Music

Misogyny in the scene: Enough is enough

*UPDATE 08/10/16: I never expected this piece to reach so many people, and I am so grateful for everyone who has taken the time to read it and for all of the feedback I’ve received. But after so many responses have been fueled by “not all men” sentiments and wondering why I didn’t use this as a platform to talk about all of the good that comes out of the scene, I want to preface by saying that I’ve met far more people who are willing to denounce misogyny in the industry than those who perpetuate it. I don’t hate men. Going to shows is my favorite thing in the world. There, I’ve met far more friends than people who behave the way I describe in this article. But the reality is that it does happen every day to women for the sole fact that they are women. Misogyny is real, and yes, it happens in the office and on the street, but this is me sharing my experiences at shows this summer. I hope you can appreciate this piece for what it is and join me in changing the narrative about women working in the music industry.

My editor told me last week that there are two sides to the coin of music reporting. There’s the fact that you get to see shows every week for free. You get to travel and meet incredible musicians along the way. Your place of work extends farther than the newsroom — it’s the sweltering basement that holds fewer than 100 fans and the venue that sold more than 25,000 tickets.

The other side of the coin?

When the show ends, you have a job to do. After you drive two hours home, you have to pore over your notes and write a killer article about what you saw. When the screen in front of you begins to blur at 4 a.m. and you can barely keep your eyes open, you have to push through. Your deadline is in four hours, after all, and thousands of people are going to read what you write.

But I loved every moment of it.

This summer, through writing for NJ.com and The Star-Ledger, I had the opportunity to give exposure to some of the greatest up-and-coming acts in the state — like Halogens — and to review some internationally-known names — Dolly Parton, Demi Lovato and Twenty One Pilots, to name a few.

I was encouraged by my editors and colleagues every step of the way. I learned more about editing, writing, videography and photography than I could have imagined. When my internship ended last week, I walked out of the office with the best clips I’ve ever written.

I also learned a lot about the music industry, and for the first time, I saw firsthand what I already knew: the scene isn’t always a kind place for non-dudes.

June 11, 2016

“Are you a groupie?”

I almost didn’t hear him over my frantic scribbling on my notepad — Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms had just smashed his guitar on the stage of BB&T Pavilion in a true rock star moment. I put my pen down and looked up at the man standing beside me. He was a reporter, too. He was at least 20 years my senior, but he had a press pass hanging around his neck, just like I did.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You’re like a groupie,” he told me. “You knew every word to every song.”

“Yeah, I’m a fan,” I said, “but I’m here because I’m covering this show.”

“Cute,” he said and chuckled to himself.

July 17, 2016

Walking into a festival that featured a pro-life tent didn’t instill confidence that Warped Tour would be a safe space for women, but that’s not why I was there. My job was to cover the music. Which set unleashed the most impressive visual elements? Which song turned into the wildest singalong? How expansive was each setlist?

As it isn’t feasible to simultaneously mosh and take notes, I planted myself at the far end of every crowd, where I had an unobstructed view of the stage and a quick escape to the next set.

“Yo, girl,” someone called. “Hey, writer. Girl writing in a notebook.”

I looked up at a slender boy with a buzzcut and tattoos snaking up his left arm. He was at the front of a group of five boys

“Have some fun, will you?” he said. “What are you even writing?” When I glanced back down at my notepad, he stepped closer and asked again, slower: “What are you writing?”

I told him I’m a reporter.

“So is every girl here,” he said, and they all laughed. “For your boyfriend’s high school newspaper, right?”

I didn’t say, “I’m a reporter here to cover this show for the biggest news outlet in the state. Let me do my damn job,” but I sure wanted to.

He high-fived one of the boys behind him, but it was around that point The Maine’s set began. He gave up trying to talk to me and opted instead for pushing a girl to the ground as he tried to climb up people’s bodies and crowd surf to the front of the stage.

It was noon, and that wasn’t the first example of misogyny I’d witness before Sum 41 took the stage seven and a half hours later.

I watched a man flail his arms around and punch the young woman beside him in the face. She left in tears with a bloody nose. He said girls shouldn’t be there if they can’t “handle it.”

I listened to a man yell slurs at one of the female photographers shooting Yellowcard’s set. “Who’d you blow to get in front of the barrier?” he asked. “And aren’t you hot in those jeans, baby? It’s 90 degrees.”

I saw a man try to slip his hand up the shorts of a young woman crowdsurfing over him. She kicked at him when she realized what was happening and grazed the side of his face with her Converse sneaker. He clutched at the spot on his cheek and called her a “fucking bitch.” He said he hopes she gets dropped on her head.

I jotted down notes during The Story So Far’s set, wondering if the people screaming adorations to frontman Parker Cannon knew that three months earlier, he kicked a female fan in the back and sent her falling face-first off the stage.

Yes, he’s kicked men off the stage, too. Yes, she said she was OK. Yes, she shouldn’t have climbed up onto the stage to take a selfie. But no matter how many excuses are made for his actions, the bottom line is this: How are other men in the scene expected to treat their female counterparts with respect when the musicians they’re going to see refuse to do the same?

Cannon literally kicked a young woman in the back and is still being vehemently defended — mostly by men — so surely, they can get away with doing far less to a woman at a show.

At another gig later in the summer, I heard a man ask a female sound technician where she went to school. He wondered if there was “anyone else around” he could talk to and seemed surprised to learn she was the only one operating that night. “I’ve just never taken orders from a girl before,” he said.

I’ve been asked by a man, “You’re allowed to cover shows all by yourself?” When I inquired about who he thought should be helping me, he replied, “A guy with more experience, I guess.”

It’s cases like these that make me worry about those in the scene who don’t identify as cis-males. Nobody should be made to feel endangered or unwelcome at a place designed to showcase and celebrate music. Something’s gotta give and shows must become safe spaces for people of all genders.

But in order for that to happen, we must speak out against the men who reduce women at shows to “fangirls” and those who think they know more about a woman working in the same industry as them.

I’m amazed by the sheer number of amazing women I’ve met this summer alone, some of whom have become my close friends — female tour managers, photographers, sound technicians, directors, singers, guitarists, drummers and other female journalists who have dedicated their lives to covering music.

We are just as competent as any man. We can work a soundboard, camera or instrument just as well as any man. We love music just as much as any man, and our place at a show does not need to be justified to any man.

16 thoughts on “Misogyny in the scene: Enough is enough

  1. I once had to take a mixer amp to pieces on a gig in China, as a jack had snapped off inside it and couldn’t be reached with long nose pliers, requiring me to take out the motherboard and a zillion tiny screws, remove it and put it all back together. I had an audience of bemused male engineers, management and who knows who else watching me in pure disbelief, especially as it all worked when I’d finished. As it so happened, it was the first time I’d actually had to do that but it’s hardly rocket science.
    I also sorted out the venue’s perpetual feedback problem by getting them to simply turn the house speakers the other way round. This required a decree from the general management as the resident engineers wouldn’t believe me.
    You honestly would have thought I was practising witchcraft when it solved the issue.

    As a female sax player I can’t begin to tell you the totally inappropriate things that have been said but I can guarantee they don’t say them to male players.

    I’m currently taking a right turn and doing a degree in Audio Post Production, one of very few women on the course which doesn’t surprise me, given the level of misogyny I’ve seen in this business. I do hope things change for the better soon.

    Like

  2. I’m a hip hop musician and a trans woman, and I’ve experienced this many times. Promoters, other bands, sound guys, event staff, they always come to one or more of the following conclusions about me:

    * I’m doing some David Bowie/Steven Tyler feminine cis male shtick so they think I’m some eccentric egotistical rockstar.

    * I’m a crossdressing cis male and since I’m not wearing black clothes with a huge beard, I’m not masculine enough for their respect.

    * They actually realize I’m a trans woman, and frankly they aren’t comfortable with a trans woman in the scene because it doesn’t fit the norm.

    * I do hip hop, which is a whole other story in disrespect in the music industry.

    * They see me as a cis woman and I get all of what you had mentioned in this article and more.

    This really needs to stop and the cis males in this industry have a responsibility, as people with control and privilege, to not perpetuate or take advantage for their own gain. At the very least, be cognizant of the fact that these inequalities and privileges exist, and because EVERYBODY loves music.

    Cis men don’t own a scene that is a space for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Parker Cannon has kicked male fans off the stage before, ie:

    (@12:10)

    But of course we only report it when it happens to a girl for ‘misogyny in the scene!’ narrative. Don’t get on the stage if you don’t expect to be roughly handled, either by the performer or security guards. They’re just as stupid, reckless and inconsiderate as Parker or any performer can be. Nonetheless, this happens more to the dumb males who invade the stage than females. So how was it misogyny other than the fact they have vaginas?

    Yes, misogyny obviously exists. No one says it doesn’t. There’s assholes everywhere and they will always exist. They thrive on belittling people. The vast majority of people in the scene do not support these sexist douchebags. Instead of reporting everything on your notepad, report to the officialls on the individuals who’re sexually assaulting these victims.

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    • This isn’t a slam piece on Parker Cannon. I mentioned him to prove a point that even musicians — not just rowdy fans — can make the industry an unsafe place. In this instance, he kicked a female fan off the stage and endangered her, as many other women were endangered in the examples I list. Do not question my morals while on the job. I’ve gotten the attention of security guards to help women who needed it. I’m waiting for the day when I don’t have to do that. I’m waiting for the day when we don’t have to say “Yes, misogyny *obviously* exists.” And I’m waiting for the day when a 1000+ word article about how poorly women are treated isn’t judged by one sentence about a musician you like and feel compelled to defend, even though he did a pretty bad thing. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the years of being a bassist in several punk bands:
    i have been told i am a good bassist….”for a girl”.
    i have been told that “having a chick in the band is a good shtick i guess”.
    i have been told by women in the crowd “is that like just for show, to have a girl in the band?”
    i have been told i “go around the front, this is the band entrance”.
    i have been told “your boyfriend has to put you on the list if you want to get in”.
    i have been told “merch girls dong get a stamp”.
    i have been told “i didnt expect you to be good, you really blew me away.”

    THIS LIST IS ENDLESS.

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  5. Yeah. The parker thing, he throws dudes off him all the time too. He doesn’t like to be man handled while doing his job. Who does? Kicking her might have been intense but in that split second, you better believe I would’ve done the same thing. He didnt have tome to call security or yell at her hes performing, of he jad stopped the show to yell at her, people would still be upset at him. Fans don’t automatically have a right to touch, hang on, try to kiss and take pictures with bands especially while performing. Try and make it to a meet and greet, hang out after the show and catch em off stage. Talk to them like the human beings that they are, shake their hand high-5 them, ask permission to give them a hug. Bands, performers, are human beings. Whether male or female you don’t touch a performer while they’re performing. You just don’t touch anyone ever without permission.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Read back what you just wrote. “You just don’t touch anyone ever without permission.” But you can kick them in the back while they aren’t looking if they try to take your photo? Based on your long comment defending his actions, I do believe you would have done the same thing, and you’d be just as wrong as Parker was. If you are privileged enough to perform on a stage to thousands of adoring fans as a full-time career, you’d better treat them well.

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  6. That whole thing with Parker Cannon, I’m not sure how to feel about it other than don’t take selfies on the stage.

    Everything else I agree on. I’ve seen, read, and overheard incidents like that myself. Everything from the guys tryna touch a girl while she’s just crowd surfing, the demeaning slurs, the comments, I’ve seen the despicable misogyny in the industry as a fan and it needs to stop. Like those kinds of things shouldn’t be happening at all.

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    • People shouldn’t take selfies on stage, but should those who do be violently kicked off and put into real danger? He could have called for security or yelled at her or *anything* other than physically assaulting her. I have been a fan of The Story So Far’s music for a long time, but I included that example in my story because it begs the question of who the role models in the music industry are. More often than not, they are the musicians themselves, and if a beloved musician can so easily treat a female fan like that, and if that behavior is endlessly justified by other men in the industry, how will anything ever change? In other words, if the musicians themselves are defended after treating a woman like that, what man will be afraid of repercussions for doing the same thing? In a scene that is already hostile toward so many women, all instances of violence and misogyny must be denounced.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Being a woman in the music industry is rough. Back in college I used to freelance for an AV company. I’ve had men come up to me completely amazed that I could accomplish normal tasks that any person in the AV business would be expected to accomplish. “Oh my gosh, look at her coil that feeder cable. . . Did you just lift that heavy soco cable all by yourself? Are you sure you can set up this projector by yourself? Wow, I didn’t know girls could drive trucks that big!”

    One strike in particular stands out in my head. It was after a huge college event and I was loading bike rack into the back of a box truck. It was about 1:30am and of course everyone working was completely drained and ready to be done. A group of seven or eight frat guys come wandering through the area pretty much just being loud and drunk. They notice me lifting bike rack and make a beeline for where I’m standing. They start shouting things like “Look at the nerd girl, Wow nerd girl you must be pretty strong, You shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff nerd girl, Come back to the house with us nerd girl we’ll show you a good time.” I was only about 21 at the time, maybe 140lbs, and despite my repeated “F-off drunk guys, I’m working”, it took another male coworker to tell them to get lost before they actually stopped begging me to leave with them.

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    • Thank you for reading my story and sharing your own. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this kind of behavior. It’s frustrating to encounter at all, but to see such a pattern is disheartening. I’ve met far more people who are willing to denounce misogyny in the industry than those who perpetuate it, so I’m trying to stay positive about the future.

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    • I’ve been working in the same industry for almost two years now. Same. Exact. Problem. There’s no women in video, especially in live events. And I can’t name a single show where I didn’t experience everything you’ve described more than once. And then anytime I point this out to male coworkers it’s always “oh well dont let them get to you.” Easy for you to say when you’re not the one told and reminded every day that you either shouldn’t be doing your job or that you’re BIZARRE for doing your job. Thanks so much for posting this. The feeder , the projector, I do all that too. Really great to rad about it from a fellow utility lady and not feel crazy. Thank god articles like this exist.

      Like

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