Apex predator Harvey Weinstein’s harassment may be the stuff of last week’s headlines, but the #MeToo movement it inspired is still registering on the Richter scale of collapsing careers, as more women share their accounts of everything from industry blacklisting to outright rape. As aftershocks of accounts continue moving through Hollywood and the film community at large, it’s no surprise that the movement has found plenty of traction in the music business, too.
In the past week or so, allegations of sexual abuse, assault and rape have been associated with Crystal Castles (more on them shortly); Marilyn Manson, who fired longtime bassist Twiggy Ramirez after the latter's girlfriend recounted years of abuse in a harrowing Facebook post; and Decapitated, the Polish death-metal band who faced charges of kidnapping and rape in Washington state; according to Billboard, all four members are each being held on a $100,000 bond. Not that long ago, former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins and Pentagram front man Bobby Liebling were in the headlines for similar reasons. Frankly, there are already too many accounts to reasonably list them all here, and more seem to become public by the hour.
One common theme among the victims is coercion, threats, and intimidation into silence. Former Crystal Castles singer Alice Glass released a lengthy online statement addressing her alleged abuse at the hands of now-former bandmate Ethan Kath (a stage name), detailing what many women have already said: they've been threatened with negative backlash if they go public, and so victims believe they must keep their abuse secret. In Glass's own words, "I’ve been threatened and harassed and as a result, out of fear, I’ve been silenced." This is her final paragraph:
Leaving Crystal Castles was the single most difficult decision I’ve ever made—that band was everything to me. My music, my performances and my fans were all I had in the world. I gave that up and started over not because I wanted to but because I had to. As difficult as it was, I knew that leaving was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has taken me years to recover from enduring almost a decade of abuse, manipulation and psychological control. I am still recovering.
It’s a long-standing stereotype that the music industry is full of sexist, sleazy, scoundrel types willing to exploit any young, desperate artist seeking fame or recognition. But now things may be changing. What marks this #MeToo movement as significant has been our reaction to it. The shift of power from assaulter to accuser is a powerful one in our culture; as more stories like Glass's come to light, the reckoning for justice is long overdue.
Unlike in past instances of sexual-abuse accusations, such as R. Kelly and Chris Brown among so many others, more people are actually listening and believing the vicitms and amazingly, reacting appropriately. Perhaps the best recent example of late is Marilyn Manson himself.
After former girlfriend Jessicka Addams (aka Jack Off Jill) accused Manson's bassist Jeordie White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez) of rape, Manson issued an apologetic statement and then reacted. In a surprising turn of events, he announced he would be finding a new bass player, calling it a “sad day.” His actions set a new precedent in the music industry. Manson at least acknowledges the emotional toll, but he also draws a clear line in the sand about the tolerance of sexual predators.
Why is that significant? Because for once, an A-list rock star did the only correct thing to do: part professional ways. And in American music — especially metal — that’s nearly unheard of. Look at past examples of groups like Five Finger Death Punch and Puddle of Mudd, where not only did their bandmates defend the accused, but the groups' labels kept them on the payroll. Worse, fans continued buying tickets to their shows and applauding them. My God — fans still defend As I Lay Dying's Tim Lambesis, who pled guilty in 2013 for attempting to put a hit out on his estranged wife; he got out of prison this year, and some fans are cheering his return to the band.
Where's your tipping point, America? It's not at assault and rape against women apparently. Engage in dogfighting or protest the national anthem at an NFL game and be scorned for years to come, but get accused of violence against women and keep your celebrity? No problem. Enough is enough.
Pop culture’s impact on societal norms can’t be denied. The logic here is if our musical icons set the example of zero tolerance for sexual abuse, the culture will follow. In a dramatic and ironic role reversal, Marilyn Manson once known for his supposed immoral influence, is now leading the charge to overturn the music-biz patriarchy's comfort level with rape culture. Ice water in hell has been served.
When it comes to metal and misogyny, it’s hard to say whether sexual assault and harassment are a symptom of the culture or just find a safer space than other spots along the musical spectrum. For an aggressive genre that includes gore metal which fetishizes the murder and mutilation of women, it’s a draw for sure and unlikely things will change until old attitudes change or die off.
Even Paul Marzurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse defended the genre’s “brutality against women” earlier this month by saying “[women] should know what they’re getting into with death metal.” Not exactly the progressive response one would hope to hear from a professional musician, but who's surprised? Until progenitors of brutality see the problem with it, they can only be expected to continue. Best response? Part ways as a fan.
How should the music world react, much less metalheads? Believing the victims is key. Not looking for a motive, asking what was she wearing or if she could have possibly invited it upon herself would be a great place to start. Furthermore, a conversation questioning our own motives for the tendency to discredit victims' accounts needs to happen, too.
Sure, it took an army of women's accounts of abuse to finally pin down Harvey Weinstein and get him removed from power in Hollywood, but this time a removal actually happened. Once it was thought the entertainment industry would change its ways only on a cold day in hell; now it seems like change is inevitable.
Our President, who is usually cringingly vocal about pop-culture and entertainment politics via Twitter, has not surprisingly remained silent on the Weinstein fallout, no doubt trying to tiptoe around his own pathological missteps. Based on his assessment of the problems within America's Armed Forces, Trump's own understanding of assault is questionable at best. But no man is off limits or excused from harassing behavior, regardless of when it occurred; even former President George H.W. Bush came under fire last week.
Trump’s presidency may well be the instigator for this tide of unrest — finally, a silver lining to a four-year dark cloud of division and regression. Tired of the prevailing culture’s justification of rape, systematic objectification, and widespread harassment, women have had enough.
Marches, protests and the powerful use of social media have brought previously taboo discussions about the commonplace mistreatment of women into the national headlines. Yet, despite an atmosphere where the misogynistic actions of our commander in chief continually validate rape culture, women are pressing forward to make their voices heard. In the music world, this new leaf is sorely needed too.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.