In the aftermath of the political disaster that was the Grammys, president of the event Neil Portnow has come out with statements saying he used a "poor choice of words" that were "not reflective of [his] beliefs", after telling women in the music industry that they "need to step up" in order to be recognized at the awards ceremony. He is the same person who made the decision to not ask the only female artist nominated for Album of the Year (Lorde) to perform. Similar sentiments--which can be summed up as an "oh, sh*t, wait" reaction--are echoed across the music and entertainment industries.
IF YOU'RE DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT I CAN MURDER A STAGE... COME SEE IT FOR URSELF https://t.co/BeS8VYTynn— Lorde (@lorde) January 29, 2018
Ryan Seacrest was recently "cleared" of accusations of sexual assault that were brought to him, where a former show stylist claimed he mistreated her nearly a decade ago. In fact, Seacrest came out with what we'll call an opinion piece in Billboard defending himself, and can be quoted in the article saying "most of us agree that the presumption of innocence is an important standard". In cases of sexual assault when the sides are weighted so unevenly, I'm not sure that should be the case. How do you legally prove something like sexual assault, that so often happens off-camera, in the backrooms, out of the spotlight--especially when it was ten years back? Cases of false, or as Seacrest put it "reckless" reports of assault and rape actually rarely happen, making it unlikely that women who have gone through these traumas would lie about them. And in light of all the other cases that have been happening today--women on the sidelines, or even in the spotlight, being mistreated by men more powerful than they--the story doesn't sound out of place. Why so eager to defend yourself, Seacrest?
Stories like this abound across the entertainment world. After it was revealed that Aziz Ansari had exhibited questionable, if not predatory, behavior on a date with an anonymous Brooklyn photographer, Amy Schumer came out with a statement saying that "I don't think anyone wants to see Aziz's career ruined or his life ruined...but that's where people's minds go..They go, 'Does he deserve this?'" Why is it unfair for people to ask themselves, does this man deserve fame and great influence if he could also be a sexual predator? Often, it seems that it takes little more than a too-short hemline or nip-slip to upend a female celebrity's career for weeks at a time, and yet accusations of criminal activity don't often derail a man's. Unless, I guess, you're Roman Polanski and you had to flee the country because you raped a 13-year-old-girl--but hey, even he should still get some credit: he's starring in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film on the summer of 1969. I guess being exiled from your country for statutory rape shouldn't get in the way of your acting career, right?
It seems like we can gauge some of the progress, and perhaps even the guilt, of exposing sexual predators within big entertainment industries just by looking at the reactions of these different media men. Returning to Roman Polanski, a radio interview was recently released via Paste Magazine with Quentin Tarantino where he ardently defended Polanski saying that the thirteen-year-old girl "wanted to have it" and that "you can't throw the word rape around...it doesn't apply to everything", suggesting that Polanski's vicious assault of a child was consensual. This kind of covering up for other people and excusing predatory behavior only serves to keep the cycle--and the secrecy--going.
You can reframe these instances of defensive men and articles about complicated behavior into something more positive, though. There was a time when this article would not have been printed this way, painting Tarantino as complicit in the continuity of rape culture and victim-blaming. There was a time when Ryan Seacrest would not have felt he needed to come out with any kind of essay, article or statement defending himself--his word against that of an anonymous woman's would have been enough. And there was a time when Neil Portnow would not have felt it necessary to amend his comments made at the Grammys.
But that time, it seems, is up. In the same statement where admitted to a poor choice of words, Neil Portnow announced that "The Recording Academy is establishing a...task force to review every aspect of what we do as an organization and identify where we can...overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community." He continues in this vein with, "We will also place ourselves under a microscope and tackle whatever truths are revealed." Here's to hoping that Portnow takes this to heart, and that next year's Grammys--and media world--look a little different.
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