How ‘boy’s club’ mentality is still hurting all of us

Like most Internet movements, this one began with a tweet:

Hopper, a senior editor at music-centric website Pitchfork and author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, specifically called out music and the communities around it, but the responses—which were immediate and still pouring in—showed the wide spectrum of discrimination that not just women but people from all sorts of marginalized identities face, and in ways that are distressingly relatable to people living and working in any industry or occupation: 

All of the responses show that, despite the ongoing mainstream conversations around empowerment, community, and intersectional feminism, there still very much exists a “boys’ club” that either rejects, ignores, or most likely, doesn’t even understand that it is complicit in and abetting discrimination: A club in which no women, people of color, and queer people are heartily accepted, and one which enforces its boundaries in trivializing and traumatizing ways.  

Sure, not all of us set up stages at music venues, but we’ve probably heard “Oh, you’re probably not strong enough for this because you’re a woman;” not all of us have had to list every single album/song by an artist to prove their legitimacy as a fan, but we’ve probably heard “Oh, you probably don’t know this” or “Oh, I’m surprised you know this.” Of course, not every comment like those is directly related to discrimination, but many of them are, and Hopper’s tweet has ignited feelings that many of us who otherwise enjoy and love music and our relationship with it hold, as well as touched off conversations about discrimination and marginalization across the board.

The stories relayed in this Twitter thread—about being told that their opinion doesn’t matter or is limited to just one specific thing while their other colleagues get a pass, that they aren’t capable enough or that they would or do serve as distractions to the “real work”—are familiar to anybody who works in a male-dominated field or even just enjoys male-associated activities.

Ranging from implied slights (“Let’s ask everybody but her/assume they’re an SO or groupie”) to violent acts (“Let’s release their personal information online and/or physically and verbally attack them”) to silent condoning (“Let’s not do anything about the discrimination you face”), the stories are heart-breaking, infuriating, and all too common. Musicians, stage technicians, writers, publicists, and even just fans are all coming out of the woodwork to shine a harsh spotlight on the issues that affect us all. And all because of one tweet.

“I was talking to the critic, my friend Molly Beauchemin about how I think that some of my tenacity and success within my careers has been due to the fact that I had early and strong support from people in music, growing up in Minneapolis, people who met my fandom and curiosity and ambitions with opportunities, albums, encouragement,” Hopper told HelloGiggles. “I certainly was discouraged and faced sexism at times, but I had enough positive experience that I knew it wasn’t true, per se. And I think some of that is what drove me to stick around and keep pursuing music criticism, to work in the music industry. It’s a pretty rare experience to have teen girl fandom not be dismissed outright.”

“But it’s not just women, it’s queer kids and people of color. I was also thinking about Hanif’s piece for Pitchfork that ran about 10 days ago, which talked about being one of two black dudes at a show, watching the other kid get trampled in the pit, and the way violence at shows feels when you are not a white dude or someone who doesn’t live with the threat of violence and death looming over you daily,” Hopper adds. “What if there was support instead of ‘WTF are you doing here?’ What would it look like? What would be the albums made or books written if people did not have to get their mettle up just to go to shows, or play them? Resistance takes up a lot of time and energy.”

Though the responses to Hopper’s original query, as well as her own shared experiences, make our blood boil, the conversation it’s inspired and the community it’s brought together are certainly worth examining. For every public comment, there are a hundred more stories unshared; or as Hopper puts it, “[It’s] making a lot of private anguish public. And a lot of it has had to be private. Because a lot of us are still working in these industries, these spaces, some of these men are powerful—there is a price for speaking out about anything, just as it is in the regular world. If you look at some of the replies they are about being a woman of color, of being tokenized and marginalized—some older women talking about being invisible, powerful women of a certain in the industry being excluded from power-brokering bro scenarios, marquee name artists talking about being disrespected by sound dudes when they rebuff their advances… what all of this illustrates is a toxic environment in many ways.”

But, half the battle in changing entrenched prejudices like sexism and racism is making their very real effects known, and paving the way for improvement of and movement on these issues:

Though this conversation is only beginning, Hopper is optimistic about the effects of her tweet, which has both touched a nerve and unearthed a cathartic slew of responses: “The really positive and incredible thing is that we can have a really public discussion, that for all the trolling awfulness some of us have to endure—what’s happening on my timeline right now—women talking about sexual assault, women @-ing people who said horrible things to them and getting apologies, that there are dozens of men saying ‘Everyone please read and hear and believe these stories’ and RT’ing things—that’s something.”

Why we need Jessica Hopper’s book, ‘The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic’

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Image via Shutterstock