This week, The Industry Observer unveiled an open letter signed by over 360 women calling out sexual harassment within the Australian music industry. Under the hashtag of meNOmore, the letter was quick to gain momentum online, as you’d expect. Artists, managers, journalists, radio hosts, lawyers, label employees, publicists and more signed the petition (myself included), while some stories of abuse and harassment were shared alongside.
“My head has been pushed towards a colleague’s crotch and held there despite me saying no,” reads one.
“Working backstage for a huge international act, their tour manager looked me in the eyes and as he told the room there were only two types of women: bitches and sluts,” reads another.
For the most part, the response to the #meNOmore letter has been positive, with other members of the industry and wider music community also stepping forward in offering their words of support now, and moving forward.
But with the constructive and progressive, also comes the ignorant and the negative. It is a shame that ‘Don’t read the comments’ has become a sound byte of a remark these days, but here we are. A conversation is attempting to be started to eventually break out into the Australian community (including the punters, not just industry folk), so naturally, I headed over to triple j’s social media channels, as they unequivocally hold a monopoly over Australian music and their consumers in the younger age demographics.
And, as you’d expect, the vitriol and disgust is more than evident.
They have ranged from the charming (“#youreallfuckheads #climatechange“), to the simply uneducated (“So triple j now pushes the feminazi agenda?”), while others proclaimed the station for pushing a ‘leftist agenda’ – you can check them out for yourself here if you want to check it out.
One glaring point that came across after a simple skim of the comments, is a thought that the abuse of men was being omitted from this cause.
Nobody is saying that men aren’t the subjects of abuse. Nor is the point of #meNOmore to discount the efforts of the men in the music industry who remain strong allies and champions of their female colleagues in a business that still, in so many areas, is run with such a boys’ club mentality.
As it stipulates, #meNOmore is all-inclusive. Whilst its origin has been launched by women, it has been created with the aim of creating an environment for everyone who has been at the receiving end of discrimination, harassment and abuse.
“#meNOmore is an all-inclusive movement — particularly encouraging participation of Indigenous, POC and LGBTQIA+ musical communities who have experienced intersections of sexual discrimination, harassment and violence. We also support cisgender men who have been victims of sexual harassment.
Whilst this letter has been initiated by women in the industry, please know we will work hard to create a support network which is available to everyone. We encourage you to sign this letter, get in touch with us, share your stories and your feedback and be part of the conversation. We’re listening.”
What the open letter is demonstrating though, is how prevalent this behaviour towards women has been over decades and has largely been accepted as a norm. A norm of the rough and tumble facets of the music business. In other cases, sadly, blatant acts of misogyny, discrimination and harassment has been played out in public, but the cheek has simply been turned, whether out of a want to not be involved, endanger one’s own career or to be associated.
I count myself lucky that I haven’t been the victim of sexual assault in the workplace, like I know so many of my colleagues have been. What do we count as ‘lucky’, though?
Should I count myself lucky that I’ve only been mistaken for a groupie by a manager of a big-profile touring act, to the point where I was being ushered to the door where a maxi cab of young girls was waiting being driven to said band’s hotel suite for, as I remember, “Some cocaine to take the edge off what’s to come”?
Or should I count myself lucky that I’ve been disregarded and called ‘a door bitch’ by a label rep as I was awaiting his arrival to an AU-branded event, to welcome him in? As Editor-in-Chief?
Or even, at an industry event where drunkenly, I was asked what sexual favours would need to be traded with me in order for certain bands to be shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize, of which I am a judge.
Sure, I’m lucky.
While there is no doubt that there are men in our industry who have been victimised as well, thanks to this hushed up culture surrounding abuse that we have seen the broader international entertainment industry build some of its giants upon, I would safely bet that men in this industry do not have to work as hard to justify their worth or position of power as women have done, and continue to do.
We don’t get our jobs because of who we’ve slept with. We don’t ascend the professional ladder because of who we’re willing to sleep with or stay out ’til 3am doing drugs with to prove we can roll with the guys.
We hold these positions because we are damn good at what we do, just as many of our male colleagues are.
The patronising needs to stop.
The assumptions need to stop.
The dialogue needs to change.
This is what, I view, #meNOmore is trying to do. Not only putting it out there publicly, that a large community of the affected is now speaking out and saying no, but also alerting those who have been dealing with their own experiences privately, to a community of listeners and supporters.
What I have been lucky in sustaining now, is a strong professional network of women and men who have been nothing but supportive of creatives just doing good shit for the best reasons possible. It’s incredibly easy to be pushed into corners and to be told that nobody will believe you or that your opinion is not worth voicing but with initiatives like #meNOmore stirring up the positive emotional response it has done – in the face of expected nastiness – it does make me feel hopeful that more people will feel comfortable in coming forward in sharing and helping to enact change.
To find out more about the open letter and to add your name to it, head here.
If you or someone you know needs help with sexual assault, domestic violence or abuse, there’s always someone you can chat to on 1800 RESPECT. Visit their website, here.