Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on Explosion of Sexual Assault Allegations in Hollywood: “Consider 2017 the Year of Male Consequence”
Picture this: it’s 2017, a reality TV star/alleged sexual predator is President of the United States. On a daily basis, women are fighting against losing their right to safe, affordable healthcare. I know it sounds like the opening to a post-apocalyptic horror film but the sad fact is, it’s our reality. You may be asking yourself, “how did we get here?” Don’t worry, I ask myself that same question every morning when I wake up. And sadly, I don’t have an answer for myself or for you.
But if we look back on history we might be able to see where this horrific reality came from. The attack on women and the idea that men with power abuse it is nothing new. In 2017, though, it feels more prevalent than ever.
A few weeks ago, some of the biggest names in Hollywood rallied together to take down a top dog in the industry, former Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein. From afar, Weinstein might seem like a creepy dude — the type who maybe talks a little too close to you at parties but he’s a “boss” so you gotta just let him do his thing and then talk to your friends about him in the bathroom. But up close he’s basically the dictionary image of a systematic problem facing our nation — The Man With Power Who Abuses It.
There are Weinstein’s everywhere. Not just in big powerful industries, either. They’re in colleges, at Halloween parties, at car washes, in grocery stores — they’re everywhere. Like I said, women being mistreated due to their gender is nothing new, so what can we do to stop it from spreading? How do we make our women’s marches and our #MeToo hashtags an actual weapon against this mass destruction of an issue?
The way I found my voice in discussing this grotesque problem is because I am one of those women. I’m a woman who works in an industry that clumps all women together and treats us like we’re a “genre.” A girl with a guitar is not just a human being standing on a stage — she is quite literally a girl with a guitar… who will be referred to as such on numerous occasions and asked millions of times what it “feels like” to be herself. I am a woman that feels unsafe when I’m walking alone at night, sometimes even in broad daylight, because I can feel the infinite stares of men’s eyes gazing at me while I walk by.
I am a woman who was harassed and assaulted by a man she employed, only to be told his “bad behavior” was just “who he was” or something he did when he “got too drunk.” I am a woman that experienced assault by a member of my own family as a child, a story I have only recently — at 31 years-old — felt brave enough to discuss with the people closest to me. I didn’t stumble into this world by accident, I was born into it. Thanks to my band, Best Coast, I am a girl with a guitar, but I am also a girl with a voice.
A powerful one that I am not afraid to use.
I am sick and tired of sitting around and seeing my peers shake their heads and say “me too.” And while I know it’s so important to share our stories of assault and harassment so that the rest of the world feels less alone I am utterly heartbroken that we have to keep discussing this. How does this keep happening? When do we finally say “enough is enough” and hold these men accountable for their evil actions? When will a firing or a stint in rehab not be the solution to this problem? When will this problem no longer be a problem?
Before I go any further, I would like to just address the fact that it took a large group of rich, white, famous women to broadcast this conversation loudly enough for some of those who have chosen to ignore these cries to finally pay attention. When women of color were screaming their tales of assault and endangerment, where were we? When trans women were telling us their stories, where were we? And why are there still men (and women) all over this country shaking their heads and saying, “well, there’s two sides to every story?”
As a female in the entertainment industry I will tell you this, sexism is rampant and it is terrifying. I see it every single day when I’m on tour. Whether it’s in the form of a condescending tone from a house sound guy who is talking down to me for asking a question as simple as “can I get more of my vocal in my monitor?” Or a security guard that is asking to see my credentials after he just let my male counter part through the backstage, no questions asked. Women in every industry, even women without jobs, are reminded every single day that they are women, and are therefore somehow lesser than.
Why is it that a male guitar player of a prominent Indie band can corner women and allegedly push them into closets for years and when he’s finally fired and the women have spoken up he can so casually say “I made a mistake.” See, this isn’t a mistake — it’s an epidemic and it’s everywhere. What are we doing to protect our girls and ourselves from this terror? And what does it say about us when the man who holds the highest office of power in our country can be heard on tape saying he “grabs women by the pussy because when you’re famous, they let you do it?”
One thing I do know is that women seem to be more empowered and stronger than I can ever remember in my lifetime. We might be backed into a corner with our rights threatened every day, but we are loud and we are angry — and when we are angry, we do some of our best work. The conversation being had, the “resistance” as they’re calling it, is a strong one and I know I don’t plan to shut up anytime soon.
But sometimes I wonder, how much change can we provoke just with our voices? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, even if in the past it’s felt like a hell of a lot. When we speak up we empower each other. We remind each other that we are not alone in this struggle. We hear a story from our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers and we think, “ugh that’s awful, but at least I’m not alone.” We provide a voice for those who don’t have one or aren’t yet brave enough to use their own.
We create a safe space for victims of assault by letting them into our own lives and showing them a glimpse of our horrible memories. We lift one another up. We do not blame one another for what has happened to us. Instead, we are reminded that it can happen to any of us. And that is why I am calling on all of us, men and women, to hold people accountable for their actions. No more excuses. People get drunk, sure, they do stupid things. They fall down, they fight with their significant others, they send drunk texts. But they should NOT be sexually assaulting one another or using it as an excuse!
Notice there that I said “people.” Because in reality both sexes engage in this type of behavior, but as we know, there is a huge and pressing problem with men who are doing it. Somehow we are just sitting back and listening to one another but are we really taking action? Are our lengthy Instagram captions, hashtags and viral memes making real, physical change? Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for the internet at times like this because it does indeed hold people accountable. It provides a place for this conversation to be had and provides proof to those of us that feel scared and alone that we are not.
Hopefully, this conversation will move from our computer and phone screens into the streets. Men need to be punished for their wrong doings, not just let go from their CEO positions. They. Need. To. Be. Punished. And sure, its great that these creeps are being exposed. It’s great that every time we call one out another rears its ugly head, because with this type of storytelling we are growing stronger. We are making the creeps afraid. We are sending them back into their houses and we are making them rethink their actions. So in the end, maybe our voices are being used as weapons right now.
The thing about all of this — the #MeToo movement, the calling out of creeps and pedophiles and let’s just call them what they are, bad men — is it’s actually really working. These men are losing their jobs. They’re becoming famous for new reasons. Their legacies now include “sexual predator” and that is not something you can so easily be forgiven for. Not in 2017.
We might all be in shock that these types of cases continue to exist, that they continue to happen to all of us. But what we should be celebrating is that a lot of these men — ESPECIALLY these powerful men — have nowhere to hide anymore. The secret is out, and none of us are going to go back to silence. The passion to out these perverts is spreading like a wildfire.
If 2016 was the year we elected a grabber-in-chief, consider 2017 the year of male consequence. So men, in all industries, all over the world, I suggest you start acting right or your creepy activities could be the next ones plastered in headlines across the globe.
And women, continue to speak up, because we are listening, we believe you and we are ready to fight this fight with you.
This column originally appeared on Billboard.