Sexual harassment? Oh, but that’s to be expected.

‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ Or so I read on a quote that an online user so helpfully made into a graphic for us all to repost and never remember again. 

There are things I’ve come to expect in life. I expect for either my bus to be late or me to be late for my bus. I expect to be in severe pain the day after spin class. I expect my first sip of morning coffee to taste like joy and magic in a 5oz cup. These things I expect because I regard them likely to happen. They’ve happened before. They’ve proved themselves as to be expected through experience. 

When I buy a meal at a restaurant I expect the chef to not put feces in my food. I expect people to not start up a power drill outside my bedroom door at 3am and parade around my bed with a tribal band and dancing girls. I expect strangers to respect my personal space. Honestly, I expect these things as a requirement. An (admittedly privileged and Western) fulfillment of my human rights to food, sleep, and respect. 

I’m becoming more and more convinced that someone’s been on the prowl polluting tins of cheap lager with more than bad alcohol. Some mind-altering mastery is going on that is disconnecting and mixing around these two definitions of expectation in people’s minds, whilst also combusting braincells and deleting emotional capacity in some cases. 

One evening last week I had to make my way through a crowded pub. As I squeezed past people with a typically apologetic British “excuse me” all of the women stepped courteously aside. The majority of the men – and I’m sorry, but it’s true – stepped aside and grabbed me. In the space of thirty seconds I got touched by about twenty men. I shrugged it off be because that’s to be expected in that situation. It happens often enough. I’m actually quite a tactile person with people I know and have relationship with so physical touch doesn’t bother me as much as it does some people. But then I realised how weird it is if you really break if down. I don’t expect people I’ve never met to expect that I’m going to be okay with them grabbing me round the waist. Something expected due to experience doesn’t justify requisite expected behaviour. It doesn’t make it okay. Later that evening, walking through the same space behind one of my male friends, nobody touched either of us. 

That’s just one mild example of this baffling epidemic that we’ve grown so accustomed to: people assuming something can be justified because it’s happened so often that it’s expected. Recently, Lauren Mayberry – an extremely talented musician and the sole female member of band Chvrches posted a blog about the verbal sexual harassment she receives online. The band love the connection they have with their fans through the internet and, despite their busy schedules, make having an active, personal presence on social media a priority. As there is nobody vetting the interactions that come through, and as people exist who have no social filter whatsoever, Lauren frequently comes into contact with men she has never met making crude comments towards her that 99.9% of us wouldn’t even make as a joke out loud. Comments as delightful as ‘I’m going to give her anal’ and ‘we’d make superior love together’. Recently the band posted a Facebook status asking users to stop sending messages of this calibre. Some of the responses to their post were incredulous. 

Because obviously, that kind of thing is to be expected. According to one user ‘it’s just one of those things [Lauren will] need to learn to deal with. If [she’s] easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn’t for [her].” 

Sadly, yes, women in the music industry have to find ways of dealing with explicit sexism on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis. Yes, the industry has developed a habit of hypersexualising its marketing, especially where women are concerned. Yes, there are people who are blind to the need to control their thoughts and words and actions. But these things are all so common – inside and outside the music industry – that for some reason we’ve become desensitised to them. We’re not surprised when we hear about gangs shooting each other. We’ve come to expect to see that in the news because it’s happened so many times. It doesn’t make it okay. The same goes for any level of sexual harassment. 

Let’s not switch off our humanity and common sense when we switch on our smart phones. Oh, but that’s to be expected. 

Advertisements

Chvrches’ Lead Vocalist Speaks Out Against Sexual Harassment Online

Scottish band Chvrches’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry has spoken out about the sexual abuse she encounters online, through a blog post published by The Guardian. Following a screen grab which she posted recently of a sexist message sent to her via Facebook, the artist has expressed her feelings and experiences as a woman within the music industry. The Facebook post garnered ample attention from fans and internet trolls alike. Over 1,000 comments have been posted below Mayberry’s screen grab, and include both supportive messages and further explicit sexist comments. 

Mayberry uses her blog post to explain that whilst it is inevitable that bands and artists will come across opposition and abuse she does not think it can be justified as coming with the territory. One of the comments on her Facebook post told Lauren that ‘it’s just one of those things you’ll need to learn to deal with. If you’re easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn’t for you.’ The artist’s response is that ‘objectification, whatever its form, is not something anyone should have to “just deal with”.’ She later begged online users ‘to learn a little empathy. To have a little respect for other people. To think before they speak.’  

Whilst many bands have teams monitoring their social media, Chvrches have always run their own accounts and want to continue to do this. They quote the online world as being one of the main reasons for their exposure and success, and want to keep in touch with fans in a personal way. Lauren explains this in her blog, writing ‘it has always been important to us that we communicate directly with people who care about our band through the social networking sites we run.’ It’s this personal connection that the band have with their fans online that causes them to come into contact with messages of an abusive nature. 

Online venture The Everyday Sexism Project is cited in the blog. Found at www.everydaysexism.com, the website is a place where women can anonymously post their own everyday experiences of sexism. The campaign exists to highlight the issues which are not always spoken about as they are deemed normal, and which Lauren’s blog speaks out against. 

Chvrches – pronounced ‘churches’ – is comprised of musicians Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty. The band was established in 2011 and create electronic music focusing heavily on synthesisers. Their first studio album The Bones of What You Believe was released in September 2013 through Virgin and peaked at Number 9 in the UK album charts. 

 

 

Eaves at Live At Leeds

Live At Leeds: the annual multi-venue city-centre festival which showcases up-and-coming artists across the bank holiday weekend. Holy Trinity Church may be one of the smaller venues but its exquisite nature ascribes it to the perfect location for singer-songwriter Eave’s 40 minute set. It’s 2pm. The sun is streaming through the church’s vibrant stained glass windows and the pews are packed with punters: wristbands and beers securely in hand.

Eaves meanders casually towards the stage, exchanges beer for guitar, and starts to play. As intuitively as the Bolton-bred musician plays and sings, the building responds, beautifully showcasing the sound with a natural resonance. As his voice is thrown out into the huge space it’s borderline frustrating that not everyone can suppress their chatter for just a few moments. Hustle and bustle come hand-in-hand with Live At Leeds, though. The buzz of anticipation is especially prominent right now at the beginning of the day where the excitement of so many venues, so many musicians, and so many hours is still ripe. 

The singer-songwriter takes it all in his stride, fitting in perfectly with a crowd of people who are in the venue because they love music. Painting pictures with his lyrics, the listener’s ears start to tune in to the messages Eaves’ songs so beautifully articulate. One lyric in track Pylons sticks out prominently. The song describes how ‘Dreamers talk in twos and threes’ and ‘Lovers walk with grass-stained knees’. All the dreamers and lovers in the room are drawn right in. 

Just before the end, for the final song, the guitar is put down and Joe sits at the church’s charmingly haphazard upright piano. It’s not particularly surprising that a musician who’s just reeled in a gaggle of fresh-faced city festival punters should be so multi-talented. The piano brings a whole new dimension to the set and captivates the crowd all over again. By the end of his 40 minute slot, Eaves has managed to win over every music-lover in the sanctuary whether they were ready for it or not. And from the contagious excitement felt across the room, they’d probably happily let it happen all over again. Image

 

Oh! Gravity: What I missed from Switchfoot in 2007.

I first held the temporarily unscratched CD case for Switchfoot’s sixth album, Oh! Gravity, between my hands seven years ago. It was 2007: six years before I would stream most of my music through subscription-service Spotify; three years before I would fly the nest of my parents’ home, wishing to have as much disposable income as I had once had pocket money; and just one year before the San Diego quintet would break ties with label giant Columbia. This January Switchfoot released their latest album, Fading West, through lowercase people and Atlantic; re-releasing with it my briefly dormant love for the band. But it doesn’t matter how many times I listen to the new album. I cannot shake some deep-rooted association between Jon Foreman’s vocal and Oh! Gravity, the perspex-protected sonic landmark point of my Switchfoot discovery. 

Oh! Gravity set up stall in a music marketplace which boasted Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack and heard Shakira hollering that her Hips Don’t Lie. The message advertised in the album’s lyrics didn’t seem to sit comfortably in such an arena. And that’s the message that drew my curious, searching, teenage mind to the band. Working out the world around me, and realising that it was okay for me to form my own opinions, there was something wildly attractive about the anti-consumerist and anti-materialist ideology stamped across Switchfoot’s release. When you’re sculpting your values from the safe-house of a secure family home it takes little commitment to sign-up to Foreman’s mantra ‘when success is equated with excess the ambition for excess wrecks us.’ It’s just as easy to scrawl lyrics ‘a heart that’s made of gold can’t really beat at all’ over revision cards plastered to the inside of your school desk.

Safely outside my adolescent hormonal haze I’ve realised there weren’t many gold-standard accolades at the time. Reviewers complained about ‘how often the [band’s] message showed up’, slating the album for being ‘over-hyped’ and ‘beating the subject to death’. Yes, the album rarely strays from this focal point, but perhaps the real issue was not the consistency of the message, but it’s stark contrast to the industry it heralded in and the other lyrical cries surrounding it at the time. Take away the ‘anti’ from ‘anti-consumerist’ and ‘anti-materialist’ and suddenly we have songs about fast cars, sexy ladies, and e’rybody in the club getting tipsy with no complaints about the subjects being beaten to death. 

Evolving from a trio to a quintet over the years, each new band member has brought with them developments to Switchfoot’s sound. Oh! Gravity was the band’s second album after welcoming guitarist and backing vocalist Drew Shirley, and it’s his influence which drew the album towards a darker, edgier sound than they’d produced before. The album drives itself into existence through two opening guitar-heavy tracks Oh! Gravity and American Dream before twisting into a more Southern direction for Dirty Second Hands. It’s this first change which marks the collection’s diversity. Within this album are a smorgasbord of sounds carrying the band’s central message. Foreman sings his way through soft, emotive laments; to fun, upbeat tunes; and to intense, thought-provoking tracks. 

Their move to an overridingly heavier sound may have confused fans and critics at the time, but less than a year later Switchfoot announced they were leaving label Columbia to start their own, lowercase people records. Speaking about the switch, the band stated that ‘musically, [they] wanted to go places [they’d] never been before’. And that’s what they did. Oh! Gravity precedes three albums of new material which represent Switchfoot’s development and evolution. 

2014 and I find myself starting to question my ties to Oh! Gravity. Now that I have to pay council tax and buy my own food should I feel defensive whilst listening to an album unashamedly telling me to ‘live and die for bigger things’? Do the critics really know more than a searching 15-year old music-lover? I don’t think so. I listen to the tracks and once again it’s 2007: I’m studying for my GCSEs and starting to work out the world around me. I might be older and a little bit wiser, but I’m also a little bit more cynical, a little bit more bruised. Maybe what we all need is to let these Switchfoot songs bring that determined, value-focused girl of 2007 into the rent and utility bill reality of 2014.