Soundtracking the Resistance - The Problem All Around

Sexual Misconduct Does Not Begin and End with Harvey Weinstein

Oct 20, 2017 Web Exclusive By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share


As the Harvey Weinstein fallout continues to unfold, it's a reminder that the crimes he stands accused of are not exactly rare, nor are they confined to the world of tarnished Hollywood glitz. Like every other part of society, the music industry is also riddled with similar stories. We look at that this week, alongside President Trump insulting various people and imperiling the safety of the world. Not that he doesn't do the same thing most weeks. 

The Big Event

We've now had a couple of weeks of hand-wringing, soul-searching, and an awful lot of truly horrendous stories emerging since the Harvey Weinstein revelations first came to public knowledge. However, it's not exactly a secret that this scandal doesn't belong solely in Hollywood, nor does it stop with the grotesque figure of Weinstein. The crimes he's accused of keep mounting, as if, for just a moment, pressure built up beyond the normal constraints of a culture normally careful to sweep such things under the red carpet. Which is why Weinstein has been removed from various positions including within his own company, and his membership of the Motion Picture Academy.

That would be scant punishment if even a fraction of what's come to light turns out to be remotely true. It remains to be seen what happens in that regard. But, and it's been said repeatedly now, this is not a Hollywood problem, nor is it a Harvey Weinstein problem. At least it's not a problem that stops with the exposure of someone like Weinstein. This behavior is everywhere, and the music industry is no less immune to self-aggrandizing men using their power for deeply nefarious means.

If anything, it's been almost encouraged. The image of the playboy rocker is much vaunted, as are mistaken recollections of the glory days of free love; days that largely meant male musicians seizing the opportunity to sleep with as many people as possible in any circumstances they felt fit.

For every reviled Phil Spector type, found guilty of murdering Lana Clarkson in 2003, there are plenty of revered icons like David Bowie who had sex with a teenager under the age of consent, making it statutory rape and showing the kind of casual disregard much of human history has been marked by when it comes to gender relations.

As far as recent revelations go, there has been some creep into the fringes of the music industry. Björk spoke out against the abuse she suffered at the hands of an unnamed Danish film director, the heavy implication being she's referring to Lars Von Trier, who has since denied all allegations.

This week has also seen the cancellation of Ducktails shows after allegations of sexual assault committed by the band's founder Matt Mondanile surfaced. Mondanile previously played in Real Estate who confirmed he was fired from the band last year due to these allegations, their new statement going on to say they didn't mention details at the time because "the women concerned requested privacy and we honored their wishes."

And yet none of this should come as much of a surprise. The occasional case hinting justice can be achieved, like Taylor Swift's efforts to prevent DJ David Mueller from getting away with groping her in 2013, are quite frankly overwhelmed by all the many times nothing happens. Even when something does happen, as was the case for French musician Bertrand Cantat who went to prison for murdering actress Marie Trintignant, it's swiftly forgotten. He found himself on the front cover of a French music magazine recently.

Contrast that with all the people forced to either accept the abuse quietly, or risk their career by speaking out. On the few occasions these situations become public, we end up with something like the plight facing Kesha, who was unable to get out of her contract forcing her to work with producer Dr. Luke whom she alleged abused her.

The real point here is that all this is just the tip of the iceberg. The music industry is likely no worse than most other industries, and that in itself is horrifying. Nor should the focus always have to be on victims attempting to seek justice after the fact. Preventing the fact ever happening is the challenge, a challenge that will never be overcome as long as the power lies with men willing to abuse it whenever they see fit. The Harvey Weinstein accusations are nothing unexpected. Instead, it's a brief window into a common reality ignored and often carefully condoned by far too many in the mainstream happy to publicly pretend it never happens. But it does, regularly, and changing it is the job of everyone everywhere.

What's Going On 

Oh Trump, why do you keep doing these things? Does not the unwritten rule of American politics say never attack members of the military or their families? Yet this week he appears to have been casually dismissive to a mother who lost her son in action in Niger. And to top that the president launched an entirely false campaign against past occupants of the White House by attempting to suggest they never bothered contacting the families of soldiers killed in action. It's not like he doesn't have form in this space, having gone on a crusade against a Gold Star family during convention season last year. If only he could control his mouth.

While we're still on the subject of Trump, he's also declared his intent to refuse to certify the Iran nuclear deal signed by the previous administration. This despite American allies across the world clearly signaling such a decision would be a mistake. In fact, this despite his own National Security Advisor hinting it would be a mistake. But America First was always less a desire to put America first as it was a mission statement highlighting Trump's intention to do whatever he pleases without having to worry about the ramifications. It's not so much America First as it is Trump First.

America wasn't the only English-speaking nation to spend 2016 taking a reactionary lurch. The United Kingdom continues to grapple incompetently with the aftermath of the decision to vote to leave the European Union. Negotiations over a deal to exit the Union are ongoing and going nowhere fast. It isn't helped by the fact the British Government seems to have no idea what it actually wants a post-EU UK to look like, nor is it helped by the ruling Conservative Party spending more time scrapping for power internally than trying to deal with the mess it created.

Speak Up! 

We already mentioned Björk speaking up about her experiences with a Danish filmmaker. She released a more detailed statement on the matter, of which her full comments are below:

On the subject of men behaving badly, Ariel Pink is yet again stoking controversy, this time with onstage antics that seemed to involve him pinning band member and romantic partner Charlotte Ercoli to the stage. While she has come out to defend his behavior, it raised concerns for a number in the audience, forcing Pink to respond afterwards. Not that this would be the first time he's overstepped the mark, having made a habit of offensive statements over the years.

Earlier this year, Father John Misty put out Pure Comedy, the title track of which served as a brutal takedown of humanity and our ability to mess everything up. He's now countrified it, putting a little twang in. He also added the caption "now libs and chuds each have their own version to weaponize" so in his own barbed way he's evening the score right?

Song of the Week: Tracy Chapman - "Talkin' bout a Revolution"

As well as writing an impressive collection of hit songs, Tracy Chapman always had a deeply political streak that doesn't so much creep into her work as shine brightly in the center of much of it. So, when we're looking for a revolution to overthrow an old and repressive order, we already have someone who's been talkin' bout it in song form for decades. Which makes her 1988 track a pretty obvious choice this week.



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