“Initial” thoughts…

 

 

Ok, so here goes….I got myself involved in a case of mistaken identity this week…

Recently a post went out about sexual harassment within the folk scene. “Sexual harassment” seems the best term but it is a very nuanced thing – manipulation, coercion, abuse of power.

My friend Lizzy showed it to me Tuesday evening, I read it and took it in. I dug out the original post and sent a message to the author on the Instagram account that linked the post. I noted, however that it was an Instagram account recently set up and it was anonymous. The thought crossed my mind of who it might be, was it someone close to me who needed more support? But I understood fully why the writer would want anonymity.

I wondered what would happen, if it would blow up or not and start a lot of conversation, what I could do to be part of the positive change?

On Wednesday morning I woke up to two Facebook messages of people reaching out to me as they thought I had made the post!?!?!
(it would seem, something which I hadn’t noticed, that although the post was anonymous it had been initialled and they also happened to be my initials and these two men had made the assumption it was me)

I felt quite conflicted about these messages.

Firstly, it was NOT me. It wasn’t my experience and it wasn’t my post. The post, if you read it properly, has a lot of things in it which makes it obvious it wasn’t me, and so it frustrated me these men would reach out based on initials, and seemingly not have really read the original post in much detail? Or not have known me well enough to have seen it wasn’t me but still to have reached out about something so personal when the hope was for it to be anonymous!? What were they thinking?

It was weird to think that two people had thought it was my voice – would there/could there be more? “Oh gosh” went my brain “Is this about to blow up with my name on it” – A selfish reaction, considering the real concern should be around the actual woman who wrote the original blog, but that was my reaction at the time.

I then felt angered to see that both of the men who had contacted me, thinking it was my post, had not shared the post or said anything publicly – they’d sent me unsolicited messages even though the post was anonymous but they hadn’t actually supported the issues openly.  Why not?

At first, I thought it was nice to offer support as (if it was my post) I would have been having a difficult time and people reaching out might have been welcome, but as they haven’t posted or supported publicly it is really meaningless, isn’t it?

And wasn’t it also just highlighting that my anonymity hadn’t worked?

To contact a woman and basically let her know that not only do you not have her back publicly but two of you have figured out who she is and she has no anonymity; Christ! If it HAD been my blog post, I would have been absolutely wracked with anxiety.

 

I then realised that overnight the author of the post had “outed” herself; for want of a better word. And it’s terrible but I felt some relief at this that nobody else could just see the initials and jump to the same conclusion these two men had– that’s how tricky it is to come out with these stories – I didn’t even want to be accidentally mistaken as having written it. That’s how hard it can be, and this woman has done that.

I told both the men who had actually written the blog and said that she’d likely appreciate their messages being sent her way but that actually doing something publicly was better and if they felt they could, that as men ( and one was a man who I feel a lot of us respect and look up to in the scene)  that would really help.

This was Wednesday morning. Neither of them has done it. It is now Thursday night. They’ve both posted other non-related/unimportant things on their social media accounts.

I can’t know what the author of the original post had hoped for but I feel we let her down by not starting a proper conversation around all of this – or maybe we have and I have missed it somehow?

I posted a link to the original blog on twitter. Some folk musicians liked it. They did not post themselves or share or comment. One is an artist who has herself done many a public call to arms for support with people abusing positions of power – perhaps she is exhausted with it, it isn’t my place to judge her and it shouldn’t really be the place of other women to have to constantly fight these things, but their silence was disappointing. I considered cancelling a patreon with one of them because I just felt so angry about it – but that is really misplaced. The anger needs to be on the individuals/System we have that firstly allows these things, but secondly seems to make it so impossible for people to talk about. A community which is usually vocal about injustice seems to have gone very quiet now it is a little closer to home.

I am so incredibly disappointed in the two men who contacted me (You know who you are, please do better. Why would you send a message to me when you thought it was my post but not support by having conversations, sharing publicly and being part of the solution?!) I now see all they would have done is shown there was no anonymity and no support but they masked it as concern.

Why is the folk community being so quiet?

Have I missed something here?

 

I am always here if anybody needs to talk through anything they are facing. Perhaps this too is extremely difficult for the perpetrators who have been operating within a world which has made it so that they really did not see the harm in their actions, that’s OK, we all mess up (granted this is pretty big) but if we want change we need to have supportive, safe conversations for everybody effected by this and people need to take accountability and make change where appropriate.

 

I have no idea if this blog post is part of the solution or just adds to the problem but I didn’t want to remain silent.

Minnie x

The original blog post can be found here

 

“Initial” thoughts…

3 thoughts on ““Initial” thoughts…

  1. Minnie, it is always going to be very difficult in cases like these. I fully understand why the writer of the original email wants to remain anonymous, particularly as the warning doesn’t need any names to be valid.
    It is easy for a young performer in any artistic stream to find themselves at risk. The folk music community has a reputation for being helpful with many people prepared to give up time to teach, give advice, mentor etc. Sadly that can also make it too easy to be relaxed around people and miss warning signs.
    After my family music is my greatest family and as with my family I want to see all people involved in music to be safe and nurtured and to feel that there are people that they can turn to if they don’t feel safe or that another person is trying to exert undue control and influence. Sadly it is also true that female performers, particularly young ones are at the most risk and I am aware of artists that have left the music community because of events that have abused their trust, there needs to be frank and open conversations.
    Personal safety is the be all and end all so it’s vitally important that interactions are carried out in a clear way that isn’t open to misinterpretation, musicians have always passed music down through the generation and this must continue to happen safely, personal abuse is to high a price to pay for it to be anything other than that.
    Clarity protects all involved, a young artist from potential abuse, another artist from misinformed rumour and speculation. The message has to be clear and unambiguous

    Like

    1. Thanks for replying, Neil. I don’t think it needs to be unambiguous – by that I am assuming you mean “name and shame” as I think what we are learning is that it isn’t an isolated incident and is more of a systematic problem within the community that we all have a responsibility to fix.

      There’s no need for rumours or speculation – if anybody does fall in to the category of being confused as the people the original blogger is addressing, then the best move is for them to bring their voice to the conversation and make it clear it is not them and that they stand against this kind of behaviour. I also think, as I said in my blog, we have to be quite open minded with the perpetrators – they are also part of a system that normalises this behaviour and likely, sadly, haven’t really seen that their behaviour is wrong and are now facing a rude awakening potentially quite publicly, and although we should centre the victims in this we do also need to show some compassion, and support people to change their ways or it just simply isn’t going to change. In my experience clarity does not protect the victims, in my experience, even at the highest levels of our Criminal justice system, actually “outing” someone and reporting these sort of incidences absolutely destroys victims lives and livelihoods. We should listen and believe women and share their stories without needing clarity or detail. Just believe it happened and they need our support.
      Just my views, and thanks for replying. It is so nice to see so many of the men I admire and respect within this scene enter the conversation in a supportive way. I am very lucky to know people like yourself who always make spaces safe for everyone and have helped me in my career massively.

      Like

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