha: Why The Pop Star’s Suit Against Dr. Luke/Sony Should Matter To All Women In The Music Industry
Following the 2013 release of her hit track “Timber,” Kesha has been noticeably absent from the pop music scene, and for an upsetting reason – she went public with accusations of rape, and is now paying the price. Back in October 2014, Kesha Rose Serbert brought a suit against producer Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald) for sexual assault, battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse and the violation of California business practices. Over the 10 years that Ke$ha worked with the producer, she alleges he repeatedly drugged and raped her, and made damaging comments about the singer’s body that ultimately landed her in rehab with the eating disorder bulimia nervosa.
The lawsuit became even more embroiled when Kesha also implicated Sony Music in the scandal, arguing that the mega music corporation turned a blind eye to her abuse. Court documents from the lawsuit claimed Sony should be held accountable because it put female artists “in physical danger by giving Dr. Luke full creative and business control, with nearly limitless financial resources, over young female artists who necessarily were compelled to become dependent upon his good will.” In response to the legal action, Dr. Luke filed a countersuit for defamation, claiming that Kesha made everything up to get out of a contract with him.
Now, the singer’s lawyers fear that her career may be doomed if the case is not settled quickly, noting that Kesha’s increasing absence from the music scene will ultimately impact her marketability. Kesha is still signed to Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, which is owned by Sony, which means that until the suit has been resolved, she cannot put out any new music, tour or do publicity. Dr. Luke and Sony have her under their thumb. Kesha’s lawyers have filed a preliminary injunction, which basically asks that the court make a decision sooner rather than later, based on the fact that the longer it drags on, the bigger the impact on her career’s viability. But not everyone cares.
“If Kesha now regrets her career being mired in legal proceedings,” Dr. Luke’s lawyer Christine Lepera sniffed, “it’s entirely her making.”
Well, actually, the reason why Kesha’s career is now mired in legal proceedings is not “entirely her making” at all, if you believe her accusations. It is the fault of the alleged rapist who made legal action necessary in the first place. This story and such responses truly show why women are often so hesitant to go public about sexual assault or abuse. Far too frequently, it is the rapists who have the power — in this case, the power to control the potential for success of young female artists — and women are left vulnerable to battle a power structure that is rigged against them. After all, no woman should have to choose between her career and the emotional or physical abuse of her person, but that is often the choice for many.
“I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke,” Kesha said in a new affidavit. “I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.”
The singer’s case asks that her legal contracts with Dr. Luke and Sony be rendered void. By refusing to settle the case and releasing her from those contracts, not to mention successfully having the case adjudicated to New York rather than California, Dr. Luke, along with Sony’s support, has kept Kesha and her career in limbo. And that’s probably the point. By allowing the case to drag on, Dr. Luke and Sony are essentially using the legal system to punish Kesha for speaking out in the first place.
It’s no wonder that some women may choose to deal with matters like this privately, as Lady Gaga did when she revealed that she was raped by a record producer at the age of 19, but did not name her attacker. But after Gaga intimated on Howard Stern that her track “Swine” was about the rage and demoralization she felt after the rape, Kesha’s lawyer Mark Geragos outed Dr. Luke as Lady Gaga’s rapist on Twitter. Both Gaga and her representatives denied the claims, but refused to name her assailant. The “Poker Face” singer gave her own reasons for not publicly outing her rapist saying, “I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ll be damned if somebody’s going to say that every creatively intelligent thing I’ve ever done is all boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me.”
Lady Gaga’s quote and Kesha’s legal battle both reveal that women have limited control not only over their physical autonomy and careers but even their own narratives. Rape defines a woman. As does the liability of accusing a powerful man of that misdeed.
Recently, Twitter was trending with the hashtag #FreedomForKesha, in which fans and the public showed an outpouring of support for the pop star. This case is a matter of freedom not only for Kesha, but all women in the music industry who should have the power to determine the future of their careers and be physically and emotionally safe while doing so.