Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rockergate


A crucial thread about women's experiences in the music industry in response to a question posed by Jessica Hopper on twitter.  Some harrowing, some seemingly minor but impactful, some from deep in the the locales of the biz, some from virtual encounters.

I haven't had much of these experiences.  You can probably chock this up to me being oblivious, riding the pleasant crest of male privilege, although girlfriends and female friends I've gone to shows with have definitely felt not welcome/not wanted/not cool enough/ before and I've certainly seen guys at shows treat the rock concert like a sexual free-for-all.

I'd like to share on story though: One of my initial experiences with online harassment was also the birth of my disenchantment with the cult of cool.  As a shy, alienated young suburban kid, you find solace and connection in notions of taste, and the assumption is that those with similar but not popular musical taste are just like you.  They too latch on to the underground because they feel like outsiders and/or feel rejected from the outside world.  And it's easy too, particularly at a naive age, to be mistaken that everyone interested in progressive communities or artforms share progressive values.

In my first year of college, I spent February 14th alone in my dorm room downloading music from Napster.  Browsing a user's collection, I found an impressive selection of krautrock, ambient, IDM, shoegaze and other material that aligned pretty perfectly with my wheelhouse.  In the process, I received a message from said user looking to chat about music. In the course of the conversation, it soon became clear that he thought I was a woman.  Rather than correct him, I rolled with it.  Maybe because I was bored. Maybe because it was Valentine's Day and I chose to stay indoors at a computer screen.  Maybe he'd be into guys too.  Who knows.

Extremely abruptly and without warning, the user demanded topless pics.  I tried to politely decline, but he didn't seem to care.  After threatening to ban me from the site, the tenor the conversation grew aggressive and violent as I watched with stunned amazement as he threw out a torrent of vitriolic, misogynistic taunts and threats.  Even after I attempted to end the conversation, he did not relent.  Because he "wasn't done" with me.  It was important that I walked away with unsolicited certainty about exactly where my place in the world was.

I'd known women who had been abused/assaulted before this and who had had nasty things said about them, but this encounter was probably the first time when I got a real taste of what the danger of being of a woman felt like, a woman whose only crime was liking music and seeking companionship.  I don't go to shows much and my social awkwardness has never made me one for conducting interviews, but there's plenty that we can do to stop bad behavior in music as it happens rather than be forced to relive it in the comments section years later.

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