This Is Why Aussie Musicians Are Speaking Up About Sexual Harassment And Assault In Their Industry
Sexual assault by frontmen; unsolicited dick pics from music bosses; groping at the hands of band managers...
These are the experiences of some of the hundreds of Australian artists, musicians, managers, booking agents, and publicists who shared their stories in an open letter speaking out about sexual harassment and assault in the music industry.
Isabella Manfredi/Instagram / Via Instagram: @isabellamanfredi
"We are not whingers or vibe-killers," the letter, which has been signed by the Veronicas, Missy Higgins, and Tina Arena, reads.
"We are passionate people dedicating our lives to music. In the face of uncountable discrimination, harassment, violence, and the general menace of sexist jargon, we have gritted our teeth and gotten on with the job. But today we say, no more."
Sydney DJ Lillian Ahenkan, who works under the moniker Flex Mami, said she signed the letter because of a situation at an industry event she played at recently.
A "very drunk" man was approaching women and touching them in a way Ahenkan said could be perceived as "harmless flirting to the untrained eye".
He came up to the booth where she was DJ'ing and she "politely acknowledged him" but he loitered.
"He then began to attempt to grope my bum and when I swatted him away he looked confused," Ahenkan told BuzzFeed News.
"I turned my back to him and then he put his arm around my neck in what could only be described as a chokehold."
Two pairs of women rushed up on stage to scold the man, she said.
"I was on a podium so this would've been seen by a room of at least 100 ... I watched as men look perplexed and seemingly unaffected."
Ahenkan said until that night she was "extremely ignorant of the unashamed nature of sexual predators".
"I was in a place of privilege at that event and still felt unsafe and unheard and had my experience delegitimised by the lack of help."
Fellow Sydney DJ Olivia Suleimon, who goes by the name Yemisul, loves to play songs that women can dance to with their friends.
Olivia Suleimon/Instagram / Via Instagram: @yemisul
"I've got these groups of girls dancing and then I always see this one guy who thinks it is hilarious to harass them while they are genuinely enjoying themselves," she told BuzzFeed News.
"But I think we are moving into a new space where that is off behaviour and these men just look like the creeps they are."
Suleimon said she also found getting booked a tricky situation to navigate as a woman.
"When I'm being booked I feel like there is some sort of flirtation that needs to happen before I'm booked and I have to entertain this extra conversation," she said.
"Every time I play there is this pretence that people think I'm going to be shit because I'm a girl so I have to come extra hard."
As a self-managed artist, Newcastle folk artist Demi Mitchell finds it "extremely frustrating" negotiating her position as a musician who is entitled to respect and "someone who is being treated as an object of desire".
Demi Mitchell/Instagram / Via Instagram: @demimitchellmusic
"I think it occurs on a spectrum from obvious forms of harassment, such as being bailed up after a gig by a man that thinks you owe him something just because he paid you a compliment and watched your set, to more subtle forms of manipulation such as liaising with people in the industry who turn professional interactions into something else entirely," Mitchell told BuzzFeed News.
"It has been a battle for me to not become disheartened as what I have believed to be professional relationships have turned sour quickly multiple times when I have rejected flirtatious advances, taking me back to square one when organising things."
She said she had been groped after playing at a gig but "thankfully" hadn't witnessed it happening to her fans.
"I have experienced it myself after playing a gig and have witnessed it at other people’s shows, perpetuated by both fans and men in bands to their fans," she said.
"As stated in the letter, women in the industry have mostly just kept their heads down and kept on working at what they love, and absolutely kicking arse in spite of all the bullshit they endure along the way."