Misogyny and the Australian Music Industry
In late March it was announced that Sticky Fingers were the surprise headliners for Sydney music festival Bad Friday. This reveal was to some predictable, and to many controversial.
The band had teased their return to the stage just a few days before the announcement was made; having been on hiatus since 2016 due to “internal issues”. Those internal issues being allegations of violence and racial and sexual abuse directed at the groups singer, Dylan Frost.
Anyone involved in the Australian music scene can at least acknowledge that there are many problems within the industry relating to gender diversity as well as representation. Even people on both sides of the argument can at minimum see that the issue is being discussed and interpreted, being well and truely at the forefront of music conversation at the moment. The fact that the issue is being acknowledge on many levels, as well as the lingering effects of the recently sparked #MeToo movement, makes the return of Sticky Fingers controversial to many.
After receiving flak from many fans online, Bad Friday organisers took to social media to aggressively defend the decision, claiming that the allegations were “utter lies” and described those who criticised the decision to headline the band as “clowns”. The statement was not received well and has since been deleted due to the horrible decision to label legitimate allegations of sexual and racial abuse as ‘utter lies’. Statements such as these can be damaging to victims who have, or have yet to, risk their livelihoods and reputations by coming forward. The organisers also defended their decision by claiming that the band will “never be everyone’s cup of tea”. A foolish statement that effectively minimised the allegations of sexual and racial abuse into a question of personal preference.
Mid April, all five members of Sticky Fingers were interviewed by Tom Tilley on triple j’s Hack. The interview was seen by fans as a chance for the band to acknowledge the current controversy surrounding them and to carry themselves in a fresh light after being packed away for over twelve months. Unfortunately however, the interview gained them even more controversy with Dylan Frost claiming that “boys will be boys” and “shit happens” when questioned on the previous allegations made against him. Frost’s comment are a marked representation of Australia’s issue with toxic masculinity and our obsession with making excuses for our self professed “lad culture” which permeates so many elements of our country’s male youth experience. Sticky Fingers is a fantastic physical manifestation of this; with mainstream Australian media painting them in the past as mischievous, but loveable, lads that you’d want to have a beer or two with.
Another example of this is how acutely entwined alcoholism and violence is into Australia’s youth culture. Go to Europe and stroll through a park any afternoon and witness how our drinking culture differs from the rest of the world. In Germany, Heidi and Hans enjoy a few beers in the park on a summer evening; in Australia, Daryl is having a go at the neighbours again. We constantly make excuses for the people who ruin it for everyone else; these issues need to be acknowledged and faced head on, not swept under the rug as just another oh boys will be boys moment. The term boys will be boys also implies that this behaviour is normal which it isn’t. As a young man I don’t feel the need to be aggressive or racist or misogynistic; it isn’t in my genetic makeup just because I’m a guy, it really sends the wrong message completely. Men need to be held accountable for their actions, if you do these things you are an asshole, it isn’t normal.
Last year word came out that Matt Mondanile, the lead singer of American indie-rock band Ducktails, had been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. The allegations were taken seriously and the band’s upcoming shows were cancelled. Ducktails were one of my favourite bands; I still respect their music on an auditory level, however I can’t look past the allegations against Mondanile and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. In Australia allegations such as this are often approached in a different way completely. The testimonies are pulled apart and analysed, as if to find a way that they can be brushed aside, validated and even sometimes justified. The allegations against Sticky Fingers have come to be one of the most high profile cases of alleged abuse in modern Australian music history. So it isn’t right that they are back seemingly without any consequences, bar some frustrated fans and a handful of annoyed music journalists.
The Australian music industry has been seen as a man’s game for decades, but now we’re starting to see this paradigm shift in which more females and minorities are getting involved in all facets of the industry. My girlfriend is in a band, her two roommates are in a band and most of their friends are in bands. The unavoidable fact is, despite this involvement, gender representation continues to be a major issue within the industry. Last month a female member of Perth band Boatshow was asked, “how’s that glass ceiling working out for you?” by a sound technician before a live set. How someone can joke so frivolously about such a sensitive issue is indicated of the deep rooted problems within the industry today.
So what can be done? On a base level we need accountability for those who have been accused of such transgressions as well as restorative justice. People need to take responsibility for their words and actions and should commit to addressing their behaviour by communicating with survivors in order to gain a better understanding of how their actions affect others. It’ll be a long road until we fully stamp out such issues within the industry, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Photo Credit: “Sticky Fingers” by Reservedheadphones is licensed under Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0