Rage Against the Meninists
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How Simple Unity and Agreement Can Lead to Big Changes
THE title of this piece…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
is, in addition to being a bit of lazy wordplay, reference to those, men for the most part, who call themselves ‘meninists’. That might sound like an ancient sect or religious cult but, in simple terms, it is those who propose greater rights for men and highlight the male movement: the male equivalent of feminism/gaining equal rights for women. It is a rather unsettling and petty movement that throws its toys out of the pram and rebels against feminism – many men see them (women) as po-faced, judgemental and keen to blame men for all issues. I will come back to that in a minute but my mind has remained settled on gender and sexual equality for some time now. I will allude to sexual assault and consent in music – men taking advantage of their power – and how the issue is not going away. I raised a point on social media that garnered interesting feedback: Is it strange or ‘too much’ for a man to raise awareness and show a feminism flame at a time where there are few men speaking out and writing about the issue in music?! There are plenty of sites (like this) that shows what sexism there is and how many men are out of step with progression and equality.
I understand men have a hard time in the world and go through the same stresses and doubts as women: body images and mental-health problems; struggles for recognition and woes. This article highlights the perspective of a self-appointed and anointed meninist:
“Consider mental illness, and how we deal with emotion. While women are encouraged to 'open up' and discuss issues with friends, men are told to 'man up,' and to hide their emotions. According to the mental health charity Mind, the consequence of this is that men 'are often discouraged from expressing 'softer' emotions' leading to 'barriers to good mental health'. Mind also suggests that the public are 'more prejudiced against men with mental health problems than women.' Considering the difficulties that gender stereotyping presents to men, the statistic that men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women no longer seems so surprising…All of these issues have a common cause; the idea of masculinity and how we have defined what being a man is. Just as feminists point to the limitations of an effeminate personality, we must highlight the injustices of the inflexible masculine mould that we are expected to fill. It is not about granting men the freedom to adopt an effeminate personality if they wish, it's about having the sense to realise that a gender can't have a personality. That to tie a gender to a personality trait is no less ridiculous than associating a personality trait to an ethnicity, sexual orientation or nationality”.
I agree, to an extent, there are a lot of issues men face and they shouldn’t be ignored. Creating a movement emphasising male rights laughs in the face of feminism and mocks what it is about. I raised these points because a lot of this attitude is still present in music. Before I move on and raise some points of my own; a few further words about meninism and how it is tainting the waters:
“That seems to be the message of Mike Buchanan, leader of political party Justice for Men and Boys, which has the alliterative and depressing goal of ‘fighting feminism’.
His main points appear to be that feminists are “hatchet-faced miserable women”; it’s not really a proper sexual offence to "pat someone’s bottom"; and he’s “not aware of a single area where women are disadvantaged relative to men.”
In other words, he’s a sexist idiot who’s too busy moaning inside his man cave to see the world for what it really is.
But somehow, Buchanan is not alone. His puerile nonsense is attracting supporters. Other men’s groups and movements are sprouting up, claiming they're being victimised by society”.
You need only look at products and advertising to see how sex and the sexualisation of women is creating problems and sending out bad messages. There is a clear divide between the way men are promoted and seen and how women are portrayed! In the music industry, there are two big concerns that affect me: the imbalance and surfeit of chances open for women; sexualisation and inappropriate behaviour that is being brushed off as ‘okay’ and ‘acceptable’. There are, believe it or not, deliberately provocative articles like this that make light of feminism and the #MeToo campaign. Andy Shaw, writing for Spectator Life, provides 'steps' in order to become a 'male feminist'.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
His useful 'steps' include tips on how to 'look at a woman':
"Feminists have discovered that sometimes men are sexually attracted to women. Men become aware of the physical attributes and characteristics of a particular woman and they are enticed. For example, a man may appreciate the elegant curve of a woman’s neck, the way she laughs or smiles, or a man may have noticed the outline of a woman’s breasts as she scanned his avocado at Waitrose. Historically, women have sometimes found the physical attributes of men attractive too.
However, it is important to understand that sexual attraction is demeaning and that lust is the modern sin of ‘objectification’. When you experience feelings of sexual desire, you are unconsciously negating the personality and achievements of the woman in question. In doing so, you belittle all women with a single glance.
To become a FeMan, you must recognise that women’s bodies are not objects and therefore that women are not, in fact, physically attractive to you. If you find a woman sexually attractive, ask her to put a paper bag over her head. She will become relaxed and appreciate your considerate approach."
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
One other gem that is shared - after talking about how to have sex with a woman and how to talk to them (in that order) - discusses how to 'understand working-class women':
"Help feminists to make women aware of their suffering. It has been discovered that the most oppressed women are arts advisers, media executives, actresses, newsreaders, Guardian journalists, bloggers, charity and NGO executives, as well as female Members of Parliament. Support the fight for senior female BBC executives to be paid higher wages. Empathise with Holly-wood actresses who suffer the indignity of ‘glamour’ from an insatiable media in exchange for mere wealth and fame. As you gain confidence, shame those women who take jobs as ‘hostesses’, or ‘darts girls’. Try tweeting #BadWoman every time you see a woman who is displaying signs of unconscious misogyny. ".
This is how some media outlets and writers view important campaigns and feminism: to mock and make light of something that is incredibly serious and looking for support (I would quote more of the piece but it makes me somewhat angry!).
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
The pay divides we have seen at the BBC has started conversations and sparked a lot of debate. Progress is coming but it is going to be an awfully long time before real pay equality comes about. I am hearing the same sort of stories come through in music. I hear stories of male and female bands playing gigs – in similar-sized venues – that get paid differently. Take into consideration experience and popularity and, even when that is factored and levelled, you get a disparity. I hear stories of female artists being paid less than male for no real rational reason. The pay divide might not be as severe as the BBC but look at the statistics. I will bring in a couple of articles in a bit but I want to return to a point I mooted early – whether it is strange for a male journalist to fight against sexism and see themselves as a massive feminist?! Everyone should be a feminist but there are nerves and hesitations (for men) to call themselves that and make that declaration. I can understand why they would not want to attend protests and be THAT involved – it makes little sense ignoring the problems we have and identifying with women. Music is a meritocracy and should be based on talent and ability. It is not a case of needing extra physical strength or qualities exclusive to men.
The only reason there are more male producers out there and more male artists at festivals is because of attitudes and problems that have not been addressed. I posed the question on social media and the general response was supportive (of feminism) but I wondered why mainstream male journalists spent so little time talking about women’s rights and asking why there is not equality in music. Maybe there is hesitation speaking up and being perceived as clueless or less educated on the subject – you do not need education and special knowledge to realise the facts and empathise. A lot of newspapers have remits and limits; they have their particular style and address certain things – it is harder being autonomous or rebelling against rigid strict editorial rulings. I will touch on this in the conclusion but, correcting my argument with the BBC pay gap/pay issues in music it seems, at labels at least, there are glaring problems:
“Across the board, the gender pay gap is significant, averaging 33.8 per cent overall, with 29.8 per cent at Universal, 22.7 per cent at Sony and 49 per cent at Warner.
With regards to bonuses female executives make 49.2 less at Universal, 45 per cent less at Sony and an extreme 82 per cent less at Warner.
Bonuses are about evenly distributed by gender at Universal and Sony, but there is 11 per cent less women get bonuses at Warner.
...In comparison to the BBC wage gap difference of 10.7 per cent that caused outrage last October, the difference in pay by gender at major UK labels is much more alarming.
But the gender pay gap at the labels remains smaller than international bank HSBC, which was determined to have a 59 per cent difference”.
On the subject of festivals; equality is a big problem and most of the biggest festivals here still put male artists first. There are a few that highlight female artists and put them first. From Coachella’s line-up this year to ESSENCE Fest and FORM – so great to see women put in headline slots and given big props. Although the article highlights a few festivals where women are top; only one of them (Essence Festival) gets it properly right and seems to redress the balance! The piece did highlight issues this year and artists striking out:
“This gap is even more striking in 2018. The highly-anticipated Wireless UK festival was recently slammed for their lineup consisting of three women: Cardi B, Mabel, and Lisa Mercedez. In the words of Halsey, "It's 2018, do better!" Why aren't women headlining these festivals? While we're still awaiting 2018 announcements from a few generally balanced shows (Made In America, Full Moon, etc), here are a few recently announced lineups aiming to decrease the gender parity gap”.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/@lilyallen
Maybe you see it as feminism or perhaps you argue the quality argument – male bands and solo artists get more love and popularity. The thing is…that isn’t true. I can name artists like St. Vincent and Beyoncé who one would expect to be top of the bill when Glastonbury start organising next year’s headliners. They could have two female headliners and not see the world end – I worry there will not even be one when we see the 2019 line-up. Madonna has been mooted but I fear Emily and Michael Eavis will wuss-out and go for an all-male line-up. Equality has been promised for 2022 but I wonder why quicker changes are not coming in. Female-only stages have been established at some festivals but, as this article suggests, that does not erode and reverse music-industry sexism:
“Rinse FM DJ Emerald, one of the stage’s two hosts, acknowledged that the move could be seen as papering over some rather significant cracks. “But what are we going to do?” she said. “Not have that stage there and have no women performing at the festival? I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
It’s not the only issue for festivals. Earlier this year, girl band Haim said that they had sacked their agent after finding out a male artist had been paid 10 times more than them for a similar slot. “It’s scary out there … it’s fucked up not even to be paid half the same amount. But to be paid a 10th of that amount of money? It was insane,” said guitarist and vocalist Alana Haim.
IN THIS PHOTO: Lily Allen/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Recent figures also indicate that about one in five attendees of festivals in the UK have been sexually assaulted or harassed. It’s clear that festivals, whether for performers or attendees, are not always welcoming places for women. Sexual assault and harassment is obviously a fraught and complex issue to tackle; ensuring that headlining acts are diverse should be much simpler”.
A lot of comments after the article argued we do not need ‘quotas’ and pandering. They argued it should be about quality and not (needlessly) having an equal split. The problem we have is not with a pointless quota and making concessions: the quality is out there and festival organisers are being lazy and not looking beyond what’s in the charts or the big bands out there. There was hostility and argument when Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran played Glastonbury; there have been eyebrows raised when Fall Out Boy and Kings of Leon were announced as headliners for Reading and Leeds – how is that placing ‘quality’ over gender equality?! If the bands/artists were sh*t-hot and great, you could cut some slack – we have rather worn and outdated bands headlining when the slot could go to female artists who are more potent, fresh and appealing. One comment from/under the article I just quoted did seem to drill down to the nub:
“Seems fairly simple to me...
Book a variety of acts, not simply going by whoever is popular, because many festivals goers actually like discovering new music. Find some relative unknowns who are unique and/or very talented and give them a decent shot. The crowd will appreciate it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Florence Welch (Florence + the Machine), who one would expect to be among the frontrunners regarding Glastonbury's 2019 headliners/PHOTO CREDIT: Elle Italia
Don’t make it a complete sausage fest, for the sake of variety as well as diversity. Female vocalists obviously sound different from male (unless you abuse formant shifting effects, or are the reincarnation of Prince). This is not a disadvantage.
Find appropriate slots for your acts across all stages and tents. There’s no need for a women’s stage”.
Don’t worry about quotas, just be sensible.
Don’t pay female acts peanuts, pay them for what they bring to the experience”.
It seems there a split in the public between keeping things as they are and affecting change. It is still too often the case women – artists and public figures speaking out – when men should be adding to the argument. Another article, by a female journalist, highlighted more facts:
“A 2015 study done by The Guardian shows that, when analysing 12 UK festivals, 86% of advertised performers are men, and female artists and female fronted bands only made up about 5 – 7% in general. Three years down the line and not much seems to have changed. The music world seems to flourish with female acts, and yet, this is not reflected by festival bookings.
Of course, I have heard the argument that “female artists just don’t attract as many fans” or that “female bands aren’t as good”. Yet, those opinions just do not seem to match up to the current climate of the musical landscape.
In a year where there is not a single white man nominated for a Grammy for Best Album, maybe it is time to accept that the male dominance and subsequently sexist values of the music industry do not and should not hold up in this day and age”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Olga FitzRoy/PHOTO CREDIT: Blake Ezra
I will end with my opinions and why more male journalists and men out there should show greater motion towards feminism – becoming more active and protesting against the glaring sexism and troubles in the industry. We have already seen how festivals are still hopelessly bowed towards men and how the pay divide is putting women below men. Before I move on to sexual assault; let’s have a look at studios and the issues that arise there:
“There’s also the issue of the working conditions in the music business, which normally involve long, unsociable hours—even more of problem when women become mothers and have to balance their family life with work. Fitzroy says this is something she was worried about before becoming a mum. “Being freelance, I have got a bit more control of the hours that I work than I did when I was employed as an assistant, and in a way it’s quite good because it forces me to be a bit more choosy about the work I take on. At the moment, I think the balance is working out OK, but the hours I work are so varied, and my son is constantly changing. I know I can’t be complacent about it. I think it will always be a challenge.”
(Olga) Fitzroy notes that the lack of female producers and engineers is something that can only harm the industry if it continues. “If 50% of the population don’t feel that they can even take an interest in this subject, then you must be missing out on some talent,” she says.
IN THIS PHOTO: Catherine Marks/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Award-winning producer Catherine Marks took drastic measures in an attempt to be taken seriously when she first started out, eliminating all traces of her femininity in the recording studio with a radical makeover. “I cut off all my hair because I didn’t want people to look at me in a certain way,” says Marks. “The fact that I thought I had to do that—that’s ridiculous. Or I’d wear really drab, boyish clothing. No one said that. I don’t know whether that made a difference, but it definitely made me more determined”.
You do not need to look too hard to know there is sexual abuse and assault happening in the music industry. Someone who commented on my Facebook post, Vanya (a U.S. musician), gave her experiences of being a woman in the music industry – and how she has faced issues; what we need to do to tackle problems:
“Dealing with the event happening
Dealing with calling out the other person for their bad behavior
Then having to either screenshot or document the conversation to prove that it happened.
PROVING to your colleagues that the event DID in fact - happen
Feeling shitty AGAIN when your colleagues don't believe you
Being disrespected a SECOND time when your colleagues blame you and say it was your fault.
Feeling invalidated and less than human when you're accused of not being honest, or BLAMED like "you need to change how you act in the future, you brought it on yourself"
Then FINALLY the redemption after showing your colleagues "No, this person was in the wrong, I was NOT asking for it, I did NOT do anything to deserve this behavior" and practically having to force people to accept that nobody should be treated how you got treated in a particular scenario.
That's like five layers of bullsh*t and a couple hours of time, frustration, and hurt - just to be acknowledged on BASIC HUMAN level”.
It is clear male musicians and those in power still see no problem flouting their positions and taking advantage. I have heard stories of female musicians approached and offered sex; others groped at festivals and some raped. Sometimes it can be as minor as hearing sexist language being chanted from the crowds – issues that never affect men in music. There are hidden tales – women afraid to come through – and casual sexism that infiltrates every seedy corner of the music industry. This article investigated stories of women who experienced sexual assault.
“The women who spoke to me described working in a boys’ club where deals are sealed over late-night drinks and at backstage parties. They told stories of powerful men who took advantage of their positions, and explained the risks inherent in speaking out against them. They detailed an industry beset by financial pressure and fierce competition, increasingly reliant on a freelance workforce vulnerable to gaps in labor protections. Music’s misconduct problem doesn't stem from any one of these factors alone—it's a perfect storm that clears a path for sexual abuse to continue unabated. Blocking that path will require reckoning with the very nature of music and the industry and cultures that surround it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
The music world continues to project expectations that women are valued primarily as objects, not human beings: Hit music videos still feature women as little more than sexual accoutrements for their male stars, and female artists’ appearances remain a disproportionate focus of critical essays and reviews. Behind the scenes, especially when it comes to the power brokers who actually control the industry, music is still overwhelmingly a boys’ club, too”.
The article is fascinating and goes into detail when exploring recollections of sexual assault and problems that are being covered up and ignored. From the offices of record labels to those assisting at music festivals; women in high-profile bands and those starting out and trying to get a break – harassment and assault occur and most of us are unaware of it. Maybe it is not as explicit as the days when groupies hung around the doors of mainstream icons – that is not to excuse the
“In the long term, combating sexual abuse and harassment in the music industry requires preventing it from happening in the first place. This means making a healthy, respectful working environment a business priority through stronger leadership, increased diversity, and greater accountability. Above all, it requires fostering workplace cultures that support the people, and not just the dollars, that define the American music industry”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Songwriter Chlöe Howl, who has spoken about her experiences of sexual assault and abuse in music/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
This BBC piece, promoting a Victoria Derbyshire programme concerning sexual abuse in the music industry, caused alarm and woke a lot of people up to the fetid and revolting sides of music that does not get a lot of media oxygen:
“Sexual abuse and harassment is "endemic" in the music industry, with "dangerous men" abusing their power, the Victoria Derbyshire programme has been told. Some victims are now speaking out for the first time.
"Amy" was 15 when she was groomed by her music manager from one of the UK's largest music companies.
"I'd been writing songs since I was very young, and somebody emailed me and said he wanted to help me and manage me," she explains”.
“Singer-songwriter Chloe Howl felt exploited by a number of men at the beginning of her career.
She was signed to a record label aged 16, and later nominated for a Brit Award.
"I did have somebody come on to me in pretty strong way," she explains. "He was a lot older than me and we were meant to be professionally working together.
"He would drop me off at my hotel, and then text me to say, 'Why didn't you invite me in?'
"I remember one night he grabbed my bum and said something along the lines of, 'I feel like we'd have really good times in the sack.'"
Yet despite this sexual harassment, she describes herself as being "one of the lucky ones".
"I know girls who've been raped, and it's always a man in power and a girl on the rise who needs as much support as possible, whose career hasn't started yet.
"I know that there are men who are getting away with it. They are given this untouchable power".
I can return to the earlier points and men who rebel against feminism and the rights of women. If you read everything you have just seen, truly ask yourself: Do you still think feminism is a bad thing and should be seen as too extreme?! I feel many male artists and journalists are not aware regarding the extent of sexism and abuse that happens in the industry. The piece I have just quoted spoke with women who claimed there are hardly any women (in music) who have not been subjected to sexual assault and abused. It is shocking to see, from the core of the industry to the very marrow that sustains it; there is hardly any balance and equality. I cannot think of any sector or corner of the industry where there are fair rights and proper conversation being promoted by men. The last article I will bring in looks at female D.J.s storming the industry and how one D.J., Hannah Wants, experienced horrific discrimination:
“While Wants didn’t suffer any kind of discrimination coming through the ranks – and in fact found a supportive environment when first playing the local scene – it has been since she surpassed some of the men still playing those local venues that she has seen something of a backlash. Last year, a post claiming one of her tracks was similar to another went viral. Although there was no evidence of plagiarism, the resulting online abuse for Wants was one of the hardest moments of her career: “People were saying ‘kill yourself’. It was just horrific.”
IN THIS PHOTO: Hannah Wants/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
“…Furthermore, incidents of plagiarism by men at the same moment received minimal attention, prompting online music magazine Resident Advisor to write a comment piece on the issue. While previously she preferred not to talk about her gender, she now sees that discrimination is still a problem: “A lot of the people discriminating against me were men in the same place as they were 10 years ago and they hate the fact that I’m successful now. But no, it doesn’t stop me or lessen my drive. It makes me more driven and a big ‘f*** you’ to them”.
A lot of my concerns do not revolve around gender inequality and sexism: they concern basic human rights and liberty! I worry not enough men in the media are highlighting the issues I have – all of the arguments raising issues of sexism and abuse have been from women! It is not good enough to assume things are festivals are okay and we are sacrificing quality by having an equal split…we can see the mass of female talent and how many past-it and average men are being headlined instead of women. You may argue there is equality on radio and there is little cause for alarm concerning claims of sexual assault – that is not true and I have shown that! I pose that question once more: How can the so-called ‘meninists’ object to women wanting a fair voice in music considering how hard they have to fight and the opposing voices?!
PHOTO CREDIT: Pexels
Great D.J.s like Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs are speaking out for women and highlighting great female talent. Listen to any of the mainstream radio stations, especially the BBC, and you will find more men than women - I often wonder why there is such an imbalance when there are so many brilliant female D.J.s out there. This article looked at the history of radio and how vocal intonation and accent have played a part - women expected to sound a certain way:
"As with so many of the professions, the war was a breakthrough for women, enabling them to fill posts in radio vacated by men who'd been called up, their timbre reminding male listeners of home. But although it's no longer surprising to hear female voices, from Annie Nightingale to Jane Garvey, on air, the old rationale for their marginalisation proved remarkably resilient. As recently as 1999, the head of news and speech of a commercial radio station in Manchester described a potential recruit to Janet Haworth, a lecturer in broadcasting, as "a great reporter, a very good journalist, but I couldn't put her on air with that voice. She sounds like a fishwife or a washerwoman" (in Women and Radio, edited by Caroline Mitchell). The "acceptable" female radio voice of today – that of, say, Charlotte Green and Harriet Cass – occupies such a narrow pitch range that it's protected from any such charge. That only one in five of the Today programme's guests and reporters are female is eloquent testimony not only to editors' belief that female experts aren't available (thewomensroom.org.uk found 40 in 48 hours last November after Today failed to find one) but also that a woman needs to be exceptionally prominent to earn the right to speak. And young: a report by Skillset for Sound Women, a support group set up in 2011 for women working in audio, found that only 9% of women working in radio are aged 50 and over, compared with over 19% of men".
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
We are being told balance will happen in years to come but I feel the wall needs to be smashed and rebuilt now – rather than the odd brick removed here and there! I am always flabbergasted we are not seeing the best female artists promoted and festivals do more to redress the balance. I do not buy male journalists have to write what they are told and cannot pitch features that look at sexism. Looking at the comments that associate articles and reports of sexism show what ignorance there is. Men do not feel like they are culpable and, by insisting on equality, we are damaging the brilliance of music and making it weaker. These age-old mentalities threaten to hold back progress, delay the rise of some wonderful artists – women who are sexually assaulted often are close to suicide through fear they cannot report the abuse and (feel they) will not be believed. I am always proud to write articles like this and hope more men follow suit and add their opinions to the mix – we all need to see real change and progression. Women in music and society are doing fantastic work and helping improve the industry as we know it. Things will only really move quickly and get to where they need to be if men in a position of power get over their egos; take a real and bold risk and…
IN THIS PHOTO: St. Vincent, another name being suggested as a possible Glastonbury headliner next year/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Da Carte
DO what is required!