by Ben Shine
Jessica Hopper is a rock critic, culture writer, author and journalist. She's a regular contributor to Pitchfork. She's published two collections of criticism, which have received national acclaim. She's been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MTV, Time, The Guardian, TheVillage Voice and hundreds of other news outlets and blogs. Hopper is kind of a big deal.
And, she's got a real beef. Two weeks ago she asked a simple question on her Twitter feed that sparked the millionth tipping point in a conversation that we obviously need to have ... again.
Gals/other marginalized folks: What was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism scene) w/ idea that you didn't "count"?— Jessica Hopper (@jesshopp) Aug. 24, 2015
Hundreds of retweets and droves of anecdotes of personal encounters with misogyny, racism, abuse and homophobia later, what is clear is that the music world (and all its sub-scenes) doesn't offer equal access or respect to every fan, journalist, musician, deejay or industry professional. In fact, hundreds upon hundreds of accounts in the last few weeks alone show us that the music industry is a veritable sausage party of men behaving badly. And the result of their stupidity, small-mindedness and flat-out barbarous behavior is severely limiting the vitality and creative potential of a whole scene. And it's boring.
I'm sick of this conversation. I'm not sick of it because I don't want to hear about the challenges that non-white/middle class/males face in wanting to be a part of something that is offered so freely and easily to guys like me. I'm sick of it because 1.) some of my personal favorite artists are women, 2) three out of four bands in my short and non-illustrious music career included women as principle players and writers, and 3) when I look at Indy's contemporary scene, women are making things happen in journalism, record stores, bands, show bookings and music-focused nonprofits. And they're doing all that while having to deal with mega and micro-aggressions on a daily basis.
The thing that's crazy is that women have been proving themselves in ways they shouldn't have had to for decades. I'm still friends with original, for-real Riot Grrrls from the '90s. I dutifully moved to the back of the room at the Bikini Kill shows of my teens and understood why they wanted to make a special safe space for women to watch the show.
I stood vigilant next to female friends at shows, because I saw the way guys acted when they got too close. I saw female bandmates blocked from entry into gigs accused of carrying their boyfriend's guitar so they could get in free. I read the zines. I've also read a lot of literature and listened to a lot of lyrics, and I get it. Actually I don't get it, but I get that misogyny exists and why women feel marginalized in music and art scenes. I just don't understand why it happens and why we're not farther along by now.
So what's it going to take? How can we guarantee that music can be a safe place for everyone? My friend suggested that guys like me need to go ahead and move to the back of the room more, to make the space for women and then to celebrate their creative output. I think that's a start, but any social change probably requires a multitude of actions; this is, after all, just a reflection of much greater problems in our society.
And I want to know where you think we should go as a community, in Indy and well beyond, to ensure that women aren't just accepted, but welcomed, cultivated and honored as creative forces with the same ease that guys are. The comment section is open here or over on facebook, and it's a safe place to have this conversation.
A quick, small suggestion, to get you started on this path (or to soundtrack your brainstorming), take a minute to listen to some of Indiana's current bands with women: We Are Hex, Bobo, Hen, Shame Thugs, White Moms, Thee Tsunamis, SM Wolf, Mars or the Moon or Manners, Please. And then go give a high five to any or many of the local ladies making great things happen in the Indianapolis scene -- Annie Skinner, Kat Coplen, Abby Goldsmith (all featured in my blog) and many more.