This is not easy to discuss. So many women (and sometimes men, too) experience it and decide they don’t want to make waves and never speak up.
Fact: it’s happened to me too, and probably to many female singers and musicians you know.
We’re on a session, or on a live gig and someone makes a completely unacceptable, unwanted sexually-based comment about us or our bodies, or touches/grabs us inappropriately, or fires us because we won’t…you know.
If we want to help put a stop to this appalling behavior and protect others who may be entering the business from perpetrators, then here are some waves we can make:
1. We can say, “STOP IT. NOW.”
Granted, this isn’t so easy, especially when we’re young. Speaking up immediately isn’t always our first reaction; what we usually feel first is incredulity combined with denial and/or rationalization (“Did that just happen? What was that? Was it that bad?”).
Speaking up immediately isn’t always our first reaction.
Often, if denial/rationalization is strong, we accept it and don’t act; externally, that is… We can carry this idea that we’ve been victimized for a loooong time if we’re not careful.
Lots of us weigh our options: “Oh man, this person is my band-mate/record exec/producer and I can’t mess this up and now what do I do?” Please know this: YOU did nothing wrong.
Still, whether you speak up or not, either way this goes down it’s gonna suck. However, ask yourself this to help you decide: which way puts your self-love-and-respect first hmmmm? Okay, I hear the BUTS:
*BUT* What if I need the money badly? Then I say: How much are you worth to you? (I hope it’s more than the gig pays.)
*BUT* What if our band is getting big? Then I say: How far do you think you’ll go creating music with someone who violated your trust? How open and safe will you feel?
2. We can tell someone else
Parents, teachers, friends, a counselor, the authorities – “If you see something, say something”; this slogan has not been plastered throughout the New York City subway system for nothing. It’s simple, right? Well, simple… but not easy.
What if people don’t believe us? What if those we look to for help minimize what happened (“Oh, yeah, he does that to every artist”)? Worst of all, what if you speak up, do everything right and nothing happens to the perpetrator?
The cold, hard truth: any of those outcomes could occur. And it’s absolutely not fair.[*Sidebar to anyone under 18: if ANYONE says anything inappropriate OR tries to touch you OR touches you inappropriately, run, do not walk, and tell your parents or guardians immediately.]
However, here’s the upside: women and girls today are speaking out more often anyway. By doing so, we set the stage for peoples’ eyes to be opened to this epidemic and make it easier for us to keep speaking out.
3. We can use our voices, devices, hands and feet
Remember, if you feel threatened or if you think someone has a weapon or is unstable, don’t engage; get away and stay away.
If someone makes unwanted advances, perhaps you could say, “Don’t ever [insert actual thing they did/tried to do here] again. If you do, I’m going to [insert whatever you will dohere] and/or tell [insert whomever you will tell here]!”
Maybe if someone says something sexually inappropriate, you might take out your phone, hit ‘record’ on your voice memo app and say, “Would you please repeat that?”
Or, you might write down exactly what happened: date, time, place and horrible thing; when it’s in print, you might be able to see and process what happened more clearly.
Also: you might learn (or know) martial arts and be able to stop a perpetrator dead in their tracks with an awesome Aikido move.
Finally, you may choose to walk away and decide what to do once you’re somewhere safe. Maybe you’ll speak with someone and make a decision about how to handle this.
If you’re going through this now, know that we stand with you, you’re not alone and there are people who can help you. If you’ve been harassed and have spoken up, know that we’re proud of you and we thank you for being so brave. You inspire us to do the same!
Jaime was a Musical Director, coaching voice and performance for Disney and wrote “Working With Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer” (Alfred Publishing). As a session singer, she ‘jingled’ for Coke, Pillsbury, Folgers, Chevrolet, and hundreds more. She’s sung on thousands of live gigs (covers and original music) and toured for years with Leon Russell and Sam Moore. Jaime sang BGVs live and digitally with George Strait, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Mathis, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Willie Nelson and others. She performed off-Broadway in “Search: Paul Clayton”, toured nationally with “Old Jews Telling Jokes” and presently coaches students in voice, performance, beginner guitar/piano, studio singing, songwriting and auditioning in NY, CT, LA, Nashville and virtually. For bookings: www.workingwithyourvoice.com