It’s been six months since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, lifting the lid on sexism, bullying and exploitation in the film world. Why hasn’t the music industry faced a similar mea culpa?
The music industry prides itself on being at the cutting edge of cultural revolution; gospel, jazz, folk and rock all have their roots in rebellion, and served as powerful agents for change.
But the industry’s relative silence in the face the #MeToo movement shows its attachment to old-fashioned misogyny.
Countless actors and actresses have shared their stories of abuse and discrimination, pointing the finger at some of the biggest names in the movie business, but nothing remotely similar has happened in the music industry.
Yes Kesha was granted the opportunity to take centre stage at this year’s Grammys, and a few brave souls have opened up about the sexism they’ve experienced but, as journalist Eve Barlow wrote in a piece for The Pool, the music industry – for all its claims to be at the vanguard of social change – is rife with sexism, and it’s not doing a lot to change that.
Barlow writes: “It’s ironic that the music industry, with its volume and its openness and its total annihilation of authority, is deafeningly silent, and Hollywood, with its protections and professionalism and closed doors, is growing louder. Ironic, but not a shock.”
It’s understandable why victims are afraid to go public – they work in a notoriously competitive industry and fear jeopardising their livelihoods.
It’s up to the music industry to empower victims of sexual discrimination or abuse to speak out and to ask itself a few hard questions about how some, and let’s be clear no all, operate.
The Musicians’ Union is offering support and guidance to those who face sexual harassment, discrimination or abuse at work. It has also set up an email account – firstname.lastname@example.org – to provide a safe space for all musicians to share instances of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual abuse that have occurred in the music industry. (All emails are treated in the strictest confidence).
The MU’s efforts should be applauded, but a big question remains: Real change is afoot in how society views and handles sexual harassment and abuse, but how can the music industry chronicle this if it can’t get its own house in order?