The Difference between Advocacy and Slander


Sexual assault has been at the forefront of the news this week, most recently in the discussion of Lady Gaga’s performance of  “Til It Happens to You” at the Oscars, a song in support of survivors of sexual assault that challenges dismissive attitudes toward the pain caused by such an attack. Toward the end of the song, Gaga was joined on stage by fifty survivors of sexual violence.

When Ke$ha shared her support of the performance on social media, producer Dr. Luke’s attorney made an inflammatory statement to TMZ, Teen Vogue reports. The statement challenged Ke$ha’s right to add her support, saying: “[Ke$ha] is neither a victim nor the appropriate person to be held up as an example for this important issue.”

Questioning a person’s ability to call attention to any issue seems hugely problematic, especially given that Lady Gaga’s performance was intended precisely to work against the way that sexual assault creates an environment where people feel forced into silence.

It is also highly questionable to declare that Ke$ha cannot identify herself as a victim, or that her status as such would be something that anyone other than Ke$ha can evaluate. Dr. Luke’s hostility no doubt comes from the fact that Ke$ha has filed allegations stating he emotionally abused and sexually assaulted her over the course of their professional relationship, or the duration of the singer’s contract with Dr. Luke’s Sony-affiliated Kemosabe Records. Ke$ha recently lost the injunction that she filed against Dr. Luke in an attempt to break her contract: the judge did not rule on the assault, but based the decision on Sony’s promise that Ke$ha will have opportunities to work with other producers.

Regardless of Ke$ha’s accusation, and Dr. Luke’s denial, it seems incredibly misguided to criticize any kind of advocacy for a group of people who are systematically overlooked and denied legitimacy.

Read a detailed analysis of the case, and the issues in the music industry that it illustrates, via the Atlantic, and watch Lady Gaga’s Oscar performance here.

Liz Wood is a freelance editor, fiction writer, and current student in the NYU MFA program. More from this author →