Last week, a judge ruled that pop singer Kesha would not be able to back out of her six-album contract with Sony. It was a major blow to the star, who filed a civil lawsuit in 2014 against producer Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke, on allegations of emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Saying she felt completely unable to work with him, Kesha sought to break free of her contract not only for creative freedom, but more importantly because she felt her life would be in danger with his continued involvement in her career.
After the court decision came down, Kesha received an outpouring of public support from female artists such as Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, and beyond. Prominent figures in other industries also announced their intent to stand by Kesha, and a passionate letter written by Lena Dunham sums up the overwhelming consensus of outrage best. Published in Lenny, the female-centric newsletter run in tandem with Dunham's Girls co-creator Jenni Konner, the article argues that the American legal system "continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers."
The fact that Kesha wasn't able to record new music while the case was in play (and likely won't be anytime soon as a result of the verdict) is one thing. To question her allegations and, in turn, the struggle she's faced up to this point, is another entirely. By suggesting that Kesha continues her contract with Sony and merely avoid any interaction with Dr. Luke, judge Shirley Kornreich failed to see the gravity of the situation through Kesha's eyes.
As Dunham put it, "Although [Sony] insists that Kesha and Gottwald never need to be in a room together and that he will allow her to record without his direct involvement, they are minimizing what Kesha says regarding how Gottwald's continued involvement in her career would affect her physical well-being and psychological safety."
Unfortunately, a long-standing culture of sexism in entertainment is to blame for the continuation of Kesha's nightmare. The gender pay gap in film has been well documented, but it's really the attitudes of everyone in the Hollywood machine that create an incredibly skewed status quo. Perhaps if there were more female studio heads and women in other positions of power, leading men wouldn't continue aging as their female counterparts stay the same age. Perhaps if there were more female music producers, breaking free from an abusive man who has a financial stake in a female artist's career wouldn't be so difficult.
There's not a clear path for that to happen, though. As Fatima Al Qadiri of Future Brown told FADER when Kesha's case first started, "Unfortunately, the repulsive reality is women are expected to be the sexualized commercial object for sale in music, and production and engineering is rarely objectified for financial gain."
The silver lining to that dull reality and Kesha's loss in the courts, however, is the kind of support and publicity she's getting in its wake. As is so often the case in our country, justice and equality take a long time, but the louder the voices championing their cause, the quicker that initially slow-moving train picks up speed.
That's why Dunham ended her letter on a positive note, writing, "Soon, no one will accept shame and fear as the status quo. And so, while Kesha is indefinitely silenced, her voice has never been louder."