Last Thursday, the Musicians Union ran an online event entitled “Sexual Harassment and Safe Spaces: DJs, Electronic and Live Communities”. Long title, but the premise of the event was simple – how do you challenge the culture of sexism and sexual harassment that is much more pervasive in electronic music than anyone dares admit?
Well, I have quite a simple answer to this question. Stop venerating people. I’ve written in the past about the problem of idolatry within dance music – and it’s getting clearer each day that there are people out there who use this culture of almost being worshipped to their own disturbing advantage. Bad behaviour is ignored by a media that should be holding its own scene to account – but inevitably doesn’t.
Let’s take a look, for example, at Erick Morillo’s death. A few weeks before he died, it emerged he had been charged with sexual battery. He took the easy way out on September 1st last year by overdosing on ketamine – a drug traditionally used for tranquilising horses – depriving a woman of justice in the process. But you wouldn’t know any of this from the tributes that were posted by his fellow DJs and producers.
Yousef claimed that he was “troubled”. Simon Dunmore of Defected downplayed the allegations, although later apologised for doing so. Others, such as Pete Tong and Danny Tenaglia, pictured below, made no reference to the charges at all.
Several of those tributes were taken offline by his peers following heavy criticism after Mixmag published an article detailing further allegations by ten other women, and a campaign led by journalist Annabel Ross.
Yet none of these men – with the honourable exception of Dunmore – felt the need to explain why they’d taken their decisions. Not one defended their tributes, and not one of them even apologised. One cannot help but wonder whether they’d take the same stances if it was one of their own daughters whom had been a victim of Erick Morillo.
And shall we take a look at a more recent example? Mr Derrick May, of course. I have been blogging about him for a few months now. Annabel Ross and Ellie Flynn have done some articles about him, and Michael James – who started detailing allegations over a year ago – is still pursuing May with vigour. Yet the mainstream press remain silent. By rights, they should be informing their readers about him, questioning our information and so on. But they don’t.
The explanation really is quite simple. There are more of them within their midst. Since I started writing about Derrick May, I have been sent accounts about a number of other DJs and producers who behave in much the same way. The reasons are always alarmingly similar – mostly because they think they’ll get away with it, and often do.
So, there’s one idea straight away on how to reduce problems with sexual harassment and sexism within the industry. When women – and yes, men too – come forward with allegations about someone, don’t be so quick to disbelieve them. And exposing more of the scene to the rays of sunlight will do wonders too. If people think their chances of getting caught are higher, they’re less likely to do it. Does that solve the problem? No. But it’s a start…
I’m going to go listen to the event now – there might be other good ideas in it…