Poppin’ Molly – Kesha, rape culture and small victories

Molly Regan

Molly Regan

In terms of victims’ rights, Sony hasn’t exactly proven itself a beacon of justice this past week. Kesha is stuck in the middle of a soul-crushing court case in an attempt to break her recording contract with the company so that she can stop working with Dr. Luke – a man she says drugged and raped her during the duration of their professional relationship. Last Friday a judge denied her lawyer’s request to file an injunction so that she could begin making new music with a producer who doesn’t compare her body to a refrigerator and otherwise behave like a Grade-A douchebag. Her request is pretty goddamn reasonable, but it seems to be just too much for the cartoon supervillains at Sony.

Everything is awful. But, if you dig deep enough through this mess of grimy business deals, I think there is a shimmering spot of empowerment to be found. No, the case doesn’t exactly wreak of progressive values. But progress in defined by small victories. And, as disheartening as this case is, it’s got one very-large-small-victory for women entrenched in the narrative of rape culture (or, the “Reno of feminism,” as I like to call it).

I mean, it would’ve been nice to see Kesha able to freely record new music, but apparently that’s just asking for too much at the moment. But freedom from her abuser and a smooth transition out of her contract may be too hefty an order for those who have just begun to view women as people.

But I am determined to find a silver lining in this ongoing case of professional abuse and all around awfulness – despite round the clock coverage of their legal dispute since a judge denied her request for an injunction, nasty critiques of her clothing have been notably absent from most major news stories discussing the case. Having the ability to leave her job after years of alleged emotional, physical and sexual abuse is obviously the preferable situation for Kesha – and any woman in a comparable circumstance. But news coverage that focuses on the details of the court case rather than the details of her wardrobe is a definite win.

I know, I know. It’s pretty pathetic to focus on such a tiny aspect of this case when there are so many horrendous details surrounding it. But when you live in a bastion of slut-shamey rape culture such as the good ol’ U.S.A., absent commentary of a woman’s appearance as she takes her abuser to court is a pretty huge accomplishment (as it applies to the “Reno of feminism”).

Perhaps I’ve just become a pro at finding the feminist achievements in a world riddled with grotesque sexism that forces women to jump through a series of ridiculous hoops in order to function – hoops like providing more and more evidence to prove that your boss sexually assaulted you so that you can stop working with him, seemingly invalidating pre-existing workplace sexual harassment laws that have been put in place to protect women from situations such as this. Finding the silver lining is the only thing that keeps me going when I see a new story of professional abuse every week.

I mean hell, the only reason I even know what Kesha wore to court is because of the heartbreaking – and inappropriate for public consumption- photos that surfaced of her breaking down after she was informed that she was still contractually obligated to continue working for a company that has chosen to side with her abuser. Sure, it’s a little uncouth to photograph the victim of sexual assault as she goes through the utterly traumatic experience of taking her assailant to court – but at least the photos are of her face. Yeah, it’s kind of sad that we apparently need photographic evidence to really demonstrate how emotionally painful this entire experience is for a victim. But we’re still focused on her emotions and not her styling!

And I haven’t heard a single joke about her dental hygiene routine before attending her court hearing. That’s a definite bonus point to society as a whole! No mention of Jack Daniels or Mick Jagger or whether or not she’s got a pedicure on her toes (toes!). It could have been so easy to turn Kesha into a joke of a victim – seeing as she records awesome party girl music and people have a tendency to assume that awesome party girls can’t get raped. She’s a prime candidate for sexist vitriol and disgusting memes that would make a mockery of her trauma. But that hasn’t happened (at least, it isn’t the prevalent response to this case).

Instead, people seem to be latching on to the actual details of the lawsuit! People are listening to Kesha’s testimony regarding her relationship with Dr. Luke. They’re looking into this ridiculously ironclad contract with Sony that clearly took advantage of a young woman in order to rob her of her identity and, now, her bodily integrity. People are actually having conversations about rape culture and sexual abuse instead of perpetuating it by commenting on the lifestyle choices of the victim! It’s a really small achievement to not treat victims of abuse like complete shit, but with society’s track record, the way we’ve been discussing this case is pretty monumental. We’re paying attention to the assault and listening to the victim rather than picking her apart!

I’m so happy to see the media, by and large, taking a small step to treat victims of abuse with dignity. Now if only Sony could do the same.

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Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She like chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.

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