You’d Better Think:
IN THIS PHOTO: Alexandra Burke/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Why 2018 Needs to See a Massive Change in Attitudes
THIS piece relates to music…
PHOTO CREDIT: Billy & Hells (for TIME)
in the sense there are problems and imbedded ills that need remedying and eradicating. I will go on to look at why this year’s selection for TIME’s ‘Person’ of the Year was a popular choice – and why its runner-up shows that decision was almost undercut by a ridiculous decision. I am appalled there have been so many cases of sexual abuse and sexism this year – music has not escaped from the worst. Although there are not the same high-profile stars being outed and caught short – Dustin Hoffman continues to get allegations against his name; Kevin Spacey seems to be in the news a lot – there are some icky and horrible events that have left a sour taste. I feel social media is a useful tool for promoting music and events but can be equally useful when it comes to rallying support and confronting those who commit wrongs. Of course; there is the reverse issue: people having free speech and being able to say exactly what they want without criminalisation and punishment. I will look at a recent case of racism that blighted the music industry but another revolved around presenter Reggie Yates. I do not want to get so heavy-handed before Christmas but there are continuous issues that need to be addressed and extinguished. Yates made, what I believe to be, offhanded and ‘innocent’ remark that saw him step down as presenter of this Christmas’ Top of the Pops special. The details are as follows:
“The presenter and documentary maker said it was "great" to see how grime artists were no longer being managed by "some random fat Jewish guy from north-west London".
Yates was accused of anti-Semitism on social media and later made a statement addressing the comments.
"On a recent podcast, during a discussion about grime artists, I made some ill-considered remarks which have hurt many people. I can see clearly that the words I used reinforced offensive stereotypes, and there is no context that would justify such remarks.
"My comments are no reflection on how I truly feel, and I would like to apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community, people in the music industry and anyone else I have offended”.
There are some who can say, given the setting, Yates would want to project an image of cool and rebellion – it is only natural a Grime podcast would bring out a little mischief and loose tongues. The thing is; the Grime community do not behave in that manner and Yates was not put under any pressure to make that remark. It seems rather flippant and jokey but, given the fact it was broadcast to a large audience, there was no excuse to make such a foolish comment. He would, I hope, not consider making such a remark on BBC Breakfast, for instance. Clara Amfo has replaced Yates and it will be good to see her given the opportunity present a fantastic show.
IN THIS PHOTO: Reggie Yates/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Yates’ departure calls into questions whether there should be stricter penalties for artists/celebrities who create infractions and controversy. This is a topic I have brought up a lot recently: the fact we are seeing so many cases in the news means the subject is not going away! Yates did the right thing and stepped aside: I wonder whether, in the wake of the incident, there need to be stronger messages sent out. Although Yates’ remarks were not a shot against the Jewish community; it was a rather ill-advised thing to say. Amfo would not be caught making such a remark but I wonder, given his good name, Yates felt the remark would be taken seriously and it was not a big deal. It is, in the grand scheme of things, not the worst thing we have heard this year but it is sad to say a prolific and respectful figure like Reggie Yates fall victim to a problem that is becoming more common. One hardly goes to the Mail Online for its wisdom, intelligence and depth but, yesterday, an article surfaced that caught my eye. The piece looked at the possibility the voters of Strictly Come Dancing (the public) have a racial bias against black artists:
“Despite either consistently topping the leader board or scoring highly, Strictly Come Dancing contestant Alexandra Burke has found herself languishing in the bottom two for the last two weeks.
PHOTO CREDIT: Press Association
The former X Factor star has also faced a backlash from viewers, who have branded her 'fake' for becoming emotional after some of her performances.
Now an academic has told FEMAIL that the real reason Alexandra Burke has become so hated on the BBC dancing show is simply down to the colour of her skin.
Professor Shirley Tate, from Leeds Beckett University, said that race is a 'massive factor' in her unpopularity in the ballroom dancing contest - which she argues is still perceived as a 'white' performance art.
While Alexandra, 29, won The X Factor in 2008, the race expert said that this was a 'different arena' to Strictly - with the former champion fitting the 'stereotype' that as a black woman she should 'be a good singer’”.
It does seem strange that, for someone who is scoring huge respect, the public should vote against her. If one looks at proficiency and talent; Burke deserves to be in the top-three final positions – many feel she can go on and win it. There are some who claim her emotional displays are contrived and designed to accrue votes but Burke is a sensitive human who has encountered some tough times. Maybe the design of The X Factor – where the histrionics of sob stories are seen as natural and part of the entertainment – is not quite the same as Strictly Come Dancing.
PHOTO CREDIT: HANDOUT
Trolls took to social media to voice their opinions against Alexandra Burke and her low finishing. She has been in the bottom-two the past couple of weeks and, rather than praise her and provide support, many have been providing comments that have hate, racism and sexism in them. Whereas figures such as Reggie Yates have been caught up in controversial/racist storms: Alexandra Burke is someone who has had to defend racism and cope with a wave of abuse and trolling. One can claim there is a talent-only policy whereby the strongest dancers are rewarded; the weakest ones are put to the public vote. The judges are responsible for the drama and have not helped the cause a lot. I will end this piece by looking at sexism – as I started out – but do we need to address issues of race more fervently?! An institution like Strictly Come Dancing is at the forefront of the national attention and has had black celebrities on the show. Although Alexandra Burke has been put in the bottom-two two weeks on the trot; she has had to deal with the death of her mother and outside commitments. The subject of race and parity extends beyond music but this is an occurrence that is affecting a musician. Not only do we all need to think about the way we address race – and why shows like Strictly are seen as more favourable towards white dancers – but consider social media and how damaging negative comments can be.
IN THIS PHOTO: Caroline Polachek/PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Newton
You can say what you want about Burke and any reports of diva-like behaviour and over-emoting. That has nothing to do with her talent – I do not believe any of the allegations – and there is no rational reason why she was demoted to the dance-off places when she has put in such a solid and consistently impressive display through the course. Fellow dancers like Gemma Atkinson have not had to face the same scrutiny and judgement – despite the fact many see her as a weaker option. Greater jurisprudence and dignity needs to be shown by those who take to social media; questions need to be raised regarding race and how big a problem it is at the moment. I am continuing to see racist attitudes and behaviour extend into the fabric of music. There are fewer opportunities for black and minority artists; genres like Hip-Hop, which is only now starting to get proper award recognition, is a largely black genre – and has had to struggle for recognition and respect. Not only is racism and insensitivity a problem that needs greater tackling in 2018: sexism and gender division is another aspect that we need to put under the microscope. Musician Caroline Polachek, when put on an all-female billing (without consent) for Moogfest; took to Twitter and expressed her anger. She explained how she doesn’t need a pedestal and it seems like a rather patronising and insincere move – she wants to be in with the boys and get billing based on her talent and ability.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It brings into questions about gender and how sexism is growing. It is common in acting – female stars paid less than men; fewer females nominated at award shows – but it is happening a lot in music. The lack of female names troubling the headline spots at the big festivals calls into question the sanctity and balance of music. Are we restricting female artists for good reasons?! It is obvious the best female artists are as strong as the men; they have commercial appeal and are capable of shouldering the responsibilities of a festival spot. We have seen artists like Lorde take to Glastonbury this year – she is someone who could headline in a couple of years. I have written extensively about sexism in music (so shall not go down the same path again) but there are –isms that we need to erode and highlight. There are artists/figures making racist remarks; stars being confronted by racist attitudes and excluded due to the colour of their skin. There are female artists who are receiving less because of their gender; festivals and events that are putting men at the top of the bill; discrimination and sexualisation – objectified and cheapened rather than allowed to have their say and been afforded equality. We have known about these problems for decades but I wonder whether, in a year where people like Donald Trump are making the world a much darker place, 2018 needs to be a year where more love, tolerance and equality comes through.
IN THIS PHOTO: Ashley Judd/PHOTO CREDIT: Billy & Hells (for TIME)
You cannot banish all the evil and crap you get on social media but tougher restrictions need to be put in so those who create hate and perpetuate negativity should be banned or punished in harsher tones. That goes for celebrities who, foolishly or otherwise, let their mouth overtake their brain. We are in a time where there is a chance a second Cold War could unfold; where the communist regime of North Korea is going toe-to-toe with the U.S. We could see ourselves being led into the abyss and, with no way to stop the mad and deranged posturing of leaders in both nations; it is a rather scary time. I wonder why we are in a time where shows, people and industries seem to think racism and sexism are okay; where people are shown little respect and have to struggle because of their gender and skin colour. We are allowing trolls to have too much of a say and allowing an industry as fine as music to be tarnished. I have read recent news stories that focused on sexism. One looked at a bar that said it does not have female-led bands because women are not good Rock singers – I cannot remember the name of the place. Women are being seen as weak and less; the black population judged and seen as inferior – how do we allow this to continue and spread?! It is not just music that is afflicted: so many other sides of the entertainment world are culpable and need monitoring.
IN THIS PHOTO: Adama Iwu/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I said I’d leave you with TIME and the reason they provided a brave group of women with their top honour. Included in that are figures like Selma Blair, Taylor Swift; Megyn Kelly, Adama Iwu; Amanda Schmitt, Rose McGowan; Alyssa Milano and Ashley Judd. These figures provided their story to TIME and opened up. They have each encountered discrimination, abuse and fear at the hands of their male counterparts. The Silence-Breakers included academics, bloggers and actors; there are men included in the group and it is a collective that has shamed those guilty and broken taboos. They have been held back through fear of reprisal and further abuse but have spoken out to ensure more women (and men) do not face what they have been through. It has been a long road but there are changes coming into the acting profession. The issue of sexism and abuse extends right throughout the world so the more we converse and expose those culpable, the faster the problem will be beaten. There has been enough idiocy and discrimination in music this year: looking at The Silence-Breakers should set an example of how we need to tackle subjects like sexism and racism. I know 2017 has been a hard year for us all but I hope, with their example ringing in the ears…
IN THIS PHOTO: Demi Lovato (who called out TIME for including Donald Trump sd their runner-up for Person of the Year; praised the decision to award the honour to The Silence-Breakers)/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Refinery29
2018 produces a much more balanced and loving world!