Why Muting R. Kelly Will Never Be Enough

Congratulations to all of us, it’s happened: after Time’s Up called on streaming services to remove R. Kelly’s music from their platforms, Spotify obliged and has removed the artist from their playlists as of today. Which means that while Kelly’s library will still be present, you won’t find him on curated playlists. According to Vulture, the singer’s removal is due to Spotify’s new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct policies which state, “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values.”

“When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the way we work with or support that artist or creator,” they continue.

Which, like, good. This is what zero(ish — we have a ways to go) tolerance looks like. And appropriately enough, this news also co-incites with sexual offender/disgraced director Roman Polanski’s declaration that #MeToo has ushered in an era of hysteria and glorified witch-hunting — days before he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science alongside fellow predator Bill Cosby.

Of course, considering Polanski’s comments came from the other side of the Atlantic (thanks to his refusal to return to America after pleading guilty to the statutory rape of a minor), they’re rich. It’s easy to spout nonsense from thousands of miles from due process, and it’s easier still to cry “witch hunt” in the wake of proof that the status quo is very slowly being whittled down. But that still doesn’t make it any easier to hear: it may feel good to know the world is changing (albeit at a glacial pace), but the Polanskis and R. Kellys of the world have made gaslighting their linguistic currency. Meaning that while we may want to scream into the night upon the declaration that #MeToo and Time’s Up thrive on hysteria, knowing that what they’re saying isn’t true, it’s still like strain on an old injury: you feel the effects almost instantly, with the memories of all your years of being gaslit flooding back. It’s still, to be honest, further abuse.

So what do you do? Especially since claims like Polanski’s will continue well into the movement’s next act, and likely beyond because of course. How do you rally against his defenders and the defenders of his partners in literal crime? How do you not feel defeated when you see these fools stand up and condemn the brave acts of those who’ve endured the crimes of those men and men just like them? You keep wading. You let yourself get angry. You make peace with the fact that this new, tired, annoyed form of anger is the way you will feel possibly forever. You note the small, tiny, baby steps taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or Spotify and acknowledge that they are in no way the end goal, but they are a brick in a very long path, and onward and upward, and these men would not be getting so upset if they didn’t feel the same shift in the air. And then you keep doing what you’ve been doing and take solace in knowing that R. Kelly won’t pop up on your playlist anymore.

Even though, after writing that, it doesn’t feel close to enough. Which is because it isn’t. But that’s the thing about this new era of “collective hysteria” (LOL): it’s powerful. Enough to affect the terms and conditions of a game-changing streaming site, and enough to bother a rapist all the way across the ocean before evicting him from an organization that undoubtedly mattered to him. Which is what I think about every time a Polanski claims that wanting to not be sexually assaulted or harassed is unfair. They may cry witch hunt until they are hoarse, but that’s their last possible card to play. And even as they throw it down, we know they’ve got a losing hand.

Tags: #metoo, Anne T. Donahue, R Kelly, time's up, top story

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