In the midst of countless abuse allegations against men in Hollywood, statements from women like Alice Glass prove that it’s not just the film industry that has a long way to go toward creating a safe environment for women.
When I read Alice Glass’s statement on former Crystal Castles partner Ethan Kath for the first time, I cried. I cried because it is not often I have a bad feeling about a man, like I had about Kath, and instead of being proven right I am proven wrong. I cried because I see Glass’s story played out every day, in the many women I know that have been harmed by violent men. I thought about how strong they are for surviving, for carving out a life for themselves in spite of the attempts of men to take away their comfort in the world; their right to feel at home in their own bodies. I thought about the bravery it takes to tell a story like Glass’s to the entire world, and the pain she must feel to know that, no matter what she does, there will still be those who don’t believe her. It is now a day later that I’m writing this, and I still refuse to read the comments on the link to Glass’ statement that she posted on Facebook, because, as is clear to see almost anywhere you go, both on the internet and in real life, men still aren’t getting it.
Recently, Harvey Weinstein’s exposure as a long-time rapist and abuser whose predatory nature was covered up for years in Hollywood has sparked a conversation about the ubiquitous nature of sexual assault in our culture, and particularly, about the ability of men in power to get away with abusing women. In response to Weinstein, the incredibly far-reaching hashtag #MeToo was created as a way for women to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. This is, overwhelmingly, a good thing. For the first time, we as a society are giving credence to women’s stories about abuse, and allowing them a platform through which they can be heard. Creating an environment where women can comfortably share their experiences and receive support is undeniably important. However, herein lies the problem — women shouldn’t have to publicly declare their trauma in order for sexual assault to be taken seriously. And we need to stop pretending that music — especially indie music — is somehow exempt, because those involved aren’t high-powered executives, or film producers, or the President of the United States. Glass’s story, as well as many other recent stories, speak to the fact that male sexual entitlement is even more pervasive than many people think. It is endemic. The music industry is no exception.
High-publicity sexual assault allegations of various indie musicians have popped up almost constantly in the past year. Ben Hopkins of indie pop band PWR BTTM, a group known for attempting to create a ‘safe space’ for LGBT fans at their concerts, received several allegations of rape and sexual assault. Hopkins’ partner in the band, Liv Bryce, was revealed to have known about the allegations. She didn’t do anything about them. Similarly, Real Estate guitarist and recent solo artist Matt Mondanile has recently come under fire for allegations of sexual assault, and was even more recently outed by experimental musician Julia Holter, his ex-girlfriend, as an emotional abuser who “does not have boundaries.” Holter claims she feared for her life in her relationship with Matt, and his abuse led her as far as getting a lawyer involved.
I think because we want to believe that men in music, and particularly men in indie, are somehow enlightened and left-leaning, we tend to forget that these musicians still wield power and influence, especially over women. In Glass’ statement, she highlights that Kath, real name Claudio Palmieri, used what she perceived as his power as a musician to control her actions. Glass details how Kath led her to believe that the only way she would ever be able to be successful in music was to follow his lead and submit to his abusive requests. She respected him from when she met him first as a teenager, because he was older, and he’d already been in a band. She’d seen him on TV. He knew what he was doing. The victims of Harvey Weinstein told this exact story — of a man with more experience and influence manipulating them into thinking they’ll never find work in the industry they love again if they anger him. This is the climate we find ourselves in.
Mostly, I have been heartened by the swift reaction to these recent cases. One of Matt Mondanile’s bands, Ducktails, was dropped from their label and their tour off their most recent album has been cancelled. Similarly, when the PWR BTTM allegations broke, I watched their fall from grace happen almost instantaneously: the duo were dropped from their label, taken off of Spotify and Apple Music, and largely condemned by the general public in barely a week. Alice Glass has already left Crystal Castles, of course, but the responses I have seen to her have been overall very supportive, even as Kath begins to deny her accusations.
Despite all the recent support for women coming forward with allegations towards musicians, this hasn’t always been the response. It still isn’t the response by many men I know. I am still haunted by the accusation of Swans frontman Michael Gira by singer/songwriter Larkin Grimm. His sketchy response struck me as essentially a concession of guilt: saying that the act happened, that it was a mistake, and that he hopes that Grimm can “come to terms with her demons,” placing the blame squarely on her instead of himself. At best, everything aside, this is suspect and patronizing. This accusation is well-known. Gira’s response is well-known. And yet, almost two years later, I still constantly leave music communities and forums due to men defending Swans.
The push-back I tend to get when I bring up these allegations as a reason for not supporting an artist is either one of two things: 1) you should separate the artist from the art, or 2) they’re just allegations. As for the former, the truth is, I don’t find that I can. I cannot comfortably financially support someone if I believe there is even a chance they are an abuser. It’s true, they are just allegations, but what does a woman have to gain from putting her name out there in an article that positions her as a victim? What does she have to gain by putting herself out to be harassed and discredited? What does she have to gain to make allegations that, oftentimes, lead to being sued for defamation? What does a woman like Alice Glass or Julia Holter or Larkin Grimm — all incredibly talented musicians — have to gain by accusing men who are public figures of abusive behavior, other than the hope that maybe speaking out will harm the career of the person who harmed them? And even further than that — what are you saying to the women in the indie, or rock, or electronic scenes when you defend men accused of abuse? Are you doing your best to make them feel comfortable in that community, or do your comments come with an undertone that they don’t deserve to be there?
Things are getting better, sure, and creating an environment where both artists and fans feel comfortable coming forward with allegations of abuse is a valuable step, the importance of which shouldn’t be undermined. The strength and bravery demonstrated in the past couple of weeks by women coming forward is an honest reassurance to me that maybe we’ll get there, someday — but this doesn’t mean we don’t still have a long way to go. Believing women shouldn’t be conditional. We don’t need to “give both sides the same benefit of the doubt” when those sides aren’t at all equal. When someone is accused of sexual assault, they immediately have a motive to lie. They are protecting their reputations, their careers, their finances. The women coming forward with the allegations have no such motives. I am sick of hearing that someone is “innocent until proven guilty.” That is the standard of proof for convicting someone of a crime. It is not the standard of proof for believing women.
In high school, I loved Crystal Castles. As a teenager, I related to and took solace in Glass’s lyrics, and I loved her voice and style. In light of Alice Glass’ statement, however, I will no longer be listening to Crystal Castles, as I am disgusted by the possibility of contributing even a cent to Ethan Kath’s pocket. This is not a difficult decision for me. Alice Glass is telling us that Crystal Castles was founded on abuse, and I believe her. Continuing to listen to Crystal Castles, or Swans, or PWR BTTM, or Ducktails, or any other band in light of accusations like these is not a neutral position. Refusing to condemn the behavior of abusive individuals in the industry allows them the opportunity to continue to thrive within it. Something as minor as listening to a band on a streaming service acts as a statement of financial support. It gives exposure to abusers. It is entirely political. As music fans, each and every one of us has the obligation to make the music industry even the slightest bit safer for not just female artists, but for all artists, by refusing to be complicit in allowing abusers exposure and career stability. We owe this to Alice Glass, to Julia Holter, to Larkin Grimm, to the numerous women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, and to women everywhere.
To the men who just aren’t getting it — I’ve laid it all out for you. Are you getting it now?