Misogyny in the music industry is not my jam

By in Opinions

The abuse of musicians at the hands of their producers is commonplace in a music industry that is systemically sexist, and the inherent power dynamics in the producer-vocalist relationship are symptomatic of the misogyny that pervades the music industry.

In 2014, Alice Glass, the singer of the electronic band Crystal Castles, announced she was departing from the band, citing professional and personal concerns. However, on Oct. 24, she revealed that her motivation for quitting the band arose due to more than a decade of abuse, which she suffered at the hands of her bandmate, that began when she was about 15 years old.

Glass’ statement was a heart-breaking and shocking revelation to fans, but the reality is that the abuse Glass suffered was not a one-off incident in the music industry. In 2016, coverage of artist Kesha’s legal battle with Dr. Luke saturated the news after she revealed that the producer had been abusing her since she was 18 years old. Men like Kath and Dr. Luke are cretins, and it’s a sad truth that they occupy so much space in the music industry.

Kath’s weak defence in response to Glass’s statement was simple: “There are many witnesses who can and will confirm that I was never abusive to Alice.” There is no such thing as an omnipresent witness — that excuse is pathetic. Kath released a statement on Nov. 3 declaring that he is suing Glass for defamation. He’s chosen to blame Glass’s mental health rather than take responsibility for the allegations against him.

The experiences of Kesha and Glass evidently highlight the capacity that producers in the industry have to abuse musicians. We need to call out the music industry as a whole for the way that women are treated, given that the exploitation of females in music is wide-spread.

Ask any girl who attends gigs about her experiences, and you’ll discover the depressing reality that, for some unknown reason, creepy men think a concert ticket also works as a licence to sexually assault women. Predators thrive in a gig environment — it promises them anonymity, and thus, the freedom to grope without facing repercussions.

Sadly, the concert experience is not a safe space for women — and it is not much safer on stage. I am a bit of a HAIM fan girl — I have been to four of their shows, and at every single one, the members of HAIM were verbally attacked with crude heckles.

Women have such a horrendous time in the music industry. Any woman who dares to engage with music has to battle against patriarchal forces that either try to exploit them or keep them on the periphery of the scene.

In 2015, the reaction of fans to the news that Florence + The Machine were to replace Foo Fighters as the Glastonbury Festival headliners was an archetypal example of how the talent of female musicians is continually undermined. Many fans were furious at the announcement, claiming that Florence Welch was not a worthy replacement and not ready to headline the festival.

What a ridiculous reaction — Welch is one of the best vocalists in contemporary music and a refreshing change from the generic, straight white male musicians who always saturate the festival circuit.

Beyoncé will headline Coachella in 2018 — which is the first time in 11 years that the festival has booked a female- identified individual for the top spot. Why was there a decade of masculine domination, when there are a plethora of female-identified individuals who are killing it in the industry? It is undeniable that women have to work much harder than their male counterparts in order to be taken seriously as musicians.

Sexism is undoubtedly an issue in the music industry, but we can remain optimistic about the progress that has been made. Women are no longer staying silent — the #MeToo social media movement has inspired Alice Glass and many other women to share their experiences.

Moving into the future, we need to call out sexual predators and make an example of the gig gropers who try to sexually assault people, and we need to give the women who continue to slay the music scene the recognition that they deserve.

Marianne Holt

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor

  • Akheel

    I understand this is an “opinions” section and that these are people who I hope are aspiring journalists (because if this is paid columnist, we have some serious talking to do). However, I would consider this article to be a colossal embarrassment not only to the Sheaf, but to journalism in general.

    Generally speaking, this piece provides absolutely no insight into the music industry, nor does it provide insight into politics, which the author is desperately and overtly trying to import into music.

    First of all, the thesis of this piece is not even close to being justified. The claim that the music industry is “systematically sexist” is not proven. The omnipresent “misogyny” of the music industry is not proven either. Neither of these claims are even persuasively argued, much less logically flow from the examples given.

    How is an abusive bandmate indicative of systematic sexism in the music industry or indicative of misogyny? You do understand that when a man abuses a woman, and let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is an actually objective abuse, it is not always because he hates women, right? How could it possibly be the case that your sex/gender/race/religion or whatever is automatically indicative of your motivation? So I assume that when a woman abuses a man, you would be just as ready to presume that her motivation was sexist, right? No. The facts of the case matter. This is an important point because you’re tying to take a case where it is pretty likely that the abuse of a woman was motivated by sexist and assign that motivation to EVERY abuse or wrongdoing in the music industry. That is dishonest and a lapse in logic.

    I won’t go into evidentiary questions surrounding Glass’s statements, suffice to say, your readiness to automatically assume her story is without fault is quite worrying. Your condemnation and moralizing disapproval is nothing short of emotional backlash. Opinion piece or not, it does nothing to convince people that your argument is strong. I imagine “innocent until proven guilty” is nothing but empty words to you based on your attitude, which is a sad state of affairs. Although I do want to add that “taking responsibility for allegations” is a rather dumbfounding statement. Why on earth would anyone take responsibility for conduct is that alleged? So if I allege that you have plagiarized six of your last essays, you will automatically take responsibility for those plagiarisms? I fail to see how that makes any sense.

    The Kesha example is again, like Glass, assuming they are both truthful in their allegations, are merely anecdotal examples of what happens to some women in the music industry. It shows nothing systematic about the music industry itself, nor does it indicate any sort of “widespread” epidemic.

    “We need to call out the music industry as a whole for the way that women are treated, given that the exploitation of females in music is wide-spread.”

    Again, you’ve shown nothing to prove this experience is common for women and calling out “the music industry” as if it’s some sort of entity that needs to be called out is absurd. You presume that every man in the music industry is “sexist?” Or do you have specific men in mind? Specific men? Great! Call them out. Calling out the whole industry is not only useless but also counterproductive because you’re going to make enemies out of people who have done nothing wrong by pissing them off with generalizations.

    As far as Foo Fighters being replaced by Florence and the Machine, I don’t even know what to say about that. I hope you understand that when people are upset over their favourite band being replaced by another, especially one as legendary as Foo Fighters, they might not be happy about that. Like what ignorance must a person bathe in to assume that people being upset over this is sexist.

    “Welch is one of the best vocalists in contemporary music and a refreshing change from the generic, straight white male musicians who always saturate the festival circuit.”

    Ahh yes, I suppose because they’re “straight white males” that has some effect on the merit of their music. What an absurd comment to make. As if music can be refreshing solely due to the gender and sexuality of the person performing. Nice. I hope you don’t engage in music critique seriously because you’re not off to a good start.

    In conclusion, women face a lot of challenges in the music industry, sexism is one of them. But to say that the industry as a whole is responsible for this is lunacy. Call individual abusers, please, all the power to you. I’m completely behind you 100% if you call out individual abusers of power or even people who protect them. If you had written a reaction article to Glass’s alleged abuse and provided some insight and context on her situation specifically, no problem at all. But to take her case and then extrapolate to society at large with such gross generalizations AND without evidence is not only sloppy journalism and bad argumentative tactics, it’s borderline morally bankrupt. I cannot help but feel as though you simply used her as an example for what you already believe is a problem rather than provide some sort of argument for what you believe in. In which case, right on, except the grand claims you’re making are patently false and go unsupported by your examples.