on harm + power. again. endlessly.
a depressing continuing discussion of people in power causing harm
I'm sick of writing this stuff. I wrote about it last year. I talk about it online. But I'm back because it's taking up brain space once again and I can't help myself.
In the last few weeks I've gone on twitter to find two different accounts alleging abuse at the hands of men in bands I've loved. First being Dave Collis of Slow Mass. The other being Jack Barakat of All Time Low. Both men outright denied it. All Time Low fully backed their guitarist and threatened legal action. Dave publicized a google drive full of text messages in an attempt to absolve himself. Both a coward's response.
It always feels bad to take someone's personal, traumatic experiences and transmute it into A Greater Statement on the state of music industry sexual violence, but I look at these scenarios involving two men of vastly different levels of power and it's hard to not just want to burn everything down. This is violence based in power and power doesn't mean one thing.
Jack Barakat has had access to tens of thousands of young girls for the entirety of his band's existence. He's idolized. More than that, all of the All Time Low guys cultivated this air of harmlessness. They have– and have always had– a lot of young, female fans and, in the time I was a huge fan, they never seemed resentful of that the way a lot of bands do. On a distant fan level, that felt good. Or at least neutral. Misogyny is so often not subtle in the sphere of pop punk I've always liked, so their neutrality toward the demographics felt better. Of course, with this success and demographic, these men are given huge amounts of power and access to people who they directly have a massive influence on. It's a lot of kids. A lot of young women. There is so much potential for harm in that scenario, even if they didn't have 13 year olds throwing bras at them.
I don't mean that in a flippant way. Saying you're "not surprised" to learn someone has harmed and traumatized another person is both unhelpful and callous. I just mean that there is a potential for harm in any situation where there is an imbalance of power. You don't have to be someone with power on the scale of Jack Barakat. Dave Collis's power– predominantly social power– came in the form of booking tons of shows in Chicago and was heightened by a positioning of himself as particularly interested in safety. His support of and connection to Our Music My Body– an organization I used to volunteer with in Chicago with the stated mission of combating sexual harassment and violence in music spaces– is the reason I became aware of his band at all. I find that jarring and infuriating, but a person taking advantage of their position is nothing new. The capacity to do harm is not restricted to the evil. Harm is a feature of power and positioning.
That power– social, physical, financial, what have you– is inherent in an entertainment space. There is so much reliance on people with more power than you in order to work in or even just exist closely to entertainment. When we ask the question, "what can be done to stop this" the answer is probably, well, nothing. From the outside there is nothing that can be done. And that's a depressing answer, but it's what I believe.
The way things are handled now is through public pressure to deplatform an individual. Removing their power removes their ability to do further harm. Cancel culture. Of course, that's not a solution because it necessitates harm being 1. already done then 2. made public in such a way that other people in power act on it. It's a reaction. Fans don't have power to really change anything. Onlookers don't have power to change anything.
To stop harm from happening, that needs to come from inside. Non-negotiably. It also probably has to come from other men. It's so depressing to talk about this constantly and not have any course of action other than reading something horrible and painful then not supporting the band. It's depressing that your opinions are listened to more if you disclose that you have suffered similar harm.
What is there to be done? I guess burn it down.
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, and law school drop out based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter to hear more about music and my thoughts on other zines: @mirandareinert. I also have a paid tier of this newsletter for $5 a month or $45 a year! If you do that I'll give you at least one free zine if you respond to this email with a mailing address! Wow! Might want to get in on that! You may also just send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. But as always, thanks for reading!