Op Ed: The Toxic Culture of Men Using Their Power and the Beautifully Strong Women Fighting Back
“We were so lucky to learn early in our career about the power dynamic that exists between a band and their audience.” A direct quote from the sad excuse of a post about sexual abuse that SWMRS made. Seemingly in response to the allegations about several bands on the label, Burger Records, and now they are included in those allegations. In these pandemic times, even more then before, I’ve been glued to social media, even being made fun of it for some times so after taking a one daybreak, it’s sad that my attention to a story had to be brought by a band member tweeting about the fact that the music media had been eerily quiet in regards to several stories about sexual abuse by older men. These stories that these brave survivors have posted in the past 48 hours or so include Lydia Night of The Regrettes and Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr, both in bands that have been on a huge rise of success this past year and a half or so, but sexual abuse by men in powerful positions have been a nonstop issue for as long as I’ve considered myself part of the music media.
I experienced it early on as a fresh 21-year-old in a sea of rock shows and interviewing men that were much older than me but also in the local scene of Boston, somewhere you should always feel safe. And with these two stories amongst countless others, something has to be done. When I saw the SWMR’s post originally surface, I, unfortunately, flipped past it, really only read a few words but now after hearing the stories of Creevy and Night, the latter posting an account of the power dynamic in her relationship with SWMR’s Joey Armstrong, who’s father is Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, but now SWMR’s statement is vomit worthy. According to Night’s statement, Armstrong messaged her when he was 22 fully knowing she was 16, telling her that she had been booked on some tours coming up with them and from that first tour ignited a relationship where he set “rules” for how it would be and to keep it secret, would constantly ask her to perform sexual acts on him and forever kept a powerful control on how their relationship would work.
The same idea is shown through the statement Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr released when it came to Sean Redman of The Buttertones when it came to a relationship he pursued when Creevy was 14 and Redman was 20. Within Creevy’s statement came the incredibly poignant, “As a young teenage girl, I witnessed a culture of predatory, misogynistic, and abusive behavior towards women by Sean, some of his bandmates in The Buttertones, and other men in their circle. I want to say with no conditionality whatsoever that this is not atypical of the music scene.” So it’s beyond interesting to see SWMR’s acknowledge those incidents without commenting on their own behavior and sure knowledge about these serious accounts of sexual abuse.
The fact that SWMR’s has admitted they knew of these events, and from reading the womxn’s accounts, the band members knew about what was happening, these not at all okay relationships, the power dynamic they talk of in their sad excuse for a statement is exactly what SWMR’s Armstrong exerted onto Night. And they aren’t alone in this. Even them talking about that in their statement, “It is an industry structured around the commodification of youth, sexuality, and creativity at any cost. Often times, the adults in our industry enable bad behavior because our bad behavior is profitable for them. We are young men now, capable of so much harm because these older men promised us the world”.
We’ve seen this power dynamic for years. Famous examples being Ryan Adams being cited as taking the passion out of women like his ex-wife Mandy Moore, Phoebe Bridgers, and many others when it came to their musical careers. Adams promised tours to several women and used it over their heads in hopes of having relationships, sexual incidents happen. We’ve seen it happen with musicians taking advantage of much younger fans at their shows with a resurgence of abuse stories about Dahvie Vanity of Blood on the Dance Floor and Austin Carlile formerly of Of Mice and Men. A story was prepared about the latter for Alternative Press and got shut down just before it was supposed to hit the presses. A story where survivors in the double digits had been so brave to share their stories about sexual assault on his part. And one can only think that the power of Carlile and his rapport with that magazine is what stopped the story.
The brave stories of the women that have come out with countless accounts of sexual assault, abuse of power, control older musicians/industry personnel think they can have on women is hopefully only going to encourage other women to come out with their own stories. Be it putting their heart on the floor like with Hayley William’s debut solo record to these stories of young incredible women becoming positive role models and inspirations for other young women to come out with their stories. It’s time to nip support in the bud for bands that blame their own actions on those who came before them and in the words of SWMR’s own statement, “we also want to acknowledge that these stories highlight the unsavory fact that this behavior is often the default for young men in music.”