There’s an epidemic going on, if you hadn’t noticed.
To summarize; we live in a what seems to be a dystopian world where a predatory trait is dominant across the schools, the workplace, the entertainment industry, even just day to day life – it runs rampant across every sector of life, both yours and mine.
Sexual harassment is now so common that 65% of US women say they’ve experienced it just walking in the street, according to a survey by Stop Street Harassment (SSH). This plague of inappropriately claimed ownership of women and men is so rife that exclusion from it feels like a privilege, even in our own city of Austin – yet, it’s still taboo to speak about.
Two Austin-based female musicians have spoken out on their anger about this topic; these are their stories.
Who They Are:
Sydney Wright has been making a name for herself across Austin since her debut in the city, in 2015. A born revolutionist with a penchant for telling beautifully intricate stories with her music, she’s strong, believes in herself and is a breath of crisp, fresh air.
Mariclaire Glaeser follows this trend of being a woman of her own design. The lead singer of the popular Austin-based band, Shy Beast, she’s evolved in 2017 into a creature of sheer showmanship and vivacious musicality.
Neither is a stranger to the music scene and both carry with them a heavy reputation thick with respect for that. But both are also no stranger to the sexual harassment and gendered discrimination that unfortunately, and rather archaically, still comes with the success.
According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, this includes women across every industry, including Austin’s music scene. A very slight gender disparity that sees a male presence of 55% to 45% dominate, the women of this city are not naïve to the dangers.
“The music scene comes alive at night” Mariclaire begins, an aspiring musician’s kaleidoscope dream’s conjured, before the imagery cracks and the warning becomes clear “there is alcohol present most of the time. There will always be predators, and there will always be lowered inhibitions. There will always be drunk dudes attempting to get a piece of you.”
Both women have experience in this pitiful example of mankind – each of them having stories with male tones that range from disrespectful to sheer ignorance of all human rights they have. Mariclaire begins to tell the story of a grim reality; non-consensual sexual advances and inappropriate touching is something 23% of women have experienced.
“The night of my band’s album release party a few years ago, I made my way over to the merch table, I took over for a bit selling stuff. One guy squeezed between me and the wall and started attempting to caress my lower back and whisper things in my ear while I was trying to handle transactions. He was telling me how ‘awesome’ and talented I was, and that he could offer me some great advice, because he ‘knows what works and what doesn’t’” she explained.
Of the 65% of women that have been sexually harassed, Mariclaire found herself in the 75% statistic of women met with anger and abuse they speak up about the harassment and ask for it to stop.
“I kept moving his hand away and asking him to leave.” She continues “This angered him, and he started verbally attacking my music and my performance earlier; telling me that I had a long way to go, and that I wasn’t trying hard enough.”
“In an ideal world, we would strive to identify our similarities, not amplify our differences,” Sydney begins, a poetic twist on what she believes should be the norm.
“But I think sexual harassment and discrimination are prevalent in our society and cultures as a whole, which makes it inevitably present in our music scene.
“There are countless times that I’ve been approached whilst running a console by males and females alike with, ‘So you know what all these buttons do?’, ‘Oh, a sound GIRL, I’ve never seen one of those!’, or ‘I think it’s great that you do this!’.
“I don’t think that being delineated from my peers because of my gender is helpful in promoting equality.”
Discrimination is a dangerous example of ignorance that happens often in the workplace, especially when co-ordinated with sexual harassment with 81% of American women in the workforce experiencing verbal abuse via inappropriate jokes or sexual comment (Atlantic Training Company).
The ‘You Can Stay’ singer tells another story, of a time where an inappropriate joke while she was working a gig forced her to set her boundaries and define the parameters of them.
“At one point, something came up about a phrase someone had coined on tour. I don’t remember the story, but the phrase was, ‘titties and beer, beer and titties!’ It got a laugh as it was repeated throughout the show.
“During one of those laughs, a man comes up to me, and, in the same sing-song voice the act was using, says, ‘sound boards and…’ and makes a motion like ‘eh?’’. All I could do was stare at him with an ‘I have nothing to say to you’ look and turn to do my job as the band started the next song.
“After the show, he apologized. I really appreciated that, and I’m glad that the situation provided an opportunity to make my boundaries clear.”
“We should take responsibility for and control of our mouths, eyes, and urges,” she continues, “and we would strive to treat each other equally, holding everyone to the same standards of respect and propriety.”
While this was an example of a time Sydney took back control of the situation, this isn’t always a feasible option – especially not for the 1 in 6 American women that aren’t able to stop the harasser in their tracks.
“Sexual shame and intimidation is a real and present force in our society whether you’ve been affected by it or not.” Sydney confides, though she does believe quite distinctly that Austin is a ‘liberal bubble’ that shines more of the necessary spotlight on immoral behaviour than many other cities.
This seems to be the general consensus felt across Austin, with Mariclaire sharing a positive reading of the city as well.
She says; “There isn’t as much of a stigma in Austin on how we should look and act. I feel like I have a lot of freedom of expression here, and most people are on board.
“I don’t really know how to fix the worldview of men and women who are so set in their ways, that they see female artists as products from which to glean money and enjoyment.
“It makes me sad.”
While neither of the women’s list of experiences constitute as sparse, both state that they feel Austin is less forgiving of this kind of behaviour – reassuring considering 45% of American women don’t feel safe to walk home alone, according to Gallup’s annual crime survey.
What we can do;
Mariclaire is adamant that better education in the home and in schools is the way to prevent the behaviour – pre-emptively nipping it in the bud, so to speak while Sydney has a less action-based hope for the future and more of rules to live by;
“We shouldn’t get off on being trolls or feed the discord fire by picking our allies apart for the sake of a trivial argument.
“We shouldn’t say things from behind a screen that we would be uncomfortable saying to a person’s face.
“I think we need to take the conversation away from the internet and into our real lives, in a public and intentional way.”
“We need to unite ourselves.” Sydney continues, “We can’t control the thoughts or actions of other people, but we can set steadfast boundaries and be ready to draw those lines when someone is inappropriate and we need to shake biased perspectives with education and emotional intelligence.
“We need our message to be as strong and articulate as possible to incite action among our powerful ‘public servants’ and replace them if they don’t serve us.”
This power is an important step in not only taking care of ourselves, but also taking care of friends, family and even strangers. As Mariclaire suggests, both men and women have a role to play in this revolution, this is something to go down in history if we do it right.
So, it’s time we re-educate. Use the disgust and shock fuelled by the #MeToo movement, and hold the offender responsible, refuse ‘boys will be boys’ and instil a new mantra – ‘responsibility for all’. It’s no longer a case of mindlessly offensive comments, nor has it been for a long time; what you see Mariclaire and Sydney saying is the thought process present across many minds – some of which are scared, some of which are empowered and some of which are in danger.
Photography: Sophia Louise of SophiaDPhotography – Flickr
Author: Megan Matthews