In September 2013 Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry penned a piece for the Guardian entitled, ‘I will not accept online misogyny.’ It was a piece aimed squarely at the barrage of messages the singer was receiving daily via the band’s social media pages, both in response to innocent posts the band were making regarding their music and by men generally just messaging the page and being sexually explicit towards the singer.
In the article, Mayberry pointed out that, ‘the number of offensive messages directed towards me, “the girl singer,” compared to my bandmates is undeniably higher.’ She went on to make clear that whilst she accepts that she’s in a position whereby criticism and response are to be expected, that no woman should ever have to accept messages of the nature she was experiencing.
Since the piece was published, Chvrches Facebook page no longer has a message function. Suffrockgettes can’t confirm whether the decision to take this feature away was based on the types of message the band, and Lauren, were receiving. The timing does seem to suggest that the band who were ‘born on the internet’ have simply decided that enough is enough.
Misogyny in music is nothing new. In fact, it’s practically as old as popular music itself. In 1955 Elvis Presley released a song called, Baby Let’s Play House, ‘I’d rather see you dead little girl/ than be with another man.’ A lot has changed in the 50-odd years since this song’s release but the misogyny debate still rages on.
Singer/songwriter Lou Hickey is a woman who holds an opinion. She’s carved her own path in the music industry since her first EP release back in 2007. As well as her own solo success, she spent a couple of years working with Fratellis frontman Jon Lawler in Codeine Velvet Club. Her roles with both Club Noir’s highly popular burlesque nights and as vocal supporter for the Yes Scotland Campaign mean that Hickey is absolutely aware she’s a prime candidate for criticism and attack:
‘The music industry is very male dominated. That’s why I made sure I was as educated as possible in what I was trying to do. I think being a singer, and also working for a burlesque club, I am in the line of fire. I just work hard and try to take it in my stride, be confident and smile.’
It hasn’t always been as easy as taking it in her stride though. Back in 2008 when Hickey announced her professional partnership with the Fratellis frontman, not everyone celebrated her achievement:
‘Not long after Codeine Velvet Club were signed, I had heard that a known Glasgow musician was claiming I had got my record deal because I had slept with someone. That was probably the most hurtful thing to me, because I had worked so hard just to get to that point and sacrificed so much financially and mentally. Jealousy is a horrible thing and I hated that he used such a cheap angle because I was female.’
Misandry, the male equivalent of misogyny, could be said to be just as prevalent in today’s music culture. When pop singer Kesha arrived on the scene, her debut album was all about shock value and blurring gender values. One track from the album, Blah Blah Blah contains the verse:
‘I don’t really care where you live at
Just turn around boy and let me hit that
Don’t be a little bitch with your chit chat
Just show me where your dick’s at.’
There was no furore surrounding the song. Skip to three years later and the release of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and the outrage coming from religious, social, and women’s rights groups around the world was deafening. The song was subsequently banned in university campuses across the UK. Is this double standards?
Lou Hickey explains it like this: ‘I think because it has been such a struggle for women for so long, we are at a point where we are more confident confronting it now.’
How we’re confronting it depends on where it’s taking place. The rise in popularity of social media has meant that sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been criticised for their handling of misogynistic content. But with one billion users globally, how can Facebook possibly police that amount of traffic?
There are groups who have taken it upon themselves to name and shame those responsible for this type of content. Set up in 2012, Rapebook is a social media page on Facebook, which allows users to post links to pages and people deemed to be misogynistic. It currently has just under 7000 likes.
In contrast, The Everyday Sexism Project has had global success. It ‘exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis,’ and does so by allowing women across the world to post instances when they’ve felt they’ve been treated in a sexist way.
But are these sites making a difference? When Suffrockgettes asked for your opinion on how misogyny should be tackled online, the responses were mixed:
‘Tighter monitoring, on specific degrading words, and the people who use them against others.’
‘To be honest, I have no idea! As always, education may be the key, especially getting the aggressors to understand what they are doing to their victims online, and the mental harm that they cause.’
‘Wide spread media should censor extremist views in order to tackle attitudes and in turn misogyny will, over time, be a thing of the past.’
‘Strong reporting measures, ban those guilty from forums/social media’
– Some of the Suffrockgettes responses to ‘What Should be done to tackle online Misogyny, January 2014
The view of banning those caught making misogynistic remarks is one Lou Hickey shares: ‘I think social media needs to take some responsibility and not back away from these issues. It needs to be moderated. Personally, I think anyone sending any form of hate mail/messages should be removed.’
However, just like Chvrches, Hickey is aware that if it weren’t for social media she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in today: ‘I don’t think I would have a career now if it wasn’t for social media. I went from being signed to a major label to going it on my own. Social media has allowed me to reach my fan base directly and release and promote my own album.’
In a music landscape where Lily Allen is releasing a song like Hard Out Here, aimed at tackling misogyny in the music industry and complete with accompanying video which sees the words ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’ spelled out in balloons, we also have Miley Cyrus. At 21, the sexual content of both her video’s and lyrics leaves little to the imagination.
Allen’s attempts at equalising the field may have slightly miss-fired but at least she’s trying right? Perhaps this issue isn’t how men respond to women in the industry but how we promote ourselves.
Suffrockgettes wants to know your opinion on this debate. Get involved via the comments below!
(Suffrockgettes wishes to thank Lou Hickey for her time.)
Lou Hickey has just announced a show at Glasgow’s o2 ABC. For more information and to buy tickets click here.