What can we learn from Matty Healy’s speech at the BRITs?

Matty Healy

Courtesy of Markus Hillgärtner, (2014).

Upon receiving the Brit Award for British Group, The 1975 frontman, Matty Healy, commented on the recent (and yet long-standing) controversies regarding harassment and misogyny in the music industry. “Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of ‘difficult’ artists, [whilst] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art”. Healy referenced an article by Laura Snapes published a week earlier in The Guardian, in which she reflected on her own experiences with the so-called ‘indie geniuses’ and the dangers that these ‘beta males’ pose to women in their jobs. Perceiving this progression of events through a feminist lens, I have come to two main conclusions on the need for a feminist awakening in the music industry and the role men should play in it.

Firstly, as Snapes points out in her article, the #MeToo movement has not seeped into the world of music. Almost inexplicably, we have seen the silence of people at all levels covering up the actions of harassers, predators and even rapists in music. It seems like groupie culture and the history of women working as, with or for musicians has erased stories regarding the infamous R Kelly or Ryan Adams. It is safe to say that the treatment of women by men in the industry has not evolved according to the times; sexism in lyrics and videos is still normalised for once, and most consumers don’t see the harm or the repercussion that these have on the struggle of women. Indie stars have been especially sheltered from this, particularly due to the tendency to deify them and the playful image they portray in interviews. When Miles Kane was called out for his inappropriate attitude towards a journalist back in 2016, I remember trying to turn a blind eye and justifying what the article said about him, I was such a big Last Shadow Puppets fan I couldn’t conceive this woman ‘killing my idol’. These issues continue to be silenced by male managers and editors, and they have simply gotten away with it because they are a majority in mainstream media. It is not that journalists like Snapes have only started to talk about it now– it is that only now there begins to be people willing to give them a platform to be heard in bigger, more traditional outlets. In fact, Matty Healy was quoting an article by Snapes herself from 2015 and she reckons she’s been calling out this type of behaviour for over a decade now. It has been a continuous roots-up progression.

Having seen the repercussion of Matty Healy’s words in the BRITs, a second realisation strikes me. As a feminist, the band’s acknowledgement of a misogyny problem is welcomed and it certainly feels like a breath of fresh air that a woman’s concerns are being amplified. However, one cannot help but wonder why making visible an issue like this is so difficult, or is often only possible through a male voice. In spite of this, I do believe actions like Healy’s by male allies are necessary in feminism: men standing up against sexism (especially behind closed doors and in all-male contexts) is a crucial step we are yet to consolidate in our strive for equality. The US President, for instance, should not be excused for sexist comments he made behind closed doors; there is no logic in living in a society where misogynistic ‘locker-room talk’ is still permitted because the victims are not there to be offended. We forget we are all victims of this form of violence. We forget that what is said privately by men has a repercussion not only on the public sphere, but also on the younger generations of boys learning from them. Men casually standing up for women in private or informal circles is essential: it is an indicator of how deep the notions of feminism have really seeped through in our society, as well as how we have managed to disconnect being feminist with being ‘weak’ or ‘less manly’.

“Instead of calling me out, you should be pulling me in”Sincerity Is Scary by The 1975.

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