It is difficult to comprehend that in 2018 there are still incidents of sexual assault and harassment in the music industry.
Over the years and to this present day there have been a worrying number of women on and off the stage that have sadly encountered (or at the very least heard of) such incidents. Women on stage are certainly not strangers to this behaviour and as a woman in music myself, this is a subject I am very passionate about. I took the time to speak with a small handful of women that have dealt with this behaviour to highlight its existence and to also make known the forms of harassment and assault women in music face regularly.
Leah, frontwoman of the late band McQueen, told me of many experiences of unwanted sexual behaviour that happened relentlessly to her over the years. She started by saying, “I have debated getting involved in exposing the dark, dark, dark side of the music industry for a long time”.
It began when she was barely seventeen years old performing in her first rock band. She recounted, “I’ve had my ass grabbed, boobs grabbed, crotch grabbed, waist grabbed, body grabbed… I’ve had people try it on with me, proposition me, try and coerce me into threesomes. Not just onstage, but after the show.” Leah also went on to say, “I’ve had guys press their erections up against me and all sorts. Being young, I just wriggled my way out of these awkward situations”.
“I’ve had my ass grabbed, boobs grabbed, crotch grabbed, waist grabbed, body grabbed… I’ve had people try it on with me, proposition me, try and coerce me into threesomes. Not just onstage, but after the show.”
By the time her band McQueen were established she stated, “I was fucking ferocious. I wore a dress and two pairs of tights and shorts over the tights because of perverts!… I had to deal with men shouting at us to ‘get our tits out’ and for us to ‘take our clothes off’”. Due to such vulgar taunts, the fierce frontwoman had no choice but to learn how to deal with these encounters. Eventually, Leah began to reduce offenders to embarrassment through outburst and vocal tirades where even McQueen’s tour manager looked forward to someone ‘crossing the line’ because of Leah’s notorious reactions.
I also had the opportunity to speak with another wonderful woman in music; Tara Rez, frontwoman of The Duel. Tara told me that before her time fronting The Duel, she had an incident involving a man in the audience during a performance. Tara explained, “It was quite a high stage and he stood a little too close and right below me…he would literally follow me around with his head very blatantly just looking up my skirt.”
“… he would literally follow me around with his head very blatantly just looking up my skirt.”
The man blatantly ignored Tara’s polite moves away from him and “seemed to be trying to get an even closer look”. Taking matters into her own hands, Tara said, “I just carried on singing and dancing and kicked my foot in the air and then whoops! He got kicked hard in the face and staggered out to the back”. Creepy men at performances are not unknown to the majority of female performers.
Frontwoman Zowie from Dischord also shared an unforgettable incident with me where a man physically ‘motorboated’ her, (put his face between her breasts), at a show she was performing at in Edinburgh. This man was in one of the other bands she was performing with and she explained how “… it was one of the most awkward and inappropriate moments” she had ever experienced.
The incident undoubtedly ruined the night for her. She described how “the room was left with this lingering malignancy because of this outrageous tw*t assaulting me which made ME feel like the bad guy”.
This is not an uncommon feeling. Many women feel it is their fault for the actions men do to them. Outraged, she asks me, “how is it that we always feel like the bad guy? I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do”.
…“the room was left with this lingering malignancy because of this outrageous tw*t assaulting me which made ME feel like the bad guy.”
What also made it difficult for Zowie was that she said, “everyone knew him, and the door staff were friendly with him, so he didn’t get thrown out”. It is also not uncommon to see men being excused of their inappropriate behaviour because they are well-liked and popular. In the end, Zowie had to tell other women present at the gig what had happened and hoped there wouldn’t be a repeat incident.
Now these are just three accounts from three women describing their experiences, so imagine the true scale of this behaviour. Huge. This is just the very tip of the iceberg I have touched upon.
Sexual harassment and assault are still not taken seriously in a lot of places, spaces and industries. There are many explanations but it all boils down to the power imbalance between men and women. It is reflected in the very society we live in. It was only last month that the ‘upskirting’ bill was blocked in the House of Commons. ‘Upskirting’, (to take a photograph up a woman’s skirt/dress without her consent), is not yet a criminal offence. It speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
Yes, there have been improvements over time, but there are still damaging attitudes men have that still linger in how they view women. There are still men that need to see women as their equals as performers deserving the same respect as their male counterparts. Women deserve to perform and enjoy music without any issues that would harm or degrade us.
If you see anyone behaving inappropriately to women, then you must make it known it is not acceptable. Talk about it with your friends and your peers. Teach others. Lead by example.
Halt harassment! Halt assault! Keep music a safe place for all.
Feature Image by Cakemix Photography