Fuck Sexual Harassment – here’s where we draw the line.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to put forward that I have no intention of ‘mansplaining’ within this article, and, if at any point I do, I’d like to apologise.

Sexual misconduct is an ever-increasing and an infuriatingly continuous problem that affects an incomprehensible number of women and girls. There are no real statistics available to the extent of harassment and abuse that women experience within this industry, however, if there were I can argue that they would not be representative at all. We live in a time where women struggle to speak out against the issues they’ve experienced for fear of backlash, loss of opportunities, disbelief, and so a lot of them suffer in silence. This is echoed by the struggle I’ve faced to find people willing to talk openly about their experiences of sexual misconduct. While this may be due partly to the fact I am a male, I can’t help but feel there are underlying feelings of fear connected to it. 

The BBC have described sexual harassment as ‘endemic’ in the music industry. So, I decided to reach out to female musicians and music fans to understand their experiences. Hopefully, through this journey I can begin to understand what drives men to exploit these women, how the victims truly feel at their core, and establish possible preventatives. My ultimate goal is to use my platform to deconstruct the patriarchal system within the industry and offer women a greater opportunity of freedom and liberation.

I had the opportunity to speak to Katie Revell, front woman of indie punk band, Peach Club, about the issue at hand.

I’ve always experienced misogyny and harassment in the music scene since I was about 14 because I used to go to a lot of hardcore shows. I used to get groped and pushed around a lot and always got laughed at by dudes for just wanting to enjoy music. Playing gigs, for some reason, people think they can do or say whatever. There was one time we were playing a gig where there was no stage, and some guys picked me up and ‘crowd surfed’ me when actually all they did was pull up my dress and refuse to put me down when I was screaming at them to let go of me. I haven’t experienced anything recently that was *that* bad, we get a lot of guys who hover and don’t leave us alone, guys who insist on coming into our dressing room even when the door is locked or guys who just feel the need to make comments that are absolutely not needed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misogyny in the music industry and it’s totally disheartening.’

photo by Meg Firth

Admittedly when I first imagined sexual misconduct, I imagined the cinematic portrayal of the rich music businessman exploiting female bands for financial gain. This misconduct is not an issue that exists solely amongst the fat cats, it is well routed in our home towns and local scenes. Speaking to two innocent women – who wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, and will henceforth be known as Becky and Sophie – I learnt about a shocking scenario they were involved in.  Becky was hired by Birmingham band Dead Summers for a professional photo shoot along with her ‘assistant’ Sophie. I use the term assistant loosely as she was in fact a friend brought a long due to feeling nervous around the band after getting ‘strange vibes’ from the lead singer. After a previous shoot at Get The Fear and unbeknown to their manager, two members – Lewis and Alex – had arranged for a shoot to take place in a hotel room. After realising the members had consumed lots of drugs and alcohol the girls attempted to leave before being pulled back forcefully and later being coerced into sexual activities. During this time photographs were taken by the band members without consent, and this issue is worsened by the fact Becky and Sophie were aged 16-17 at the time. Lewis and Alex were aged 21 and 22.

I asked the two what’s preventing them from taking the two to court. ‘Our stories aren’t credible when you put our word against their manager who is an older business man’

We are young girls. Anybody will just assume we are stupid little fangirls.’

Not only that but, fear of how the band will retaliate is a fear that looms over the two victims. An issue I’m sure is all too familiar with most, if not all, victims of sexual harassment.

It was very hard for us mentally, emotionally and physically’, says Becky. 

It has seriously affected our ability to trust people and relationships have been a struggle for us.’

It has kind of exposed the entire music business for us and made us see how people can exploit their power as a musical influence.

I feel this story speaks for itself on the extent of this issue. It shows us just how prevalent it truly is and how it can affect anyone.

I also spoke to lead singer of P.E.T., a new punk band on the Birmingham scene. She explained to me that ‘people put you on a pedestal when you’re in a band and think that they can touch you and talk to you inappropriately because you put yourself out there (on stage).’

There’s no acknowledgement of boundaries the second you’re put on stage.’

Now this begs the question, is enough being done to help safeguard women at shows?

‘There can always be improvements, like making sure audiences can’t come in the dressing room.’, says Katie Revell, ‘if security or even other people attending the gigs actually stepped in when they see women being harassed or groped, it would make a huge HUGE difference.’

I’ve had it a few times, being groped by lads who’ve had a bit to drink but nothing usually happens. You try pushing them away, move away or try getting security but they just tell them to stop and that’s it.’ explains Alisha, a fellow editor here at Peace and Indiependence. ‘It happened to me a few weeks ago at DMA’s‘.

 

Sexual misconduct, unfortunately, can also influence many other aspects of the music industry. It exceeds beyond fans harsh experiences and mistreatment of industry workers. It can also encompass sexual discrimination with regards to opportunities and payment. I understand it that female bands (be it all female or containing prominent female members amongst male counterparts) are much less likely to receive opportunities for headline positions or festival slots.

Take, for example, the 2018 Wireless line-up. Shown left is the full line-up and shown right is all the female acts who will be involved. An extremely insignificant percentage by comparison.

Full Wireless line-up 2018
Wireless 2018 line-up (women only)

I’d like to comment also on the unspoken issue of sexual harassment faced by men within the industry too. While I’d argue it is a prominently female issue, there are those who face it and are unable to speak out for this exact reason. Upon writing this I’m reminded of a story I saw on Twitter where Harry Styles was grabbed at in inappropriate places by fans. The issue was laughed off as the fans being ‘crazy’ and what-not. But the reality of it, was that he was being sexually assaulted. In an era where we’re supposedly tackling gender expectations and the idea of toxic masculinity, it is not beneath me to say that men are unable to speak out against issues they may face, in this instance – musicians, for fear of being ridiculed. They are expected to enjoy sex as it’s part of their life.

Things have always happened in the music industry as well. There’s been people complaining about publicists and different things they’ve been expected to do to get a record contract, just like a film contract.’, says Sir Tom Jones in an interview with BBC Radio 5, ‘what’s tried on women is tried on men as well’.

So, it’s important to remember when reading this article that sexual misconduct and harassment can affect anyone and everyone. My aim from the beginning was not to point the blame at all men for harassing women. It was to address a toxic and prevalent issue that we may all face within the industry and to help bring awareness to the problem. I have featured just a few instances of what is happening right now, right under our noses. If we all band together when we see it happening, we can help to eradicate it from what is meant to be a beautiful part of life. That is, music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.