Fortuitously timed to a new set of horrifying (but not surprising) allegations of sexual misconduct against R&B star R. Kelly, local feminist collective Boss Babes ATX has launched a new website, stopbookingrkelly.com.
The site is bare bones, just a simple background, an all-caps title (STOP BOOKING R. KELLY) and a suggestion of an alternative artist folks might consider booking. The babes plan to update the site with a new artist each week. Week one features rapidly rising rapper/spoken word artist Noname, who hails from Kels’ hometown, Chicago.
Boss Babes founder Jane Claire Hervey says she actually bought the URL for the site and set it up Sunday night, several hours before Buzzfeed published a story by Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis, who has covered Kelly’s alleged misdeeds for decades, detailing claims that Kelly is holding women against their will in a “cult.” Kelly has “unequivocally denied” the report’s claims in a statement issued through his lawyer.
Hervey, who hasn’t read the Buzzfeed story, says her “one New Year’s wish this year was that people would stop booking R. Kelly” and an argument with a friend spurred her decision to launch the site Sunday. These are the reasons she cited as motivation:
1. STOP BOOKING R. KELLY. It’s time (and has been time) to care about the staggering number of sexual assault cases made against him. If we do not address these concerns, we’re assigning value to problematic, damaging and hurtful behaviors, while also affirming others who engage in the same blatant abuse of power. (Plus, this sends a negative message for women who speak out against their abusers).
2. (And this is probably the more important of the two.) From a music industry side, it’s frustrating to constantly bump into your gender identity and the many ways in which this may negatively impact your career on a daily basis. When bookers turn a blind eye to artists like R. Kelly (or claim that it shouldn’t matter because of his celebrity, talent and profitability), that sends a strong message to women in the industry—and a negative one. That says, “We care about your work, but we don’t care about your safety.” That says, “We care about your profitability, but we don’t care about your peace of mind.” There’s a difference between true support and lip service, and marrying identities as both “woman” and “artist” should not come with so many negative reminders.
Boss Babes ATX launched in 2015 as a feminist networking group and they rapidly grew into a powerful force on Austin’s social scene. Later this month they present Babes Fest 2017, a three-day celebration of comedy, art, film and music created and curated by women that kicks off on July 27.
The music portion of the festival takes place on Saturday, July 29 at Empire and includes a two-stage extravaganza featuring a diverse selection of excellent female artists including Femina-X, Sam Lao, Sailor Poon, Aleisa Lani and former Austin360 Artists of the Month, Magna Carda and Mélat among others. Tickets to the music event are $19 and a three-day pass to Babes Fest will set you back $33.