My friends all call me a creep-magnet. The reason for this is that I’m subject to inappropriate behaviour from men a lot of the time. I put this down to trying to make it as an artist in the public eye, to being attractive, and to being someone who openly wears my heart on my sleeve.
A few days ago I received a bunch of messages from someone who up until then had been interacting quite positively on my Facebook. I shared it with my bandmates with a sense of humour, as I usually do in these situations, and despite laughing, they pointed out that it was creepy to receive this kind of message from someone I didn’t know, and encouraged me to block him. I hesitated with this, because unfortunately my desire to be popular (which I equate directly with being successful as an artist) often overcomes my sense of self-respect.
I write off a lot of the ways people act towards me as just “part of the job” or as somehow that I’ve brought it on myself for being an open person in the wrong industry. I brush it under the carpet because I feel as though I will be harming my career and alienating fans if I speak out about it. However, chatting to a friend today, I realised that if I don’t, who will? Most female artists I know are subject to similar behaviour and similarly afraid to deal with it, but it’s not cool. In what other industry is it acceptable to openly objectify women? The fact that I’m standing on stage in a short dress doesn’t give you the right to treat me with less respect than you would treat the woman you speak to at the estate agent.
So, I’ve compiled a list of things you should definitely do to make me feel totally uncomfortable at gigs and online.
1. Message me out of the blue with really personal information.
As an artist, I share a lot of detail of my life and feelings in lyrics and on social media platforms. This is due to the fact that I'm selling myself as a personality as well as an artist and there's nothing fake about me. Hopefully it strikes a chord with you and helps you relate to my music. However, don't forget that I hardly know you in return. When I receive messages that are too familiar, it makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
2. Touch me at a gig
When I meet you at a gig, it's completely appropriate to shake hands or hug as a greeting. However, beyond that, it's probably a good idea to think about how you would approach boundaries with that estate agent. It's a subtle line, but you should be aware of the difference between a friendly hug and holding me for that second too long, as well as being aware of where on my body your hands are going.
There is a difference between hanging around and having a good time and hanging around with ulterior motives. The latter is called lurking and it's not cool.
4. Making assumptions that I'm always up for it
Everyone likes a bit of banter and I talk and joke about sex quite openly, because that's the way I am. That doesn't give you the right to assume that I want to sleep with you. If I let you into my inner circle it's because I trust that you respect me. Don't then ruin it by overstepping the boundaries and making me uncomfortable.
5. Putting too much emphasis on my looks and playing down my musical talent
I have been a musician for 25 years. I practised for hours every day for 15 of those and for the last 10 I have worked my ass off to improve my singing, songwriting and arranging, not to mention all the non-musical skills that you have to develop to make any dent in the industry. I'm lucky to scrub up reasonably well for stage as a nice addition to that but to have all that hard work belittled is not flattering. Don't tell me I'm beautiful while deprecating my musical ability.
I value my self-respect, and the respect of others, which I feel is corroded by the way I'm approached at gigs and over social media. I like being an open person and I don't want that to change. The same is true for all female artists I know, so before you approach a female artist, think about how your actions may make them feel.
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