More "Manism Gone Wild" in music.
But, I wish I could say I was surprised or shocked.
I am not, we are a society of men that deal very poorly with socializing sex, gender, and sexuality.
I have written about sexual violence in my own life, the epidemic of sexual violence across society, and about sexual violence and manism in music before.
This is kind of my personal but public Mea Culpa on this subject.
1) I am going to try to post the stories I want to highlight only using the words of women (either directly or indirectly effected or reporting).
2) I am going to make some conclusions at the end, but my comments are meant for men to reflect on. I fully invite women to read it if they want, but this is part of my ongoing attempt to spark discussions among men about being reflexive about our own place in manist culture.
I think there is a significant and ongoing problem in music culture, at shows, and online. This is a problem that ultimately will never be resolved as long as we men refuse to address it (in our selves and in community).
3) I do not hold myself out as better or worse than any other man. I have, in my own life, been terrible at socializing sex in a healthy way. I have said and done things I am ashamed of.
4) I believe that shaming and punishment can be 100% appropriate when someone does something wrong. I have certainly been shamed online, here, there, and everywhere. I believe women should not be subject to toxic masculinity, drawing attention to and bringing an end to violence should be the first priority.
I also believe that the long-term goal should be personal growth and change and not just among the people who cross legal lines, the problem is much larger than that.
What Happened To Amber Coffman
I am printing the whole statement:
I was introduced to Heathcliff in L.A. at an Unknown Mortal Orchestra show through a friend and he got us into the show. He was very friendly and he introduced me to his fiancée so I sort of thought, Okay, well this guy is not threatening. And then a week later I went to the same show back in New York and I ran into him backstage after the show and he said, 'Hey, let me get your number.' It seemed harmless to me so I gave him my number.
Then we go to the after-party and it’s like me and it’s a lot of my friends there just hanging out at this cocktail bar. We’ve probably been there for about an hour and I was with my friend and we had just ordered drinks and we were leaning on the bar, and across on the other side of the room I saw Heathcliff make eye contact with me. He walked over and I was like, 'Oh, he's coming to say hi,' and as soon as I thought that he comes up to me and his hand goes straight to my ass. He was rubbing up and down and I totally froze up. I told my friend 'I'll be right back' and ran over and grabbed three of my other guy friends and I said, 'Hey, will you guys come back over with me, I ditched my friend and my drink's over there but this guy just grabbed my ass.'
So I walked back up with three guys and Heathcliff was still standing there and he says to me, 'Can I just tell you that you’re incredibly cute?' And then he grabs my hair and starts biting it in front of all these guys. We just left immediately. One of my friends almost punched him in the face.
I told Domino Records and I told my friends and people who I knew but I guess I didn’t really think to take it public. And it wasn’t until now that I realized that I was actually kind of scared to in a way.
Afterwards she had the courage to send a series of tweets describing the incidents.
After she posted the Tweets a literal storm of other women, most from bands I respect or love, also came forward. A large number of women executives from the industry also spoke about their experiences.
In the end, at least 17 women came forward and shared similar stories of harassment, abuse, and in some cases what sounded like assaults.
And, in another article, Amber provided one of the best descriptions of how male privilege functions I have ever seen:
"But it comes from men. It doesn't come from women. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to tell a story to a guy about something that's happened to me, some kind of assault, and it's almost like it doesn’t compute because they don’t have much context for it. I see a lot of disbelief in men when this kind of thing happens. Most men don't have a really broad awareness of these kinds of things that are happening to women all the time because it doesn't happen to them. It's the same with any other group of people who are facing a particular struggle. The people who don't have to face that struggle are not as aware of it."
The good news, the publicist in question - H. Barru - has been fired (resigned?) and his company is being reconfigured without him involved.
The bad news, this is only one example of an ongoing and multifaceted problem.
As Maggie Vail bassist and label boss of Bikini Kill Records (formerly of Kill Rock Stars) put it:
I alway take so long to react to being harassed. Like I just don't believe it's actually happening. I wish I was quicker when it does.
— Maggie Vail (@magicbeans) January 19, 2016
A Manist in the Crowd
We have a groping problem at music events:
It happens at DJ Clubs.
In particular the article's author Chantelle Fiddy shares:
"It's peak time in a club near you. The place is packed and the music is perfect. Holly, 27, is out with her mates and enjoying herself when suddenly she feels a hand between her legs. "I had nowhere to move, and couldn't shout for help – as if anyone would have been able to hear me," she tells us. "After I pushed [the man] away he tried it again, before getting abusive – which is when I made the call to leave. When I found my friends, what scared me the most was how many of them had experienced something similar."
If you're a woman and a regular clubber, this story will be horribly familiar. It seems that for every mind-blowing DJ set we witness, women are also often subject to the roaming hands of men who feel entitled to grope or molest us. Sunday morning war stories are so ubiquitous that it's souring our experience of club culture and having an effect on which venues and parties many of us choose to go to."
It happens at every other kind of show as Alexandra Miller shares.
"Unwanted groping/touching, sexual harassment, & sexual assault have been an unfortunately unspoken and unchallenged problem at concerts, shows, festivals, nightclubs, and anything of the sort for a long while now."
Such a problem that artists like Sadie Dupuis and her band Speedy Ortiz even created a hotline to help fans immediately address problems.
I am a little old for the pit now, but I can personally attest to spending years of my life interposing myself between sexually aggressive or overly violent punks and women in the pit.
Manism Doesn't Stop at the Waters Edge
Sadly women musicians are also the subject of online harassment as well. In at least one instance, the harassment was so severe that it prompted Lauren Mayberry a lawyer, journalist, and front-person of the band Chvrches to write an open letter about her experiences.
In particular she said:
"Last week, I posted a screengrab of one of the many inappropriate messages sent to the band's social networks every day. After making the post, I sat back and watched with an increasingly open mouth as more and more people commented on the statement. At the time of writing, Facebook stats tell me that the post had reached 581,376 people, over five times the number of people who subscribe to the page itself, with almost 1,000 comments underneath the image. Comments range from the disgusted and supportive to the offensively vile. My current favourites from the latter category include:
"This isn't rape culture. You'll know rape culture when I'm raping you, bitch"
"I have your address and I will come round to your house and give u anal and you will love it you twat lol"
"Act like a slut, getting treated like a slut [sic]"
"It's just one of those things you'll need to learn to deal with. If you're easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn't for you"
But why should women "deal" with this? I am incredibly lucky to be doing the job I am doing at the moment – and painfully aware of the fact that I would not be able to make music for a living without people on the internet caring about our band. But does that mean that I need to accept that it's OK for people to make comments like this, because that's how women in my position are spoken to?"
Thoughts I Want To Share With Other Men
1. Listen to what these women are saying with your heart
Often when we hear something that upsets us our immediate response is to be defensive.
"I am not like that" "It wasn't me" "It Wasn't My Fault"
Usually, this starts because we try to bring our feeling about who we think we are (most people see themselves as the protagonist - as the hero of their own stories) into alignment with what we do.
When there is dissonance between who we think we are and what we do, we try to resolve the difference in our own favor.
In other words, we become defensive or try to justify our behaviors. To reduce our dissonance.
This is an example of how confirmation bias works against our participation in real change.
You can see that happening all over Mr. Barru's weak apology to Ms. Coffman in which he takes little personal responsibility and blames everything on his alcoholism.
I have some experience in this area and I know personally that recovery starts with honesty with yourself and others.
The dissonance itself is a red flag.
Maybe you didn't ever do anything like that, but you looked the other way when you knew someone who did.
You might just sometimes see a woman in a band as a sex object before you see them as a musician or singer or person.
Maybe there were things you did do that while not as obvious still contributed to a music scene that is often sexist and sexually violent.
Maybe you don't speak up when you see things that are troubling.
Reflection can make a difference.
I know this because it changes me for the better every day.
I do not hold myself separate, I know I have many of these same issues and I try to think about my relationship to the structures of sexism all the time.
Sometimes, it can be a better idea to just cogitate on the dissonance instead of trying to resolve it in our own favor.
We continue to say "this is not a problem" mostly because we are men and it is not a problem "for us."
Also, change is hard, reflection is hard, doing nothing is easy.
2. We can confront inappropriate behaviors, even when it is our own friends behaviors.
I can't believe there is another reason for me to include Killer Mike (seems like I find a way every week).
But, Killer Mike was also a client of the publicist who harassed Amber Coffman and, to my mind, his response was entirely appropriate:
Hip hop artist Killer Mike was one of Berru's clients who cut ties with him after Coffman's revelations, and he's spoken out about giving Berru, who he still considers a friend, "an earful" about his "f--ked up" behaviour.
He's also tweeted his support of Coffman, and spoken out about how men in the industry need to do more to fight sexism and support female artists and industry colleagues.
In other words, he fired his friend but instead of shunning him, he tried to engage in dialog about why what he did was f'd up. In addition, he showed his strong support for Amber in public.
This is NOT a problem that will get fixed by shunning a few bad actors. Literally every woman I know has been a victim of sexual violence at some point or time in her life.
Just do a basic Google search, the scope of the problem goes beyond music, it is endemic in our society.
This will likely never be a problem that will be solved. But it is a problem that we should all commit to trying to improve (daily, weekly, monthly).
The bad actions number in the billions and the bad actors are virtually all of MAN kind.
That is not to say every man commits sexual violence, but it is to say that shunning a few people hardly fixes anything.
We need to stop seeing women first, second, and sometimes only as sexual objects before we see them as people.
We need to engage in dialog about our behaviors and our cultural practices.
We need to investigate our own relationships to male privilege, to the structures of sexism we do engage in and the benefits we accrue from those structures.
And we need to have discussions about the larger culture of violence, discussions like the one Killer Mike is engaging in with anyone we know.
Women are 100% right, silence is not the answer.
3. Stop escaping from moral Australia's
Sexism and sexual violence is not a problem that will be solved by shipping a few "predators" to the penal colony.
I am not saying perpetrators should not face prison. I am saying we should not pretend shipping perpetrators to prison fixes the problem (it fixes one aspect of the problem).
When sexual violence has happened, the perpetrators should absolutely pay the price (I did). My point is not that we should not punish people for crimes.
My point is that psychologically, once we vote someone off the island we kind of pretend that the problem is solved.
Australia is us.
The problem is massive. If you read my article I linked above, it is chock full of statistics describing the massive nature of the problem.
Again, we want so badly to find easy fixes and to reduce the dissonance surrounding our lives that we will almost always ignore problems once we have found a perpetrator who has been brought to justice.
Sexism is a massive structural problem, the way we learn and perform maleness generates new abuse and abusers every day.
We have to investigate not only the individuals perpetrating violence but also interrogate the structures that make it so easy for millions of such crimes to happen every year.
Start within our music communities, what can we look at.
Even simple things like what Maggie Vail shared during the discussion about Amber Coffman:
my least favorite thing when I toured was "can I have a hug" from a strange man. and it happened constantly. men, don't do that.
— Maggie Vail (@magicbeans) January 23, 2016
I myself try to listen and learn.
I used to think I knew everything and that my vision of myself and others was objective.
I am sure I screwed this up in some substantial ways.
I am really hopeful that at least some people who read this will join me in trying to think about how we engage in this system and in these kind of practices.
Also, we have to stop creating moral distance between ourselves and the sexism and sexist behaviors all around us just because someone like this publicist is dealt with.
It is a criminal problem, but it is more than a criminal problem. We need to have a "both and" strategy that involves us reflecting on our own place in the system of "Manism Gone Wild."
Have you experienced behaviors or systems like this at clubs or at shows? Share your experience and stories, leave a comment!