We Should All Be Talking About Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens To You”

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There were several applause-worthy moments at last week’s Academy Awards, including, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio’s long overdue win for Best Actor and his subsequent speech about saving the environment.

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I have immense respect for celebrities who use their public platforms to champion various causes, a phenomenon which has become significantly more common as things like feminism and race equality come to the forefront of political discussions in America.

One such celebrity is Lady Gaga, who has taken on the role of advocate for sexual assault victims, including fellow pop star Kesha, who is undergoing a legal battle with her alleged assailant and producer Dr. Luke.

Lady Gaga, along with Diane Warren, were nominated in the Best Original Song category for “Till It Happens To You,” a dramatic ballad about sexual assault for the documentary film “The Hunting Ground.”

“The Hunting Ground” focuses on sexual assault on college campuses. What the filmmakers found was horrifying, if not surprising: victims of sexual assault are hushed up and discouraged from reporting their assaults, especially when their abusers are high-profile. The documentary received backlash from schools and perpetrators who were featured,  including Jameis Winston, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose alleged assault of another Florida State student is covered in the film.

But the producers refused to back down. One of them, Amy Ziering, said in an interview with Salon that campus rape is:

A pernicious, pervasive problem that’s been misunderstood for decades, and we really need to step up our game, rethink it, and figure out how to do something better about it. And just help people. That’s where our interests should be: Let’s help all the victims of this. Let’s acknowledge they exist. Let’s do right by them. Right now, we’re just really damaging everybody.

Watch a trailer for the documentary below:

While the documentary itself may have its faults from a storytelling stand point, the message is clear: nothing is being done about the staggering number of sexual assaults that take place on college campuses.

Which brings us back to Lady Gaga and her Oscar-nominated song.

“Till It Happens To You” has a title that is pretty much self-explanatory. It speaks from the point of view of a rape victim, questioning “What the hell do you know?” to those who dismiss the issue of rape without fully understanding its magnitude.

At the Academy Awards, Lady Gaga accompanied herself on piano, and towards the end of the ballad, welcomed dozens of sexual assault survivors–male and female–onto the stage with her.

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The song did not end up winning the Oscar, but the global stage it received last weekend is very important. We need to keep this song and “The Hunting Ground” in the spotlight, and we need to keep the conversation about sexual assault in the news. We need to stop the culture of victim-blaming, and we need to stop glorifying the perpetrators. Only then can a true solution be reached.

Watch the entire performance here:


Morgan McMurray
Morgan McMurray is an editor and gender equality blogger based in Seattle, Washington. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies. She spends her free time writing, reading, teaching dance classes, and binge-watching Netflix. Contact Morgan at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.



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