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Me Too – Speaking Out Against Sexual Assault

You may have noticed a new trend on social media in the last couple of days – #metoo.

The hashtag was tweeted by actress Alyssa Milano on Sunday night. Within 20 minutes, it had received 10,000 replies. As of today, it stands at 63,000 replies:

The post came in response to allegations against Hollywood exec Harvey Weinstein.

Milano told Variety in the US: “It’s definitely overwhelming, but I feel like the time was right for this to happen and the fact that I could be a vessel to create change is really special.

“There are so many people that have faced this kind of harassment or abuse in their lifetime that the numbers are not really surprising to me at all, sadly. What is surprising is how people are surprised by the numbers. It’s a testament to the fact that people have been shamed into feeling that this is a discussion that they can’t have. Or that they shouldn’t have. Or that they’re blamed or shamed for.”

She told the mag her goal was to get the numbers to a point where people couldn’t ignore it anymore. “I wanted to take the focus off the predator and put it back on the victim,” she said.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about those who caused this kind of hurt and heartache and not enough about the victims who have to overcome and heal. I feel like to be able to do that, you have to know you’re part of a community that can support and stand beside you. This is a community that is very large.”

Australian women in music are opening up about their experiences, too.

The Preatures front woman Isabella Manfredi invited people to share their stories with her. She posted this:

My heart has been breaking for all the women who have had to deal with Harvey Weinstein’s total degradation of their talent, drive and worth as artists and human beings over the course of his career. Of course this sickness is not confined to the film industry. Perhaps the greatest clarity this unfolding story has given me is some persperctive on my own experiences in the music industry, mostly in, but not confined to, America. There was the touchy feely US booking agent whose behaviour became so inappropriate that the boys told our manager to keep him away from me (I felt embarrassed to do this myself). Or the head honcho who, when meeting the band, looked me up and down and licked his lips before turning to the guys to shake hands and talk ‘business’ (we were all stunned). Or the multiple executives at a corporate gig in Vegas who slipped their hands up my dress while taking a photo with the band. Or the New York Indie label head I had met through mutual friends in Australia who, after telling me he loved my band and songwriting, invited me to what I thought was a friendly business dinner with some publishing friends of his (He knew I had a boyfriend), and to see a new signing of his afterward. He introduced me to people and talked me up, telling everyone who I was and what I did. I felt accepted, excited; I was meeting artists I respected. I felt respected. Later, in a cab on our way to the next venue with another friend of his, he suggested we go back to my hotel and have a bath together. When I refused, politely and then firmly, he said my band was a joke. The gig we’d played at Rough Trade was mediocre. He snickered to his friend. He said other things I can’t remember. What I do remember was the dreadful, sickening realisation that I was a fucking fool.

What do these experiences do to women? Well, they tell you that, not only have you suddenly become part of the clichéd female experience you were raised to believe no longer exists, you ARE the cliché. You are the woman getting your arse groped by a guy in a suit, too shocked to do anything about it, you are the woman holding an artist pass with tits on it, you are the woman whose violent ex-boyfriend is stalking you across your American tour, you are the woman doing the dishes in the studio, you are the woman nagging the guys to ‘help’ you, you are the woman being shushed in rehearsal, and you are the woman making yourself smaller and smaller so you don’t unsettle or disappoint the men you work with, rely on, and care so much about.

I’ve never spoken about this because I thought the only way beyond it was to keep my head down, work hard and become a respected and powerful woman in my own right. Like Jia Tolentino says in The New Yorker “This makes for a false but often convincing narrative—you are prey only when you are not good enough, and so you must not have been good enough if you were prey.” I have worked hard to become untouchable. But in doing so I’ve also limited myself and kept a permissive silence on things that matter to me.

I’m sharing this because I don’t want the next generation of women coming up in the music industry to face this kind of morally ambiguous, second-guess-yourself crap. It’s not on. On this album cycle I’ve been asked, does sexism in the music industry still exist, and what does it look like? I think it’s time to compile our experiences, however subtle, and give it a face.

If you want to share your stories with me, send me an email:
isabellametoo@gmail.com

Whilst clearly women are not the only victims, and men are not the only perpetrators, it is primarily women speaking up about their experiences.

If you need to speak to someone, please contact Lifeline in Australia on 1300 735 030.

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