The #MeToo Movement Has Finally Caught Up With R Kelly

The #MeToo Movement Has Finally Caught Up With R Kelly

Since its fruition in October 2017, the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up campaign have been a force to be reckoned with. And now, Time’s Up has joined forces with the #MuteRKelly hashtag, to support women of colour and bring the singer to justice.

While the movement has no doubt been a victory for womanhood, #MeToo hasn’t been without its faults; eliciting criticism from those who believe it has only held a microphone up to the voices of white women. “It's depressing that it takes famous white women to scream and yell before people pay attention,” Tarana Burke, who founded the #MeToo moment, told Elle UK. “A lot of times things are motivated by the whims of white women.”

Which brings us to R Kelly.

Allegations against the R&B singer date back to 1994, when he married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah. He has since been involved in multiple court cases and sued by at least four women for sexual misconduct, statutory rape, aggravated assault and unlawful restraint. And in 2008, was indicted – and then acquitted – of 21 counts of child pornography, despite video evidence that showed him having sex with, and urinating, on a 13-year-old girl.

The first major media investigation into R Kelly’s alleged abuse of women – mostly young teens – was published in 2000 by the Chicago Sun Times, but despite persistent rumours continuing to surround the 51-year-old, things only came to a head in 2017, when a BuzzFeed article claimed Kelly was running a ‘sex cult’. He was reported to be keeping women in his home, where he “controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”

Up until this point, R Kelly had continued to be a best-selling artist. Since the first allegations surfaced, he has released hit albums and singles – including ‘I Believe I Can Fly,’ ‘Bump N Grind,’ and ‘Ignition (Remix)’ – sold out concert venues and given startingly candid interviews. In 2013 he dueted with Justin Bieber and dry-humped Lady Gaga on SNL. It was as if nothing could stop him.

Over the years, Kelly has consistently denied claims of violence and sexually coercive behaviour towards women, even when settling lawsuits with his accusers. Linda Mensch, his lawyer in 2017, said the singer was “both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him”, stating he would “work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name”.

But since the BuzzFeed article’s publication, people have been calling for the music industry – labels, venues, ticket sites, streaming sites – to cut ties with R Kelly, using the hashtag #MuteRKelly. Since the campaign took off last summer, ten of his concerts have been cancelled, and Ms Mensch, along with a publicist and assistant working closely with Kelly, all resigned.

On Monday the Time’s Up organisation, that helped bring down Weinstein, came out in support of the #MuteRKelly hashtag, releasing an open letter calling on the likes of RCA Records, Ticketmaster and Spotify for a boycott.

“To Our Fellow Women of Colour: For too long, our community has ignored our pain,” the letter read. “As women of colour within Time’s Up, we recognise that we have a responsibility to help right this wrong. We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need. It is our hope that we will never feel ignored or silenced ever again.

“We demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R Kelly’s abuse made by women of colour and their families for over two decades now. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us: their time is up.”

The letter was shared by Tiffany Haddish, Lupita Nyong’O, Lena Waithe, John Legend and Ava Duvernay on social media. However, on Monday, R Kelly’s management released a statement in response: “Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time,” it read. “Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”

But, knowing how successful Time’s Up has been for bringing the bad men of Hollywood to justice, Kelly’s reputation seems to have finally caught up with him. Oronike Odeleye, the founder of the #MuteRKelly hashtag, feels optimistic: “This is starting to feel like a success,” she told the New York Times. “Having Time’s Up amplify it, support it — this community, this village is stepping in and demanding that these things change.”

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