Lena Dunham Writes Essay On Kesha: “Her Voice Has Never Been Louder”
The essay, titled “Why Kesha’s Case Is About More Than Kesha,” was released on Tuesday in the latest edition of Dunham’s Lenny newsletter. In it, she argues Kesha’s legal battle to get out of her contract with Dr. Luke, whom she has accused of rape, shows that women should no longer stand for being marginalized by their alleged oppressors. Dunham seems to have been motivated to write her essay, at least in part, by last week’s ruling that Kesha must remain under Dr. Luke’s label. She writes:
“When I saw the outcome of Kesha’s court case last Friday, I felt sick. Actually sick — I wanted to ask my Uber to pull over so I could throw up in a New York City trash can. The photos of her beautiful face crumpled with tears, the legally necessary but sickening use of the word “alleged” over and over in reference to the assault she says she remembers so vividly — it all created a special brand of nausea that comes when public events intersect with your most private triggers.”
Dunham has been open about her own past with sexual abuse. Now she questions how Sony and the judge in the case expect Kesha to keep working with Dr. Luke’s label, given the allegations. She makes the analogy:
“Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?
Dunham goes on to point out how Kesha’s court battle is symptomatic of a larger issue within both the legal system and society as a whole. “To be clear, Kesha’s case is about more than a pop star fighting for her freedom, or a $60 million investment in a shiny commercial career. It’s about more than whether Kesha can strap on her cool leotards and make another album, free from a man who she says terrifies her. It’s even about more than the systemic misogyny of the entertainment industry, or the way that women in music and film have long been controlled and coerced by abusive Svengalis and entities larger than themselves,” she writes.
The “Girls” creator asserts, “What’s happening to Kesha highlights the way that the American legal system continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers.” Dunham adds, “These women deserve better. They do not choose to have their reputations pilloried and their characters questioned as a tactic for getting what they want. What if we realize that the women who come forward have everything to lose, whether they’re pop stars or single mothers?”
Dunham acknowledges that Kesha’s situation is essentially a he-said, she-said dynamic, in which the singer can’t provide proof of her assaults. But she again questions why Sony and Dr. Luke would want to stay entrenched in that. She writes:
The fact is, Kesha will never have a doctor’s note. She will never have a videotape that shows us that Gottwald threatened and shamed her, and she will never be able to prove, beyond the power of her testimony, that she is unsafe doing business with this man. And no, none of this was in her contract. But what man, what company endeavors to keep a woman saddled with someone who she says has caused her years of trauma, shame, and fear? Fighting this fight publicly and in the legal system has already changed the course and tenor of her career forever. The lack of perspective on the part of Sony — the inability to look at the worth of a woman’s platinum records versus the worth of her soul being intact — is horrifying.”
And all of that, to Dunham, is reason why more women like Kesha, and those who support them, need to come forward. “The public outcry about Kesha’s case has been truly heartening: the swell of shock and indignation from fans and fellow performers alike,” says the producer-actress. She further writes, “We are not scared anymore of losing what we worked for, of being branded hysterical or difficult, of being targeted and silenced by men in power. The women in the music industry speaking out for Kesha are proof.”
“And their words will reverberate, inspiring the young women watching them for clues about the good life to speak up too. 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,” concludes Dunham.