Tina Arena and Courtney Barnett join campaign against music industry sexual harassment

More than 360 Australian women, including the Veronicas and Sarah Blasko, have signed #MeNoMore letter recounting harassment, assault and rape

Courtney Barnett, Tina Arena, Sarah Blasko, the Veronicas, Missy Higgins and Jenny Morris have signed an open letter from more than 360 leadings figures in the Australian music industry demanding “zero tolerance for sexual harassment, violence, objectification and sexist behaviours” in the industry.

The letter, organised by a group of women in the industry as they launch the #MeNoMore movement, contains anonymous first person accounts of harassment, assault and rape.

By Tuesday morning, more than 360 women had signed it, including artists, managers, publicists, booking agents and record label employees.

The open letter is just the latest moment in a movement against sexual harassment, assault and rape in the entertainment and media industries, which has been gathering steam in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. It was inspired in part by a similar open letter from the Swedish music industry, which was signed by Robyn, Tove Lo, First Aid Kit and more than 2,000 others last month.

The authors of the Australian letter write: “As Hollywood led the #MeToo movement and stories started breaking around the world, we found ourselves offering strength to our friends and colleagues who had their own stories to share – both publicly and in whispered circles.

“It’s become clear that the magnitude of #MeToo extends to our own shores and to our own industry.”

In anonymous anecdotes shared within the letter, one woman told of winning a high school music competition before being recruited and groomed by an Australian musician, who sexually abused her for months, leading her to quit the industry. Another told of a man who was “a pretty big deal in the local electronic music scene” and forced her to “do sexual things to him”, and threatened to ruin her career if she told anyone.

Other stories detailed powerful men groping women, sending unsolicited nude photos, and pressuring women for sex.

“We have listened to our friends,” the letter reads. “We have names of perpetrators. We know the same names that are repeated in unrelated circles. It saddens us that the people who hold us in fear and keep us silenced are people we work with, people who many of us have aspired to work under, and people who some of us have known as friends. These people need to be held accountable.”

Other signatories to the letter include Heidi Lenffer from Cloud Control, singer-songwriter Holly Throsby, DJ Nina Las Vegas, and Isabella Manfredi from the Preatures. In October, Manfredi detailed her own experiences of sexual harassment in the industry in two Instagram posts.

“Perhaps the greatest clarity this unfolding story has given me is some perspective on my own experiences in the music industry, mostly in, but not confined to, America,” she wrote. She told of sexual harassment from a New York indie label head, and inappropriate behaviour from a US booking agent.

“I don’t want the next generation of women coming up in the music industry to face this kind of morally ambiguous, second-guess-yourself crap. It’s not on.”

2/2 What do these experiences do to women? Well, they tell you, not only have you suddenly become part of the clichéd female experience you were raised to believe no longer exists, you ARE the cliché. You are the woman getting your arse groped by a guy in a suit, too shocked to do anything about it, you are the woman holding an artist pass with tits on it, you are the woman whose violent ex-boyfriend is stalking you across your American tour, you are the woman doing the dishes in the studio, you are the woman nagging the guys to 'help' you, you are the woman being shushed in rehearsal, and you are the woman making yourself smaller and smaller so you don’t unsettle or disappoint the men you work with, rely on, and care so much about. I’ve never spoken about this because I thought the only way beyond it was to keep my head down, work hard and become a respected and powerful woman in my own right. Like Jia Tolentino says in The New Yorker “This makes for a false but often convincing narrative—you are prey only when you are not good enough, and so you must not have been good enough if you were prey.” I have worked hard to become untouchable. But in doing so I’ve also limited myself and kept a permissive silence on things that matter to me. This IS only the tip of the iceberg and I know there’s more to share here. I don’t want the next generation of women coming up in the music industry to face this kind of morally ambiguous, second-guess-yourself crap. It’s not on. On this album cycle I’ve been asked, does sexism in the music industry still exist, and what does it look like? I think it’s time to compile our experiences and give it a face. If you want to share your stories with me, send me an email: isabellametoo@gmail.com #metoo 💔

A post shared by Isabella Manfredi (@isabellamanfredi) on

Tina Arena, who signed the open letter, has also been outspoken against sexism in the music industry.

“Women and men of all ages have something interesting to say but what I have struggled with is the complete ostracisation of a woman [in the music industry] at a certain age,” she said at the 2015 Aria awards.

In 2013 Arena told Fairfax: “It is very difficult to be a female in the industry in Australia, yes absolutely.”


Steph Harmon

The GuardianTramp

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