Opinion: All genders should stand up for women’s interests in arts

By Karly Williams

Reposted from The News Record 23 February 2016 http://www.newsrecord.org/opinion/opinion-all-genders-should-stand-up-for-women-s-interests/article_37d5bb5a-da89-11e5-a2e7-03484c26d7ad.html

Kesha Photo Credit: Jay L. Clendenin

Kesha Photo Credit: Jay L. Clendenin

Kesha, seen here performing at the Hollywood Bowl on June 18, 2013, has filed a lawsuit against her producer for alleged sexual, physical and emotional abuse. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Recent music industry news has been dominated with stories of pop star Kesha’s loss in her turbulent court case against Sony music, digging a deeper hole for women within the art world.

The case revolved around her effort to nullify her recording contract with Sony after filing a 2014 sexual assault lawsuit against her ex-manager and producer Lukasz Gottwald.

Kesha claims Gottwald, known as Dr. Luke, drugged and raped her when she was 18, and has committed years of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse against her.

Though Kesha may not be required to work personally with Dr. Luke ever again, the court decision makes it impossible to leave the record label — owned by Sony — that financially supports her alleged rapist and abuser.

New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich told The New York Times the ruling was “commercially reasonable.”

The ruling is obviously a dismal reflection of our legal system that supports corporate personhood and interests and has failed a woman who simply asked to be freed from the environment, which led to her alleged abuse.

Moreover, the very industry that awarded her success has ultimately failed her.

But Kesha’s story is not uncommon in entertainment news. Earlier this year Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, as well as other female musicians and music publicists, made waves on social media and in entertainment news after they spoke out against a prominent music publicist who they say sexually harassed them.

Unfortunately, sexism in music is nothing new. Although sexual assault allegations in the industry make national headlines and inspire endless reflection on the way our legal system treats women, we also need to look at sexism at a micro level to prevent feeding a culture that can lead to actual abuse.

In the industry that’s still very much a boy’s club, it is crucial that we address the lack of women in certain sects of the industry. We should do this not only for the sake of equality and to benefit the expansion of ever diversifying creativity — but to ensure that women who follow their passion through a musical career remain safe in their everyday work.

Although women have made enormous strides in the past few decades when it comes to writing and performing music, most of the underbelly of the industry is male dominated. That leads to an environment overseen and controlled financially and creatively by mostly men.

This can lead to promotion and marketing of women’s music being dominated by the male gaze, and their creative choices being pressured to fit what someone in a high standing in the industry might think would be most appropriate for the artist.

According to Women’s Audio Mission, a nonprofit supporting the advancement of women in music, women make up less than 5 percent of those working in music production and the recording arts.

Plenty of female artists and producers such as Grimes and Björk have been outspoken on these issues, pointing out that they are often not credited for their production work and creative input when working with male producers.

I am not saying getting more women involved in the technical side of the industry is a cure all for the industry’s woes, or would have prevented cases of past gender-based abuse in the industry. But having more women in every sect of the industry needs to be something everyone who works in music, or are simply fans of music, should become aware of and support consciously regardless of gender.

Fostering a positive relationship with the arts in young girls is crucial to changing the industry for the coming generations as well.

Rather than dismissing girls who take a keen interest in pop music at a young age as fangirls, or fetishizing girls who like more aggressive genres like rock and punk, we need to collectively be able to enjoy music as an art just as the boys do. We should encourage girls and women to pick up their favorite instrument, download production software or fill a notebook up with lyrics to their next anthem.

By standing with women in all areas of music, we can ensure that we change an industry that is not secure for them, and with that advancement, collectively reshape the field as a whole.