Last night, on February 19th, I read the news of how a New York Supreme Court ruled against the safety of a 28-year old woman in favour of the record company who have invested $60 million into her ‘career’. Back in 2014 the woman in question (the musician Kesha) had raised allegations against her producer Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald) of him drugging and raping her when she was 18 followed by almost a decades worth of physical and emotional abuse during their creative partnership. An injunction requested by Kesha that she be given the freedom to work alone and in safety was promptly denied with the judge citing that her “instinct” was to do the “commercially reasonable thing”.
The whole trial has been sickening; a grotesque reminder that an individual’s worth is undeniably measured within a capitalist system which values just how much a person’s body, beauty, skills, needs and talents can be sold for before either exploiting them for commercial success or abandoning them to wallow in the scrambling masses of people just trying to survive.
Recently, Beyonce’s outstanding black-excellence anthem “Formation” hit the internet seemingly out of nowhere, and though most people we’re in about as much ecstatic awe and celebration as you can give to a pop cultural event, there were some who were critical of the way in which Queen Bey was delivering what many considered to be a call to arms blighted by a capitalist approach to agency. When Beyonce speaks about how the “best revenge is your paper”,this is obviously a powerful yet conflicted message because like it or not, money buys us freedom, it signifies our power, it shrieks our successes. Until a revolution can oppose that system and uproot it for change, money will continue to be both the kidnapper and the release bond, spiraling us into a cycle where we’re complicit in our position as a hostage but also, ultimately, decimated for it.
And the Kesha trial has proved that more than anything. Money is protected where people are not; destroy a person through physical or emotional abuse and you could get away with it but dare to destroy money and it’s a federal offence. If Kesha had the sickening volumes of money that her label is flashing about to announce that they kind of own her ass then she could have bought back her freedom and her right to be protected and kept safe.
Kemosabe Records (owned by Sony), are somehow validated by the justice system in this hearing, as are all potential abusers and rapists who may have more money than morals; the message that the injunction decision sends out is putridly clear – if you have enough of it to spend then money can excuse just about any heinous crime against women.
There’s also a certain insidious nature to the way in which the case is being handled by the representatives of the record label, with their decision to actively want to keep an artist like Kesha on their books despite her horrifying accusations against Dr. Luke. Surely, if the accusations are unfounded and completely fabricated then any company across a wide variety of industries would want absolutely nothing to do with a worker out to destroy them at such a grand level and with such destructive “lies”.
So it speaks volumes, at least to me, that the label is baiting for blood and aggressively vying to hold Kesha hostage for it. The accusations must surely be grounded in some form of truth for them to be so brutally determined to ruin her. They want to destroy her because nothing drums up publicity quite like the ghoulish hounding of a tabloid press hunting down a vulnerable young woman until she breaks; they’ll profit from her misery, her breakdowns and her trauma. They want the victorious comeback to be on their books and their terms and if Kesha doesn’t survive the morbid pressures of her enforced, bleak, traumatising contract then they’ll profit even more from her death.
The very fact that it’s taken a celebrity to experience the harrowing indignity of having her safety and mental well being sold off for the commercial interests of a gigantic company to make the story important enough to be covered in the press is further confirmation of a person’s capitalist worth giving them a form of value. Just how many woman have gone through similar trials concerning sexual assault accusations against a colleague who have been further failed by a justice system who will clearly rule in favour of the corporation over the individual? How many women have been forced to complete work contracts they needed to sever so that they didn’t have to work alongside their rapist or abuser? If this is the state of the justice system then why aren’t we talking more about it?
As a culture, we clearly place no value on the worth of a woman; her body is fair game, her mind is trivial, her feelings inconsequential. Sexual assault is discussed with an apathetic detachment; our society trusts more in the man who claims consent than the woman who cries otherwise. The justice system has done little to change the fact that rape trials are often written off as being a tedious case of “he said, she said” like a teacher stood in the middle of a pair of gossiping school children, desperate to end the mud-slinging and not giving much of a shit who might be telling the truth or who might have got really fucking hurt in the process. It completely undermines the severity of sexual assault and the long-term suffering even one instance of it can impact on a person’s life.
The justice system might preach protection, but it isn’t to protect us. The justice system protects the patriarchy and capitalism, first and foremost, and the longer that we allow that to be a fact then we allow for corruption, for abuse and for assault to be a pay-per-play experience; a pimp of the putrid and the harrowing. If we continue to tolerate this culture then we’re accepting that the most basic rudiments of our existence can be degraded by anyone rich enough to enjoy legal freedoms that the rest of us cannot. And that’s a seriously dangerous proposition for society to become apathetic against.
Amy Roberts (a.k.a Alabama Roxanne) is a writer, blogger and musician based in Liverpool, UK. She’s published internationally, in print and online, and has had work published with Bustle, Kinkly, The Independent Online and Queen Of The Track. She was featured on a panel of David Lynch experts at a Northern Film & Media event in early 2015, and is the bassist for crust-punk band Aüralskit. Her blog ‘I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster‘, fiction and non-fiction about the horrors of everyday life, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards two years running. She’s interested in illustration, photography, go-go dancing and Timothy Olyphant. She is vehemently, batshit insanely, Team Catalano.