The Harsh Reality of Sexual Abuse in the Music Industry
Many of you may have questions about the #FreeKesha movement, and the ongoing battle between Ke$ha, Dr. Luke, and Sony. Here's a brief recap of the beginning of the lawsuit via Noisey.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve been aware of sexual misconduct in the music industry. Back in the 90s (a time when most of us were born), there was the secret, yet well known “relationship” between R. Kelly and Aaliyah. In case you were unaware, R. Kelly married then 15 year-old Aaliyah by falsifying her age on the marriage license; Kelly was 27 at the time. In 1994 the marriage was annulled in Detroit and both parties agreed to not speak on the matter. But this is not the only crime against Kelly, since he has been charged, but never convicted, of numerous sexual abuses against minors, most notably the film in which he allegedly urinated on an underage girl.
Yet despite all these well-known incidents, we still listen to his music. Everyone will still sing “Ignition (Remix)” and your cousins will “Step in the name of love” at the next family reunion. It’s a difficult position for some people to really think about... on one hand they want to enjoy the artists' music, but then there is the conscious fact that they are an abuser and no one wants to support that.
After the 2009 incident between Chris Brown and then-girlfriend Rihanna, in which Brown violently beat her, there was a public outcry against Brown and his musical career. In this Internet age, the images circulated quickly and there was mass sympathy for Rihanna, and Brown’s image as the sweet, smooth-talking singer/dancer was quickly decimated. But no less than a year or two later, Brown was back making hit songs and dancing on stage as if nothing happened. And despite the knock to his image, people still attended his concerts and shows, either not consciously thinking of the pain that Rihanna had to endure (privately I suppose) or not thinking about her at all. I understand the stress that accompanies such a choice, especially when the artists make great music to dance to. But it’s hard to fist pump to song knowing that the singer's fist hit another person.
It’s difficult to say why such atrocities keep happening. When we think about the music industry we’re aware of all the shadiness that happens. I mean, Q Tip from A Tribe Called Quest did tell us: “Industry rule number 4080/ Record company people are shady.” In regards to sexual abuse and domestic violence, some would argue that new artists are vulnerable to the hierarchy of the system and so desperate to “make it” that they are willing to endure unspeakable horror. To think that this mentality exists is heartbreaking because whether you’re a man or woman trying to make it in the music business or any field for that matter, you deserve the right to be safe and not subjected to predators attempting to capitalize on your hunger to succeed. Stopping such a corrupt system begins from the top-down, and executives need to really understand who works for their company and whom they decide to sign to their labels. Additionally, it takes other artists to stand up and do the right thing, while offering positive support for victims.
What happened (and is still happening) to Kesha is sad, outrageous, and discouraging for other survivors who are thinking about telling their stories. It speaks to the larger societal issues of “survivor blaming” within a patriarchal system that continuously punishes women (and still men, too). There is an optimistic side to all these stories with social media playing such a pivotal role in how we all interact, and forcing change for the benefit of all. So yes, let’s continue to rally around #FreeKesha because it’s about more than the music industry, but the survivors who are still silent for fear of retaliation. In the end, more than just the music matters.