Kesha and the "Commercially Reasonable Thing"
In the past week, pop music fans around the world have been given a glance into the ruthless mechanics of the industry. Last Friday, the singer Kesha (full name Kesha Rose Sebert) was denied her request to be released from a recording contract with 'Dr Luke', a man she has filed a lawsuit against, claiming that he both physically and sexually assaulted her. The denial of this request obliges Kesha to continue her contract with Dr Luke's Kemosabe records, which is owned by Sony. Whilst the producer's lawyers have stated that Kesha would not be under obligation to work with the man who assaulted her directly, her legal team argue that this would have a negative influence on Kesha's career as Sony's interests lie in promoting Dr Luke, whom they can make more money from. As this denial was announced, Kesha was seen to be openly weeping and needing comfort from her mother, who was in attendance with her. Outside the court, fans had gathered in support of the singer, who only interacted with them, offering no comment to reporters. Since Friday, the hashtag #FreeKesha has been launched, and several celebrities have openly added their support on social media. So why has this story so recently caught fire in the public eye, when the lawsuit against the producer was first filed in 2014? Because people cannot believe the brutality of the outcome.
Shirley Kornreich, the judge presiding over the case told the Hollywood Reporter that she didn't understand “why I have to take an extraordinary measure of granting an injunction”. She also stated that she felt it was "the commercially reasonable thing" to do, given that Dr Luke's lawyers have stated that Kesha need not work with him specifically. Kesha doesn't have to work with the man, and she can still make money- what's the big deal? Never mind that this stipulation that she will not have to work with her alleged attacker was made by the man himself. Kornreich can't see why a young woman would want to make a decision so adverse to good business, so she does not allow her to. Simple!
Kesha leaving court, surrounded by fans.
What is so deeply disturbing about this case, and what has sparked the outrage of so many around the world, is not just in how quickly her producer's lawyers fired back that her claims were a “campaign of publishing outrageous and untrue statements”. It is that this is an example of how society clearly values capital and cold hard money over the wellbeing of its individuals. This is sadly nothing new to millions of us: we know how the female body has been given worth only through commodification. But to see a company actively forcing a young artist working for them to extend her suffering by simply accusing her of lying frames the issue for 2016. Kesha is obliged to keep recording for a company who also employ the man who sexually abused her at age 18. Her health and her safety mean nothing in the face of what is "commercially reasonable". As with women throughout the centuries, she is a vehicle to make money and a commodity to be sold. She is not a human being who deserves protection from harm, and cannot find this protection from a justice system whose eye is so squarely on the money.
The support that Kesha has received from other female musicians (Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande to name a few) and fans is not only heartening, it is the next necessary step. If women cannot find the world they deserve through their justice systems or employment, then they must find it through each other. Though we may not be able to donate $250,000 to aid her as Taylor Swift has done, we can raise our voices and let these systems know that this is not OK. You cannot treat us as just a cog in your machines. We have the right to be free from abuse and suffering. Standing with Kesha lets the world know this.
Words By Sarah Vickery