FEATURE: The Harvey Weinstein Controversy: Do We Need to Protect Our Female Musicians Better?



The Harvey Weinstein Controversy:


IN THIS PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein/PHOTO CREDIT: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images  

Do We Need to Protect Our Female Musicians Better?


THE worst and most upsetting details have been revealed…


PHOTO CREDIT: Emily Berl/The New York Times

but we have not heard the end of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse and sordid goings-on. A number of high-profile female celebrities have come out claiming Weinstein sexually abused them – from stars of the screen to those in other areas of the entertainment industry. Musicians are coming forward, as are associates of Weinstein. Who knows how long it (the assaults/abuse) has been known about but it is a relief – if that is the right word?! – the truth is out there. His Weinstein Co. has fired him and his wife, Georgina Chapman, is leaving him. There are women who would stick by their husband and not believe the rumours. The fact she is leaving suggests she either knows what has been happening or has exposure to his true nature. All manner of reports are emanating from the press. There are articles abbot Weinstein’s sexual advances and how ‘bold’ he has been about it – supposedly propositioning women whilst his wife was in the next room. It is a brave move to leave your husband but she was in no doubt. Women are coming forward claiming Weinstein raped them and many others are detailing their encounters with Weinstein. I do wonder whether the details we are hearing tells the full story. One wonders why it has taken this long for women to speak out but there is a great sense of fear – thinking they will be judged and risk losing their careers.


IN THIS PHOTO: Weinstein and his wife, Georgina Chapman/PHOTO CREDITREUTERS/Danny Moloshok

There are men in prominent positions who feel, because they have wealth of influence, they can treat women any way they want. One wonders whether there are other studio bosses and Hollywood men who have perpetrated such horrendous acts. The ongoing revelations around Harvey Weinstein will, in the end, see the man brought to court and losing the life he has built. I was thinking about this controversy and the fact it is not an isolated event. I have suggested there are other men in the entertainment industry whose (similar) acts have not yet been exposed. It is impressive so many women have come forward – who have built a career and risk reprisals – but I know there are similar concerns in the music industry. The issue of sexual abuse and exposure is not something that affects men in music – not in the same way at least. When news broke about Weinstein’s incidents; many noted how famous actors – who knew about these attacks/abuse – did not come forward. Is there a society of secrecy where, unless things are brought to light, people keep things to themselves?! There is no excuse for not speaking out but do actors, like musicians, fear personal misfortune and loss if they go forward? One can quibble the ethics and logic behind that but I have been looking into music and the recent case with Dr. Luke and Kesha. The court case was brought whereby Kesha claimed Dr. Luke was guilty of sexual assault and battery; sexual harassment, gender violence; civil harassment, violation of California's unfair business laws; intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent retention and supervision.


IN THIS PHOTO: Kesha/PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Kesha claimed Dr. Luke sexually, physically and verbally abused her throughout their professional relationship – it was said he raped her on two occasions and made threats to Kesha and her family. There are people on either side questioning the facts and what actually happened. Controversy and developments in the case – including Lady Gaga’s aborted resistance to a deposition – have made it one of the most talked-about music court cases in history. Some have suggested Kesha has intensified her accusations in promotion of her album, Rainbow. The record received huge applause and the revelations, feminism and emotional soul-baring throughout Rainbow stunned the press. One cannot rationally conclude Kesha fabricated anything and has been exaggerating for commercial gain – that would be hugely cynical and insulting. Whatever the eventual outcome; it shows music is not separate of controversy and abuse. Like Weinstein and the film industry: is music hiding secrets and harbouring sexual predators? Many think, because there is more money in the film business, there is going to be more cases like Weinstein’s. We do not often think of music and big bosses: it is usually about the artists and talent rather than the moguls and decision-makers. Hollywood is a bit different and we all know about the big studios and the fact they are (predominantly) run by men.


IN THIS PHOTO: Dr. Luke/PHOTO CREDIT: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage

Music is, for the most part, run by men – the biggest studios and labels are owned and managed by men. You cannot say Weinstein and Dr. Luke are extraordinary cases and we will never see anything like that again. I know there would have been threats levied against the women that Weinstein abuse (allegedly) and it would have been terrifying keeping what happened a secret. Musicians and the industry are no different and I wonder whether we need to introduce stricter measures and great vigilance. Before I come to conclusions and remedies; I want to bring in a couple of articles. Noisey wrote a piece that looked at the Kesha/Dr. Luke case and whether we should start believing women and not scrutinising their version of events. There have been journalists and figures in society that pour scorn on artists that claim they have been sexually assaulted. It was interesting reading Noisey’s thoughts and advice:

We should be better than this by now; we should be working toward openly and vocally believing women. Kesha's case is a disheartening one to watch unfold because it's a real-time example of how hard it is to move in the music industry as a woman. Last year, then senior editor at Pitchfork and current editorial director of music at MTV Jessica Hopper compiled what is a book's worth of personal histories from women about how they cope with misogyny, abuse, and gaslighting in the industry. It was a much-needed catalyst and gave a large platform for necessary stories and experiences to be told. But with every instance of progress we see, there is a Piers Morgan to undermine it. Perhaps Kesha's case will become an example of the very precise and calculated ways men seek to control women, how they will protect their brands; Sony is in the interest of protecting itself and whatever the company's assets may be.



Another piece, written by LA Weekly, featured the story of musician/author/journalist Jordannah Elizabeth – a rape survivor who was abused and victimised by different men:

I remember standing in a circle of girls in our local mini-mall parking lot talking about R. Kelly’s sex tapes. A couple of girls knew some girls who had been with him. This was in Baltimore in 2002, when the tapes had been made public, and I was nearly 15 years old. At the time, I didn’t think it could have been me because I wasn’t his type. I wasn't thin and didn’t have the hint of innocent glamour that he apparently liked. Besides, being chosen by him at a concert was furthest from my mind. I was still a virgin and was concerned with other things, like hip-hop and Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers. At 15, I knew Kelly wasn’t my type, either.

When you’re a black girl or woman in towns like Chicago, Baltimore and Atlanta, the existence of R. Kelly makes you think seriously about sex, and what you’d do if you knew a girl who’d fallen for him. It makes me personally think of Aaliyah, and all the black girls who came into the industry around her age and the producers who put them on, and how it could have been me.


IN THIS PHOTO: Jordannah Elizabeth/PHOTO CREDIT: Breck Omar Brunson

Actually, it was me. I was sexually assaulted in Harlem by a man who was well-connected in the music industry and offered to “start me out as a model” to gain exposure for me while we began to develop my music. I’d seen him all over TV, so he seemed legit. I agreed to meet with him.

I was in my early 20s, dressed in a short dress and high heels. I took a car to Harlem and waited in a Dunkin Donuts until he picked me up and took me to his grandmother’s apartment a few blocks away. As we walked together, he seemed to know everyone in the eighbourhood. His friends looked as me as if I was familiar. I noticed their glances and I could intuit that I was seen as “another one.”

These are a couple of articles that have been published in the past couple of months but there are others that look at labels like Sony and whether they are hiding details of sexual assault and abuse – their top bods culpable of assaulting female talent through the years. Sexual assault and abuse is nothing new in the music industry. I feel there is more vocal outrage and support in the film industry – when the likes of Weinstein are sussed and exposed – than there is in the music industry.


IN THIS PHOTO: Lady Gaga (who has suffered sexual abuse during her time in music)

Women are being bastardised and reduced to meat; made to feel worthless and at the mercy of wandering hands and loose tongues. We know women in music who have been raped, assaulted and drugged. It is not a new sensational so why are these cases still coming to light?! I hope the Weinstein case gets people thinking about the music industry and entertaining the possibility something similar could be lurking in the seedy undergrowth – a prominent figure waiting to be called out and brought to justice. The fact the guilty parties tend to lose their livelihood and fortune is wonderful but it does not undo what they did and the types of acts they have performed on women. Amber Coffman, of Dirty Projectors, spoke to The Telegraph about her experiences:

We have to open our eyes to how serious this problem is and how deep it runs. It is an epidemic,” says Amber Coffman, a 31-year-old musician who has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Major Lazer and J. Cole. Last month, she tweeted about the sexually inappropriate behaviour she had been put through by a prominent music PR, Heathcliff Berru – and found numerous other women coming forward to share stories of how they too had been mistreated by him.

“The amount of women who came [out] privately with their own stories after Heathcliff's actions were exposed was staggering,” she says, particularly given that “the amount of stress induced in coming forward about one's experience with abuse, and the amount of risks involved in doing so are enough to keep most victims silent for their entire lives.”


 IN THIS PHOTO: Amber Coffman

Berru responded to the allegations by resigning as CEO of Life and Death PR and releasing a statement saying that he was “deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel," adding that he had been“fighting a losing battle” with drug and alcohol addiction, for which he would seek help. The company folded soon after.

Coffman, a singer and guitarist with band Dirty Projectors, knowsthat strength in numbers was imperative in getting resolve.

“Even if women are supported and believed, as it was with our case, it is a very heavy load.

“It's extremely taxing on victims emotionally and psychologically…so it's understandable that some don't feel they can take that on. Add that to a scenario where a woman also doesn't feel safe coming forward because she…fears losing her job or being ostracized and it's much, much harder”.

The articles and interviews I have sourced are a sprinkling and do not really tell the full story. I feel we need to put in measures whereby those suspected of abuse are provided harsher punishment and banned from the music industry. If the allegations are true then they should have no place in music! Female artists should be free to express themselves and revealed the truth – without getting a storm of crap on social media and being ignored...



How many cases do we have to read about before something is done?! Women need to feel secure and safe coming forward and talking about their experiences. When these allegations are made; they need to be followed up and investigated properly. If it means a truncated court case, then so be it! If that is the cost we have to pay to see perverts and abusers prosecuted and asked to explain themselves then that is what needs to be done! We cannot overlook any reports and incidents when women tell their stories. Harvey Weinstein will be dealt with – and is already seeing his empire collapse – and Dr. Luke’s reputation has been given a severe beating. How many others are getting away with things and free to molest, abuse and attack with impunity?! It is alarming considering, on a daily basis, how many women are being assaulted. Whether it is a studio boss/record label owner raping a star or a fellow musician touching a woman without her permission – it all needs to stop and be brought into the light. If we have to see another case of a female artist abused and assaulted then it proves we have learned nothing and not protected women adequately. I hope something can be done before that occurs but I do fear the music industry is not protecting female artists and are…


MAKING making them vulnerable to abuse.