The announcement of TIME's Person of the Year was an indisputably happy moment. But it came with one sour note that's being called out by fans — namely, why isn't Kesha on TIME's People of the Year cover? After all, the cover wasn't a person, but multiple individuals who the magazine deemed "The Silence Breakers." These were the women and men who prompted others "to speak out about the inappropriate, abusive and in some cases illegal behavior they've faced," according to the magazine. But if we're talking about fighting sexual harassment, then surely a certain face should have made it onto the cover.
After all, Kesha filed a lawsuit suing her producer Dr. Luke for sexual assault way back in 2014, which he responded to with a countersuit alleging she was trying to extort money out of him. And according to Vox, this led to a three-year legal battle between Kesha and Lukasz Gottwald (Dr. Luke's real name). As fans know, 2017 marked the first time the artist was able to release new music in five years with her album Rainbow leading her to become, as The Mary Sue put it, "a face for assault survivors who speak out against their abusers" with songs like "Praying" containing powerful lyrics, which were hard to separate from what fans knew about her legal battles like, "No more monsters, I can breathe again." Heck, Wear Your Voice even called the song "an antidote after sexual assault." So no wonder fans were up in arms about the artist's omission.
They're angry because, as Twitter user @Luvvie put it, Kesha "lost a lot from her silence breaking." It's worth considering the context of the "Learn To Let Go" singer's court case against a man who Newsweek reported she alleged raped her on multiple occasions and emotionally abused her, but also whom her career depended on. (Dr. Luke adamantly denied those allegations.) As Twitter user @Dracomallfoy pointed out, "...kesha really f*cking deserved to be included in this... she went up against her abuser who had her entire career on a lockdown, still managed to release a fantastic album and earned a grammy nom...that sort of rise from the ashes is worthy of praise."
The point Twitter users make is a solid one — Kesha had to take on her producer Dr. Luke, someone who she was contractually obligated to work with. In a written request for a preliminary injunction and request for an expedited decision against Dr. Luke from September 2015, her lawyers suggested just how much this stalled her career:
"Until this Court rules on the declaratory judgment claim, Kesha...cannot work with music producers, publishers, or record labels to release new music. With no new music to perform, Kesha cannot tour. Off the radio and stage and out of the spotlight, Kesha cannot sell merchandise, receive sponsorships, or get media attention."
But it's not just about the artistic and financial stakes that Kesha was dealing with. As Twitter users have been quick to observe, it's also about who Kesha was fighting for during the long course of her court case. In 2016, the star posted a Facebook post in which she stated that "this issue is bigger than just about me." She argued that her court case wasn't "giving people who have been abused confidence that they can speak out, and that’s a problem" and encouraged survivors of sexual abuse to speak out. Fans seem angered by the absence of Kesha because they believe she has "been trying to bring some peace to others who have seen their lives ripped apart."
All this said, one possible argument in favor of TIME including someone like Swift instead of Kesha is that the Rainbow singer's trial took place in 2016, not 2017. This is something which can get lost in the euphoria surrounding her 2017 album release, which contains the anthems fans associate with her court case, like "Praying."
But a sizable portion of fans on Twitter do not have time for the uglier side of the anger surrounding the singer not being included, notably, the Taylor Swift dragging that's resulted from Kesha's omission. As @AfricanKhaleesi wrote, "Why can’t y’all just say 'I can’t believe TIME didn’t include Kesha' instead of 'ugh I hate Taylor Swift so I’m gonna act like I care about abuse victims and Kesha to diminish what happened to her.'" Similarly, @swiftsmagician stated,
"Should Kesha have been on the cover? Yes. Her case made a massive impact. Is it Taylor Swift’s fault that it wasn’t? No. Stop discrediting, demeaning and comparing Taylor’s assault to others. ALL forms of sexual assault are important and Taylor’s case had a massive impact."
This makes sense, especially since the "Look What You Made Me Do" singer name-checked Kesha in her interview with TIME, stating "I spoke to Kesha on the phone and it really helped to talk to someone who had been through the demoralizing court process." This echoes what we already know of the close Swift-Kesha friendship, with the "Hunt You Down" singer telling Rolling Stone in October that Swift is "a f*cking sweetheart. Very, very sweet, very, very genuine, extremely generous, picks up the phone every time I call her. My mom doesn't even always pick up the phone!"
Swift-bashing aside, it's easy to see why people are upset. Yes, it’s a triumph that the Person of the Year wasn’t one woman, but multiple brave women and men, including the originator of #MeToo, Tarana Burke. However, Kesha’s omission has got everyone riled up — and it’s understandable why.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.