A Lone Voice?
IN THIS PHOTO: The 1975’s Matty Healy photographed by Louise Haywood-Schiefer in 2016 for The Big Issue
Why Are Men in Music Not Following The 1975’s Matty Healy in Speaking Out Against Gender Inequality and Misogyny?
IT is hard to believe that we are in 2019...
and the conversation regarding women in music has not shifted much. This year’s BRIT Awards was not really as controversial as past events. Where were all the drunken antics and cool speeches? Instead, probably artists fearing their popularity and status, they are a lot safer and more mannered when it comes to their acceptance speeches. I was hoping for something a bit intense and memorable but, alas, that was not to be! There were some good live performances and unexpected winners – who the hell is Tom Walker?! – but the speeches were pretty boring. That all changed when The 1975’s Matty Healy took to the stage. The band won awards on the night but you feel it was more important for Healy to have his say and deliver something important. Rolling Stone reported what occurred:
“The 1975 scored two 2019 Brit Awards, British Group and the highest honor of Album of the Year for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, on Wednesday. Singer Matty Healy said they were “humbled” when winning the latter, but it was during their acceptance speech for British Group where he addressed a current music hot topic in the wake of the Ryan Adams sexual misconduct allegations.
After giving thanks for the award, he quoted The Guardian‘s Laura Snapes, who wrote a riveting essay that addressed pervasive misogyny in the music industry. “I just want you to listen to me for one sec. Just a couple of sentences that a friend of ours, Laura Snapes said this, and I thought that we should all really, really think about it,” Healy said before quoting Snapes as she described her written response after a misogynistic remark was made about her by Mark Kozelek. “She said that in music, male misogynists acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of difficult artists. Whilst women and those that call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Matty Healy captured by GQ in 2015/PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Martin
On Friday, Laura Snapes of The Guardian published an article that was a transcript of her, Matt Healy; D.J. Matt Wilkinson and Christine and the Queens talking about misogyny and sexism in the industry. It is well worth reading the whole article but, in the discussion, Healy was asked about the speech and why he took to the BRITs stage to say what he said:
“Matty Healy: [Wednesday] morning I’d read it. It was such an amazing piece. So then, I suppose I was like, what do I say? I’m not doing anything like that to be a woke king, or to earn brownie points, it’s just that it was the best thing that I’d read. It didn’t read to me as an opinion, it read to me as a truth. It was all I was thinking about that day, so I just thought that everybody else should think about it. Laura had said it better than I think I ever could, and I think it’s important that we hear a woman’s voice over a man’s voice. It felt like the right thing to do. So thank you so much for the words”.
It is clear Snapes’ original essay/article made an impression on Matty Healy and one hopes the conversation continues. It is interesting the discussion happened and allowed Laura Snapes and Matty Healy to be in the same room since the BRIT Awards. There was a lot of interesting points raised and Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier discussed her experiences and how there needs to be changes.
IN THIS PHOTO: Journalist Laura Snapes has shared her experiences of misogyny and wrote an article about it in 2015 that inspired Matty Healy to speak out at this year’s BRIT Awards/PHOTO CREDIT: Eye Magazine
Look at what has happened over the past few weeks and we can see there is a problem. In regards how women are treated by big stars, we have seen R. Kelly charged with various sexual assaults; Michael Jackson has been tarred in a new documentary, Leaving Neverland, and Ryan Adams has been accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct by several women. The music industry has always had a problem with men and how they see themselves. It is a decades-old issue that has not really improved a great deal. Gone are the days of big Rock artists having groupies and showing incredible disrespect to women. Maybe the culture has shifted since the 1960s and 1970s but there is still something rotten in the marrow of music. The recent allegations and high-profile incidences of male artists being accused and seen in a different light should give everyone pause for thought. Laura Snapes has said that, whilst there are small improvements coming through – festivals pledging a gender-balance by 2022 – there is still a hell of a long way to go. There is no guarantee festivals will book more women to headline and one need only look in studios and boardrooms and the gender balance has not really changed. Most of the big bosses in music are men and this means decisions regarding gender equality are not really being made. I do wonder, in terms of inequality, there has been a shift. Maybe certain corners have become more equal but, in the larger sense, I think there is a huge gap.
PHOTO CREDIT: @melanie_sophie/Unsplash
Not only is there huge gender inequality still but one needs to look at how female artists are viewed and why male artists are allowed to slide. I think one of Laura Snapes’ points was that men in power can go off the rails and act however they want and women are seen as divas. It seems there is this acceptance of men being crudely and arrogantly and being seen as gods and icons. Women who have worked tirelessly and created countless brilliant moments are not being given the same respect and seen as special. Think about all the fantastic female artists through time and how they are paired against the male icons. Do we hear anyone talk as passionately about Joni Mitchell as we do, say, someone like Liam Gallagher?! That was a random comparison but the former is one of the greatest songwriters ever and does not get the same sort of praise as Gallagher – someone who has caused controversy and been excused a lot during his career. There are endless examples of great female artists seen as minor and meagre and the men boosted, idolised and seen as legends. It takes me back to the root of the Matty Healy speech and this piece: the 2015 article from Laura Snapes where she shared a shocking experience:
“You think you’re the only person who wants to get a face-to-face interview with me? Get in line. I’m the best person you never met and one day, if you ever meet me, you’ll probably want to have my baby.”
IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Kozelek/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
That’s Mark Kozelek, via email, which is the way he chooses to conduct his interviews (“So I don’t get quoted with words like ‘dunno’,” he told Uncut last year, explaining his refusal to meet interviewers in person). He was – via his PR – replying to my questions about Universal Themes, his new album under the name Sun Kil Moon. Three weeks ago, I had tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting for this piece. As expected, the answer was a polite no: “He’s too scattered and distracted on tour to conduct an in-person interview and he will have to pass, but he said to tell you thank you for asking.”
Last Monday (1 June), Sun Kil Moon played at the Barbican in London. During the encore, Kozelek introduced a snippet of a new song he had apparently been writing. I wasn’t there, but a friend/colleague was, and phoned me after the gig. I’ve since heard the audio and it made me feel sick. “There’s this girl named Laura Snapes, she’s a journalist. She’s out to do a story on me, has been contacting a lot of people that know me,” he told the sold-out, 1,900-capacity room. Then he started repeating the line: “Laura Snapes totally wants to fuck me / get in line, bitch … Laura Snapes totally wants to have my babies.” The audience clapped and cheered. He played another song, then said he’d only been kidding around before: I was “cute”, “sweet”, “a good kid”. “She’s written some nice things about me.” Then he sang it a few more times before chiding himself. “Better stop before I make Pitchfork headlines for myself again”.
You can do your own research around misogyny in the music industry and there will be a lot of case studies, interviews and examples of women being abused, discriminated against or treated the same way as Laura Snapes was. It is hard to say just how deep the problem goes and how many women have not yet shared their experiences. The reason Matty Healy was commended was the fact very few men in the music industry are speaking out and raising awareness. Men should not be patted on the backs and congratulated for highlighting what is happening: their motives should be pure and honest: to ensure there is a conversation and a change occurs. Some might say it has taken a long time for anyone to come to the stage and make a big step but the fact that it has happened makes me wonder whether this will be the end. The more cases of misogyny and discrimination we see in the industry, the more it makes me wonder whether women are fighting on their own. Maybe male artists and figures feel they need to have experienced misogyny to understand what is happening and make a genuine case. One does not need to have gone through anything awful to know how bad things are in music and we do need to take some action. Snapes penned her story but she knows there is something rotten happening in music.
PHOTO CREDIT: @ricardomancia_/Unsplash
It would be disingenuous if artists spoke out because they had seen the lead of The 1975 call out men and ask for change. It would be good to hear more voices emerging but it needs to happen for the right reasons. It is all well and good wanting to support Healy and the women who have had to face such horror from men in music but there needs to be a very real and substantial improvement. I wonder why other men at the BRIT Awards did not make reference to what has been happening lately regarding artists such as R. Kelly and Ryan Adams; the general sense of unease and the fact women are not as respect and regarded as men. The fact was that this year’s BRITs was a case of minor evolution with no real improvement. There were women nominated (and winning) but the majority share still went to the men. If I were an artist on the night, I would have been on the stage and would have called for togetherness and a dialogue to open up. The fact is men are not coming together and speaking about misogyny and sexism in music. Those guilty of overlooking women and, in a sense, asking them to calm down and stay quiet are not talking and being addressed. The lack of male artists speaking about misogyny in music makes me worried a bit. There is not no opportunities arrive and it is very hard to say anything.
PHOTO CREDIT: @bobby_hendry/Unsplash
There are award ceremonies and interviews; there are songs and multiple avenues where men in music can have their voice heard. I understand there is a slight fear of a record label or fans not getting behind them but that would be ridiculous. If a male artist was to attack a female artist and slag them off in the press then that would be a different matter. It is commendable to spotlight what is going on and how we keep seeing examples of women in music having to suffer. Women who call out misogynists are seen as hysterical and over-reacting but men, when accused, defend themselves as difficult and troubled artists. There is no excuse to ignore women and write them off; there is no reason to defend men and give them an excuse. I think there is this fear (from men) that they do not need to speak out because they are not being attacked and subjected to misogyny. It might be the same as addressing and tackling sexism: men are not subjected to it so why bother speaking out?! There is a lot of apathy and ignorance and Healy’s BRITs speech has, I hope, opened a door and inspired other artists to do something. I am not holding my breath but I would like to see a lot more men taking responsibility and challenging their peers who make the news for the wrong reason.
PHOTO CREDIT: @jorgeflores/Unsplash
I am glad Matty Healy took a rare opportunity to broadcast words of inspiration to a big audience – inspired and motivated by the article from Laura Snapes. The longer things go on, the more we are seeing male musicians accused of sexual assault and inappropriateness. They are often defended and their behaviour seen as part of being a complex artist. A lot of the women who accuse them are either not believed or discredited. Women in music are helping to change things but there needs to be a lot more involvement from men. The misogyny I am talking about is confined to a small number of musicians and people in the industry but that does not mean only women should do something about it. There is a long way to go before misogyny is eliminated and there is gender equality. If articles from Laura Snapes, speeches from Matty Healy and cases of popular male artists being shames are not enough for people to be worried and want to do something about things then I am not sure what will! Even is a male musician is not guilty of being a misogynist then that does not mean they should remain silent and passive. This problem is a burden we all have and, the more voices that come together and the louder we shout, the quicker we will see genuine change. At the end of the day, my biggest hope is that, when male artists have a chance to make a speech or are given time to say something, they use the opportunity to say...
IMAGE CREDIT: Independent Women's Forum