It's been a while since I've blogged on here about gender imbalance and sexism in the music industry. Having written four previous pieces on this subject I thought I'd said most of what needed to be said already, and honestly, I was tired of the trolling I get on Twitter each and every time.
But then Harvey Weinstein. And then 'Me Too'. Now I realise there's so much that even the most vocal champions of women and equality haven't been talking about... myself included.
The music industry, like the film industry and probably many others, has a systemic problem with sexual harassment, sexual assault and persisting sexist attitudes, on a gross scale.
I know the sexual harassment stories of each of my girlfriends. We have told each other quietly, one to one, over bottles of wine and long late-night chats. Sometimes detailing 'mild' encounters in humour and outrage (because hey, you have to be a good sport about a bit of everyday sexism or flirtation, right?), sometimes recounting more painful experiences in tears. But a powerful combination of embarrassment, shame, fear and downplaying the severity of our experiences means that, with a few exceptions, we haven't told these stories publicly or taken action. Until now.
The allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent 'Me Too' stories on social media have opened the floodgates to women (and men too) sharing their experiences of sexual harassment in the music business, and it's clear to see that this is an incredibly deep-rooted problem. From bands taking advantage of young female fans, to powerful business figures harassing and assaulting young employees, to female artists being objectified and even prostituted, this is an industry where pretty much every woman has her own horror story (and probably not just one). Friends in the LGBTQ community and who identify as non-binary have recounted some of the worst experiences of harassment and disrespect that I have heard.
This is a wake-up call for us all. It's not enough to fight for equal opportunities and equal pay for women in music; we need to address the sexist attitudes and behaviours that are so ingrained in our business and always have been.
One older female in the music industry commented to me this week that sexual harassment and sexism has been a permanent feature throughout her long career, and she's very happy now to find herself of an age at which the predators leave her alone and she can just "get on with" her work. Well, shit, I think I speak for all young women when I say I'd rather not have to wait another 30 years to be free of this. It's time to tackle the problem head on. It's time to call out sexual predators, talk about our experiences and work out, together, how to effect lasting change.
I don't want to patronise men who may be reading this (is there a word for the opposite of mansplaining?). I am fully aware that so many men are committed to championing women and equality, and I'm extremely grateful to know a great number of them. At the same time, the sheer volume of 'Me Too' stories over the last few days has shocked and appalled even the most feminist guys I know. It's worse than we thought.
Those who have shared their 'Me Too' stories this week have been incredibly brave. I've been asked to speak on live news programmes about sexual harassment in the music business, and after careful reflection I have declined. My own experiences of sexual harassment are not moments I want to revisit, and it's daunting to speak on behalf of women on such a serious and personal topic. I have huge respect for everyone who has spoken up about their experiences. It was disheartening to realise that almost every woman who I know doing kickass things in the music industry has been a victim. But it is amazing to see this conversation finally happening so openly.
I hope that we can now come together as an industry and ask 'how can we address this?'. If we are to have a truly thriving music industry, we need to promote brilliant people from every gender, race and background, and that can't happen until harassment and sexism are properly dealt with. It's time to break the pattern.