The latest depressing exercise in just how far we have left to progress in the field of women’s rights played out dramatically in the New York Supreme Court in February, where pop star Kesha fought and lost a legal battle against Sony and her collaborator and alleged rapist, Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke.
Kesha and her legal representation began the suit against Sony in an attempt to get her out of a signed contract, under which the star is obligated to produce and release six albums for the label. For obvious reasons—e.g. the fact that Dr. Luke allegedly drugged and raped the star when she was only 18 years old—Kesha claimed that she could not fulfill the terms of the contract, citing also the years of supposed verbal and emotional abuse Gottwald subjected her to throughout their professional association.
Unfortunately for Kesha (and in a very real sense, for women everywhere) presiding judge Justice Shirley Kornreich ruled in favor of Gottwald and Sony, claiming that due to the binding nature of the contract and the possible implications it might have as established precedent in future contract disputes, she could not release the star from her contractual obligations. The justice also cited the fact that both Sony and Dr. Luke had agreed to allow Kesha to fulfill the terms of the contract under the supervision and direction of another producer, thus relieving her from any emotional or psychological stress she might incur if forced to work with Gottwald directly.
The pop star broke down in tears after hearing the verdict.
The problem with this line of thinking—that Kesha should be content with the fact that she does not legally have to work directly with her accused rapist and could continue to record in conjunction with someone else at Sony—is destructive to both the singer herself and to the very tenants of feminist thought. Kesha’s legal representation argued that because Dr. Luke is the main producer and promoter for Sony, he could retaliate against Kesha, sabotaging her music career in an attempt to seek revenge for dragging his name through the mud. This is a completely valid concern, considering many women do not even report sexual abuse or rape because they fear just that—retaliation from their abuser. Another valid concern from a career standpoint for Kesha is that fact that working with a less influential or experienced producer could harm her personal brand down the line.
Fans of the singer and fans of women’s (or just plain human) rights have responded en masse to the trail’s results via social media, many comparing the inequalities in Kesha’s situation when compared to the legal troubles of certain male artists. Chris Brown, for instance, is a popular target. After infamously physically abusing then-girlfriend Rihanna, he went through a brief period of bad press before coming out on the other side practically unscathed, able to record successfully for years post-incident. Kesha, on the other hand, seems primed to either go under emotionally or professionally, a Catch-22 many women before and after her will have to make, as ridiculous and unjust as it sounds.
Dr. Luke, meanwhile, maintains stalwartly that he did not rape Kesha, and he and his legal representation purport that she has apparently invented the accusations as a way to gain leverage and monetary gains in reference to her contract. Which it kind of seems like maybe there are roughly thousands of ways to do that which are a lot less emotionally stressful, expensive, and publicly humiliating. And really, are we still at that amoebic, primordial oozing evolutionary point in societal equality that we’re still using “She’s crying wolf” in response to rape allegations?
How often do false allegations even happen? That’s a difficult question to answer. The first reason being that studies on the subject tend to be both few and far between as well as based on comparatively minuscule sample populations—such as a 2010 study which focused solely on rape accusations on a single college campus. Estimates are hardly consistent, but if you do even the most basic Internet research, you’ll find for yourself that estimates range between 2 percent and 10 percent of all total documented reports. Of course, this also doesn’t account for accusations that may in fact be true, but are suppressed by institutions or by individuals who encourage or coerce women into changing their story or even recanting their statements. So even if 10 percent—hell, even if 50 percent of rape allegations are in fact false, that still leaves a sea of victims, particularly female rape victims, hanging suspended in a void where they are forced to go to ridiculous, inherently sexist lengths to prove their story and have justice served.
What if we looked at other crimes under this same lens? How many false reports of robberies, or break-ins, or car theft are received by law enforcement annually? Even if that number is at or over 50 percent, if you called the police after someone broke into your home, you would be surprised and more than a bit offended if they started asking what your house thought it was doing practically asking robbers to steal from you. I mean, just look at that scandalous WREATH hanging on the door. Those suggestive rocking chairs on that OVER-EXPOSED porch. Sheesh. Slut-house. You should buy a military-grade security system, really. What’s that? Teach people to stop robbing? No, no. That sounds hard. Here’s a steel-plated MasterLock, a Kevlar vest, and a German Shepherd named Hans. Good luck.
See how dumb you sound?
In short, no person—no human being, period, regardless of gender—should have to make the choice between preserving their emotional health, psychological well-being, and physical safety and preserving their career. It shouldn’t ever happen. The end. Tick tock America. Tick tock world. We’re holding our breath for equal rights. Looks like it’s going to be a long, breathless wait.