Sexism is rampant in the music industry. This week, it was exposed by Dirty Projector’s front woman, Amber Coffman, via Twitter, when she accused Life or Death PR’s CEO Heathcliff Berru of sexual harassment. Following her lead, other women spoke up about being victimized by Berru, including Best Coast’s Bethany Consentino, Danger Village PR music publicist Beth Martinez, musician Roxy Lange and Yasmine Kittles, from the band Tearist. All the reports told of Berru’s heinous sexual violence towards women, and how all these women were previously afraid to speak out because of the “boy’s club” mentality in the music industry that shields offenders and shames women.
In an inspirational turn, the Twitter campaign against Berru, a high profile music industry figure whose “problematic” (read: criminal) behavior has been widely known throughout the industry but until now, largely ignored, has had some unexpectedly positive consequences. Not only has the bravery of Coffman and the other women who spoke out created an important dialogue about music industry sexism, it's prompted people to take action. So far, the band Wavves left Life or Death, along with DIIV, Kelela, Speedy Ortiz, Beach Fossils, Mixpak and D’Angelo. Not that there’s much left at Life or Death anyway—Nick Dierl, President of Life or Death, announced a mass exodus as he and the rest of the staff at LoD jumped ship. Meanwhile, hip hop icon and political activist (who has unsurprisingly been vocally supporting Bernie Sanders' campaign), Killer Mike has strongly advocated against music industry sexism this week.
In a Facebook post, Mike wrote about how he confronted Berru about his behavior, cut off all business ties with him, and that he stands “in solidarity with the women that have spoke out." At the end of his post he calls for accountability from men witnessing their male peers, even their friends, partaking in sexism and related assault. He wrote, “Men have to be able to tell our friends and peers when they're wrong. We cannot just say, it's not my problem. We can't expect ppl to improve if we're not willing to hold them accountable and push them to be better.”
The importance and necessity of Mike standing with the maligned women of the music industry shouldn’t be overlooked here: it’s a rare thing for men in the industry to actively speak out or act against pre-established patriarchal norms. While the women in this case found their voice and were able to affect change with a steadfast and honest Twitter campaign, those changes also need to be supported at a grassroots level. With statistics suggesting that 95% of all production staff in the music industry are male, it’s difficult to think of the industry as anything other than a boy’s club. Which is why, as important as it is for women to find a voice, it’s just as important for their male counterparts to do everything in their capacity to empower and foster that voice. Ending sexism requires cooperation across the gender binary, which is why Killer Mike's assertion of male-to-male accountability hits the phallus on the head.