If you didn’t think the legal chaos surrounding singer-songwriter Kesha Rose Sebert (formerly known as Ke$ha) could get more chaotic, you thought wrong. For context, the singer has been a constant presence in the news lately for her bizarre and upsetting legal battles with her producer Lukasz Gottwald, known as Dr. Luke. Kesha signed with Dr. Luke’s label, and Sony subsidiary, Kemosabe Records in 2005 when she was just 18 years old. It wasn’t until 2009 that Kesha exploded onto the music scene after appearing in Flo Rida’s song "Right Round." She went on to release two studio albums and a number of top ten songs.
That all came to a halt two years ago, when Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke, claiming that he "sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused" her for nearly a decade. Dr. Luke countersued, and claimed that by filing her lawsuit, Kesha was in breach of contract. Last fall, Kesha sought an injunction to prematurely terminate or edit her current contract with the producer, and thus allow her to work independently or with other recording studios and production companies. Kesha and her attorney claimed that the ongoing lawsuit rendered her unable to work. Last Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich refused to grant the injunction.
The development led to an outpouring of support, particularly from other female performers. Singers Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Miley Cyrus and many others voiced their support for the singer on social media, lauding her bravery and encouraging her to soldier on. However, Taylor Swift took support to a new level, donating $250,000 to help assist in Kesha’s financial needs brought on by these legal troubles.
Not everyone is impressed by Taylor’s donation. Singer Demi Lovato tweeted “Take something to Capitol Hill or actually speak out about something and then I’ll be impressed.” The tweet, unsurprisingly, drew heat from Swifties, to which Lovato responded, “Not everyone has 250K to just give to people. Would love to but I didn’t grow up with money and def haven’t made as much as her. At least I speak up about s__t that’s uncomfortable rather than trying to be politically correct 24/7… I didn’t shade Taylor… I’m just tired of seeing women use ‘women empowerment’ and ‘feminism’ to further brands without actually being the ones that have uncomfortable conversations.” Additionally, Lovato insisted that she would “rather start a dialogue about women coming forward about being raped than throw money at one person.”
Sure it's always good to start important cultural conversations. But words need to be supported by action and sometimes a monetary gift is just that. Communities often come together to charitably rally around those in need, and in a way (albeit in a larger and more public way than most of us experience), Swift's donation is just that—one female entertainer to another.
In many circumstances, I would agree with Lovato that galvanizing support and forwarding societal change would be more helpful and effective than cutting a check and calling it a day. But Kesha’s circumstances are particularly complicated. The thought of someone having to honor a business contract with her abuser and rapist is horrifying. But from a legal perspective, there are potential problems with nullifying a contract on the basis of a crime of which someone has been accused but not convicted. Under our legal system, Dr. Luke remains innocent until proven guilty. As a result, the path to justice in this case is winding and complicated.
The trouble is, even if Dr. Luke is an abuser, he seems to be winning in court, and there may be little we can do to change that. So what can someone do to help? For those of us on the outside, it's hard to say what we can do that is actually helpful. And in such circumstances, it is easy to do nothing. Which is why I admire Taylor’s gift so much. She saw an immediate need and filled it. Kesha’s circumstances have left her unable to work and financially strained. And justice for Kesha will likely require further legal action, costing her more money. I don’t know the extent of Kesha’s financial straits, but Swift’s donation will certainly help to alleviate them.
As natural as it may be to question the motivations behind public shows of charity, I think that obsessing over them can get in the way of helping people. If I didn't allow myself to help someone unless I had only the purest of intentions in doing so, I'd never help anyone. Was Swift’s donation a publicity stunt? It is impossible to say. But the fact is that Kesha needed money, and Taylor stepped up and gave it to her. She helped a sister out in a tangible way, and I can't help but think that’s a good thing.
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