Sexism and Misogyny in Music:
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
Time for Changes
THERE are two things I want to concentrate on tonight.
IN THIS PHOTO: Punk band, The Dickies
The first, as you will see, is quite weighty and serious: the second is a nod to the Bella Union label – which is twenty-years-old. I will come to that soon but, before then, something has reared its head. A music friend of mine – who works down in Brighton – has set up a Facebook group for promoters; essentially, ensuring bands who promote intimidation and fear are not given the oxygen of publicity and performance opportunities. This piece, and her group, to an extent, stemmed from an incident that occurred at a performance by the Punk band The Dickies. Frontman Leonard Graves Phillips, during the Warped Tour, directed a tirade against a young woman in the audience. There has been, in fact, an article published in LA Weekly that gives two sides to the debate. There are those in one camp – the older men who feel the ‘Punk Spirit’ is perfectly defined by such offensive and ill-judged verbal barrages – and those, quite rightly, who has taken umbrage at the attack. I believe the woman in the crowd was a friend of the band but, whether she agreed to be disparaged and belittled during that gig – does that send out a positive message?! Of course not! Even if Punk, which it doesn’t, depends on a certain amount of shock and disgust: where do we draw the lines and how far can we go?! I am all for music having some unpredictability and controversy. I am all for bands having a political motive and speaking out against corruptness and those who do not protect the needs of the masses. Artists might have a particular affection for environmentalism and conservation – that is impressive and commendable. So long as, playing devil’s advocate here, these subjects are not forced down the collective gullet – would one ever temporise and deter artists from having a voice?! I would say not. It is prudent musicians are not reserved to talking about music and being confined. So many artists are calculated, scared and confined to boxes – made to talk about their material and reluctant to have any ideas that might cause discussion.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ebru Yildi/IN THIS PHOTO: PWR BTTM
I am not saying every musician should say whatever they want but there need to be lines drawn and barriers opened – certain mouths need to be stapled shut, it seems! LA Weekly went on to offer some exposition and explanation:
“I consider myself a feminist (the piece was written by Lina Lecaro) and I think, in theory, that the idea of Safer Scenes is good and needed. But you can’t expect the people you oppose to take the higher ground if you don’t take it yourself. (We should all keep this in mind every time we insult Trump; we should focus on his shitty policies, not his bad hair, weight or orange-ness.) Safer Spaces is on the Warped Tour, with an info booth, to provide dialogue identifying, preventing and addressing sexual harassment and violence, racism and ableism at the festival. This should be done with positivity and some semblance of the respect they are fighting for”.
As a feminist; there would be easy temptation dangling from the tree in the Garden of Eden: attack Graves Phillips and his ‘publicity stunt’ and not provide any sort of balance. Lecaro went on to say:
“Actors don’t perform in blackface anymore. Rock stars don’t have sex with 13-year-old groupies anymore. Punks don’t wear Nazi regalia anymore. What’s acceptable culturally changes over time, and our entertainment reflects this. Those of us living through these transitions may find it more challenging to accept, but we need to try…At the heart of the present moment's transition is a simple truth, one that today's kids seem to grasp intuitively: If you’re not, for example, black, you will never really know what it’s like to be black, or know how certain trigger words feel when they’re uttered in your presence. Never. Same for women: If you don't have a vagina, you don’t know. (OK, dudes?) All that any of us can do is accept that we don’t really get it and respect others when they tell us this is so”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes
It is a fascinating piece and one that is delivered with maturity, candidness and consideration. As a man – and a lover of the rebels of Punk – there would be the temptation for me to say this is a one-off event and there should not be such a sensitive reaction and sense of outrage. The problem is this: it is not a one-off occurrence and it is getting worse. Artists/bands including Moose Blood, The King Blues and PWR BTTM have caused shockwaves - the sexual misconduct/allegations that were levied at, especially, members of Moose Blood and PWR BTTM, were truly shocking. I remember when PWR BTTM were accused of sexual assault - and found promoters and venues cancelling their shows through fears of uprising and protest. I know there are many who say Punk has always been associated with these kinds of issues – why make such a furore of it?! Back in the 1970s, bands like Sex Pistols would spout off and create a storm – often voicing their disapproval of the monarchy – and modern bands talk vociferously about the government and society. If it is ‘okay’ for them to show little discretion towards these issues then why should we be so protective and disgusted about sexism?! The sort of (crude) language and vulgarity Leonard Graves Phillips spewed during that set has reverberated through the music community and seen a lot of people speak out. It does not surprise me legendary bell-ends like Jesse Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal) offer his support to Graves Phillips. Consider the things he said about the Bataclan attacks – conspiracy theories regarding the security guards being involved – his views are not only predictable but completely insane. There are others, on social media, who have backed Graves Phillips and undermined the argument. They say people should get over it and, in the grand scheme of things; it is not such a big deal. If you heard this kind of thing on the street; would you shrug it off and forgive the culpable party?! You would, I hope, be offended and inculpate the offender – knowing they had done wrong and carried around tired and Neolithic attitudes. We are, I believe, in 2017 and know a lot better than previous generations. We cannot, without seeming idiotic, claim to be progressive and evolved when we allow, supposedly mature and intelligent adults, forum to promulgate such hideous ideals.
IN THIS PHOTO: U.S. journalist and D.J., Lina Lecaro
As a male journalist, I think it is important many more men express their disapproval and anger. It is great there is, for the most part, the right reaction to this event. We do not want children growing up thinking such things are commonplace and acceptable. Yes, there are a few isolated incidences but the fact there have been a few within a short space is worrying. If we had female artists saying sexist things you know the media would eat them alive – men would come out and take them to task. It seems the male writers and peers are not as loud and noticeable when it comes to tackling this issue. Maybe I am wrong but it would be nice to see more support from the boys. The Dwarves are another band who have opened their odious mouths and not engaged their peanut-sized brains. It is men creating the issue: my gender should do everything they can to eradicate such obstreperous and vile musicians. The music industry, as it should be, promotes love, togetherness and acceptance. Recent events like Grenfell – and the awful fire that engulfed the tower – have seen musicians come out in force and voice their opinions of the government – bringing love to the debate. The fact so many artists got together and did fundraisers; joined together and did all they could was very heartening. That is the positive and extraordinary side of music: when great people go the extra mile and try to make things better. The other side of the coin is tarnished and rusty: it is less severe and prevalent than the positive but leaves a very nasty aftertaste. I, like many, do not accept sexist and ‘male attitudes to women are not natural parts of a genre. Punk is all about free expression and an irascible spit. Going back to that LA Weekly article and a particular paragraph stood out:
“While nobody can define “punk" right now, we can probably all agree that it's a form of expression that came as a reaction to close-minded people imposing their views on others, right? If this is so, then the way it's delivered will have to change with the times, whether purists or old-schoolers like it or not. If that means my daughter feels more comfortable at a punk show when she's a teenager than I did, great. If it doesn't, I think she'll be OK, too”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Moose Blood, whose drummer, Glenn Harvey, was accused of sexual harassment
Maybe there is that generational argument: those who grew up where this kind of controversy was more common and more acceptable; those, now, who expect better standards from musicians and know it is not part-and-parcel of the modern age. Regardless of your age, upbringing and expectations; we cannot allow mealy-mouthed, black-souled sermons to be seen as ‘alright’ and impressive. Those who have stood in support of this sexism and offence are not people you’d expect to have a strong moral compass and be ambassadors of a purer society – making their idiotic opinions null and pathetic. It all comes down to how important music is and what legacy we want to leave for the generation. As I said; I think musicians shouldn’t be robotic soundbites who are puppets of the record label – speaking in clichés and making sure their answers as vanilla and safe as can be. We would be taking liberties – and denying basic human rights – were we to muzzle all artists. As a consequence of The Dickies’ controversy; they have had gigs pulled – included one scheduled in Leicester at The Musician. The promoters there felt the misogyny and crudeness displayed by The Dickies’ musician was unacceptable. That is the lesson for musicians: you think you have the right to descend to the level of the caveman and you will find yourself at the mercy of the Sabretooth Tiger – and get your head the f*ck bitten off! I’ll close this down now but wanted to bring to light a shade that is threatening to tarnish music’s good name. In the past, I have written extensively about sexism and how female artists are not given headline slots – fewer chances than the men and made to feel, by comparison, meagre and inferior. This hardly helps and leads me to think a major overhaul needs to happen. It is clear the kind of people perpetuating such sexist and old-fashioned ideals: the white middle-aged men. That is not true of ALL injustices but there is a clear pattern. Sure, certain Hip-Hop/Rap artists – among many other artists – have always been associated with a casual attitude to gender rights, sexism and decency.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
We cannot label a particular group and say it is the sole responsibility of the middle-aged man to correct their minds and come into the modern age. Sexism and misogyny extend across genres, nations and age ranges – it not confined to niche demographics and types of music. That might sound worrying on paper – like a plague spreading without abatement and cure – but it is not an unwinnable war. There needs to be education and outrage. If bands like The Dickies think it is acceptable to casually shoot off offensive insults and degrade a female gig-goer then their punishment, like gigs being pulled and widespread condemnation, should compel them to take stock and sober-up. I worry there will be those reluctant and rigidly hanging onto their beliefs: why should we change who we are and be tamed?! I have mentioned a few bands who have been accused of sexism but we cannot simply race to decry and band all of them – there needs to be constructive debates and decrees. Simply prohibiting all of them from touring would not be the right way to do things – not ever member of each band support their guilty member(s) and can be tarred with the same reputation. What we do need to do is, when certain artists create storms and problems, act swiftly and set examples. The harsher and, in fact, fairer the repercussions are, the less likely we are to see repeat offences. This should extend to racism and every type of similar offence. Sexism and misogyny are, essentially, a form of harassment. It is not acceptable for people to do this in society so why should we be more relaxed with musicians? I know it is hard determining boundaries (of) freedom of speech. If we reign-in bands like The Dickies, does that mean we are saying ALL musicians should be monitored? It is hard to police but it is clear the recent sexist/misogynistic happenings are completely unacceptable. Whether you are a Punk band of rebels or a stone-cold Hip-Hop stud: never should you demean a woman or think misogyny is ‘cool’ and necessary. It is 2017, guys, so, with that in mind, let’s, please…
PHOTO CREDIT: Shutterstock
GROW the hell up!