FEATURE: The Growing Rise in Sexism and Sexual Harassment Claims: Is It Only Limited to the Film Industry?!



The Growing Rise in Sexism and Sexual Harassment Claims:


IN THIS PHOTO: Sarah Silverman/PHOTO CREDIT: Ramona Rosales/August   

Is It Only Limited to the Film Industry?!


A simple answer to that question…


PHOTO CREDIT: Bustle/Getty

would be "no!". Although there have been numerous allegations made against figures in T.V. and film – we can naively sit back and say the music world will not be affected. I am going a bit off-piste and addressing the wider world of entertainment. I will, soon, bring in a couple of articles/interviews that look at the problems arising – and the figures who are fighting against sexual assault and sexism. I guess that is part of the problem: the women coming forward are victims of sexism and male machismo as much as anything. We cannot say this is a new phenomenon or something that has cropped up the past few years – a lot of the allegations are from years ago. The reason why I have sourced a photo (as the thumbnail) from The Guardian is because of the interview they conducted with Sarah Silverman – a comedian who has never been shy of making her voice heard and tackling wrongdoing. She does not specifically allude to controversies around people like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein: she looks at sexism and unequal rights/values affecting U.S. society; how more needs to be done to redress the ill – and how she, and her female peers, are an important part of the fight (and I really like the photo, too – hopefully, a lawsuit is not forthcoming!). Whilst figures such as Silverman – I shall come back to her in a bit – are providing inspiration and fuel: the likes of Morrissey are not helping things one iota! It seems, on the subject of sexism and sexual assault; women are adding sense and rationale: a lot of male interjection is either an unhelpful or insignificant maxim.



In the BBC article - it concerned an interview Morrissey conducted with the German newspaper, Der Spiegel - when asked about the allegations concerning Kevin Spacey – actor Anthony Rapp claims Spacey took advantage of him when he (Rapp) was fourteen – the former Smiths man stated:

"I don't know about you, but I was never in situations like this in my youth…I was always aware of what could happen. When you are in somebody's bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to".

Morrissey is a musical genius, no doubt, but a bagpipe of bullsh*t when it comes to serious debate and controversial topics – he seems to put his foot in it and make everything worse! Moz, when talking about the allegations directed at Harvey Weinstein (and the assaults perpetrated), had this to say:

"Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked. And then they turn it around and say: 'I was attacked, I was surprised'.

"But if everything went well, and if it had given them a great career, they would not talk about it."

"I hate rape... But in many cases, one looks at the circumstances and thinks that the person who is considered a victim is merely disappointed."

The interview also saw Morrissey talk about the ‘tradition’ of musicians having sex with their groupies – something that was seen as commonplace (although he was, obviously, not involved with that as part of The Smiths).


IN THIS PHOTO: Sarah Silverman/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

I will come to cover-girl Sarah Silverman – and her interview with The Guardian – as she has a very healthy and mature approach to the likes of Harvey Weinstein and what we can do to stem the issue. I think a lot of the allegations coming out concern events that happened a number of years ago – does this mean there are far fewer cases of sexual abuse and molestation in the entertainment industry today?! It seems, with high-profile cases in the U.S., the seedy log of sh*t that has been festered for years is in no danger of subsiding. It may seem, from the outside, like a few privileged creatives not knowing any better – doing things they consider normal and, only now, realising that it was inappropriate. Jeffrey Tambor, star of Amazon’s hit show, Transparent, has left the show after claims were made of misconduct and sexual assault – he took the decision to leave; fearing the claims would see him sacked. From comedians, actors and producers; we are seeing new revelations and accusations come to light. I wanted to write this piece and discuss two things: why the issues are not reserved to film/T.V. – and will be a problem in music – and why men need to do more to counteract the issue. It seems the male chromosomes have been rather cowardly and shy. It is not a battle-of-the-sexes, here: men are causing the issue and, even if a high-profile figure is not culpable and under suspicion, they should feel the need and duty to attack their peers!


IN THIS PHOTO: Jeffrey Tambor/PHOTO CREDIT: January Images/Rex/Shutterstock 

Silence does not exculpate them: it does show a culture of fear and acceptance is creeping in. Is it okay to say nothing and assume, as some do, these allegations are either exaggerated or concerned with a practice that was concerned normal back then?! Even though the likes of Tambor and Spacey have expressed regret and repulsion – the fact they were found out after being accused means there is a deep-down problem that needs eradicating. People knew better back then: it is not acceptable to say things were different and they knew no better. That does not wash with racism, domestic assault and bigotry: it is definitely not the case when it comes to sexual inappropriateness and assault. Whilst more claims are coming to light – and stars from across the entertainment world are being outed and facing heavy penalty – I am not hearing a lot of male input! Where are the contemporaries offering condemnation and disgust?! Actors like Matt Damon have been accused of aiding and shielding figures like Harvey Weinstein – the Borne actor remaining quiet when he knew, full well, what was happening at the time. Most of the aggrieved and emotional proclamations coming from the news are from women: the vast majority, in fact! If I were in a position of influence and discovered someone in my field has committed such crimes; I would be out there and offer nothing but judgement at the accused.


IN THIS PHOTO: Kevin Spacey

It is positive seeing women coming forward and revealing these men for who they are – the fact they felt they could not come forward before suggests there is a lot of fear; maybe they would not be believed?! I think the music industry is in a volatile position at the moment – in the sense, I know there are incidents like this (Weinstein, Spacey etc.) that are not being reported. We know there is a massive amount of sexism in the music industry and, hand-in-hand with that, there are men who feel they can get away with assaulting female artists – because they are in a position of ‘respect’ and authority. Maybe there are different dynamics in the music industry – compared to the relationships one finds on sets and in studios. For an actress; she would work very closely with a director/producer – often taking directing that involved physical contact and intimacy – and that, in turn, leads to that director/producer taking things too far – assuming that is allowed and consensual. Male actors would, obviously, find themselves in close proximity to a female co-star. The fact this expressive and untamed approach to human contact continued off-set is the result of ego and ignorance – their cachet means they can get away with it and the woman wants it. Perhaps there are a few claims that are slightly overwrought and misunderstood – where do we draw the line and how do we define what is inappropriate and acceptable?


PHOTO CREDIT: Irina Munteanu 

Obviously, laying on top of someone and forcing yourself on them is degrading and immoral; pinching a woman’s bottom and making lurid advances is despicable and illegal. Is, therefore, something like a misplaced hand on the knee or an innocent sexual comment less serious? Are we talking about semantics and should we be a little more open-minded and tolerant when it comes to relatively ‘minor’ incidents? I feel every accusation/claim is not equal but every one of them is important and warranted. Bringing this back to music and I have witnessed, first-hand, directors (for music videos) advance on female artists and make suggestions few would argue are connected to the process of making a video. I have read new stories where female Pop artists have been assaulted and raped by producers and colleagues. We are all sage and observant enough to realise a woman’s need for sexual expression and liberation is not an open invitation for men to assault and abuse them. Even if a Popstar (other genres are available!) deliberately and provocatively exposes flesh in order to shift a few units – they are not asking to be touched, assaulted and taken advantage of! I am part of the camp who feels we need to look at sexuality in music and whether videos/photoshoots, in some cases, are sending bad messages to young and impressionable listeners – young girls thinking the way to get ahead in the world is showing their breasts and showing as much skin as they can.



As I said, just now: artists like Beyoncé and Katy Perry – a distinction in intentions and severity – are showing spirit and confidence in their body; promoting their femininity and trying to inspire young women – they are strong and passionate figures who will not be cowed and seen as second-class citizens. I have been watching unfolding events (in the media) and seeing various stars admitting indiscretion and wrongdoing. I know there are equivalent issues in music but, right now, there are very few cases coming into the spotlight. The working dynamic and logarithms of the music world are not comparable to those of acting – artists/bands tend to work alone and have relatively little contact (physical) with a producer/director. Even though there are fewer opportunities for latent abuse of power – and blatant sexual assault – that does not mean the issue is moot. Far from it, in fact! I have written extensively on sexual imbalance and sexism in the music industry. From the male-dominated major festival headliners to the sweaty studios; the high positions and management roles in record labels – it is a veritable sausage-factory! I am seeing changes where more women are being recognised and studios are opening their doors/minds to female involvement – it is a minor change that does not go far enough. As we are seeing more and more cases of sexual assault in the entertainment issue; I wonder whether music should be more aware of the skeletons in its closest. I have heard/read about incidents where female artists have been assaulted by a male peer/producer.



There have been even more cases whereby a female artist has been touched inappropriately or subjected to vile abuse and sexism – not only from those within the industry but fans/those who attend their gigs. If many male figures in film/T.V. are standing silently by as their associates collude and squirm – should music, A) unearth and expose sexual assaults present within its walls and, B) ensure its men – those not guilty of these offences – provide stern and unwavering finger-pointing at those who are in the wrong? I would say so and, the more we overlook and do not act, the more that will fester and fart. I will come back to this in a bit – because I want to draw a very striking line through each sector of the entertainment industry; drill down to the nub of my discourse – but, as promised, a look at the recent Sarah Silverman interview. In a candid and intriguing interview; Silverman was asked to give her views on the Weinstein accusations. The Guardian’s Sophie Heawood revealed more:

"The Harvey Weinstein scandal broke a fortnight before we met, and has been growing ever since, with daily news of further rapes and assaults across the industry. I point out that this has been a horrible two weeks for women in Hollywood. “No,” replies Silverman, still smiling. “It’s probably been the best two weeks for women in Hollywood ever. It’s a better two weeks than the silence of the past. I mean it’s finally exposing it. The enabled fucking monsters are gonna think twice now. And that’s what it’s all about,” she says. “Be scared,” she adds, addressing the exploiters. She asks me what today’s latest developments are, because, “It’s crazy, working on the show I can only catch up on the news at night so I end up sitting on the side of my bathtub, just scrolling.”

Rather than wholeheartedly scorn and attack Weinstein: Silverman suggested it was not so much a case of exonerating these men but understanding why they commit these acts in the first place. Weinstein is, as she says, a ‘monster’; but one who felt he could get away with assaulting females in his industry without ramifications. As Silverman revealed:


IN THIS PHOTO: Sarah Silverman/PHOTO CREDIT: Ramona Rosales/August

I’m not trying to have empathy for Harvey Weinstein, he’s clearly a monster, but monsters are made. Listen, we spent the past 60 years, especially Jews, trying to figure out the pathology of a Hitler. So to understand someone’s pathology is not a waste of time.” She has wanted to join in with #metoo, “but I didn’t want to pull away from it because so many maniacs from the far right jump on me when I say my stuff. It’s not that I need to be heard on this – I just would want to add my voice – but I wondered if maybe that would be unhelpful.”

Silverman, herself, had exposure – maybe that is the wrong choice of words! – to workplace sexism and inappropriateness…

The first penis she ever saw belonged to her boss when she was an 18-year-old waitress in her native New Hampshire. He called her into his office “and I was literally shaking, thinking I was in trouble, but he was just asking me benign questions – until I saw that he was fully jerking off in front of me. And I just said…” her voice fades to a whimper: ‘I have to clean the popcorn machine,’ and I left and I never told anyone. For years. But of course those guys know who to pick on. They don’t pick on me now.”


IN THIS PHOTO: Grimes (who has been the subject of sexism and unwanted sexual advances)/PHOTO CREDIT: Teen Vogue

The point of sourcing this interview – and a couple of photos – was not to make my journalism more credible and stronger by proximity: I wanted to bring in a very strong and brave voice; a guide for women who have experienced the same problems. Maybe Morrissey’s bell-ended approach to sexuality and morals are, unsurprisingly misinformed and inexperienced – not a man who has been in a position to refuse or pursue many women – but he has acid a face-full of dirt to the argument. I am either seeing men commit great (in the pejorative sense) acts of repugnance; sit dormant and feel obliged to report such transgressions – those affiliated with these perpetrators turn a blind eye and, in some occurrences, feel nothing wrong has happened. Music is not an industry that can wash its hands and get through airport security without a thorough cavity search. There are more tumours, crooked teeth and festering boils on the body of the industry than there is anywhere else – the film industry and music world would give a pretty close battle when it comes to sexism and who is the greatest (again: regarding pejoratives) offender. I would argue music is a far more pitiful climate regarding sexism and abuse – in the sense many women do not feel they would be listened to and believed; a lot of incidents are being silenced and smothered. I know, from music videos and photo-shoots, there is inappropriate touching (from men); producers caught out and putting their hands where they have no business; male music gig-goers inappropriate in theory conduct; male musicians taking things too far and assuming a smile or affectionate word gives them carte blanch to do as they please.


PHOTO CREDIT: Alberto Oritz/Flicker

It is not only sexual assault but sexism, that concerns me: I am seeing incidents of sexism occur in every corner of the industry. Every week, when I get a slew of interview requests, you can guarantee the majority of them concern male artists. I know full well there are as many female artists as men but they are not being provided attention and publicity. I get sick of the raft of male artists but cannot refuse – or I would not have any work to do! Not only are many (of the male examples) samey, dull and unengaging: I have to circumvent P.R. companies and approach THEIR female artists myself! The fact I actively have to search for female artists shows there is rampant sexism throughout the music industry. It is not the case the men are better or more popular – far from it – but it is seen as normal to put them first and provide less attention to their female clients/artists. How interlinked is this ignorance to the presumption (among men in the industry who commit acts of sexual abuse) to the feeling women are inferior and unworthy?! There is not a lot I can do – the fact I am being bombarded with requests for male artists annoys me now – but, whilst the entertainment sector is seeing a rise in sexual abuse allegations, music needs to be accountable and take things more seriously. We all know it is a hugely sexist industry but there is very little being done by those (men) in power. Those in prominent positions need to get off their arses and assuming the music industry will not suffer the same problems as those we have seen in film and T.V. – allegations and incidents will come to light; it is only a matter of time. If we have learnt anything from recent events – and taken to heart words by the likes of Sarah Silverman – then it is clear, now more than ever, that…



CHANGES need to be made!