The Myth of Objectivity

Hi there – my name is Anna Acosta. If you’ve (likely) never heard of me, I’m an alternative music writer and social justice advocate. You know, the kind that the greasier parts of Reddit probably warned you about. Past outlets include AbsolutePunk.net, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Infectious Magazine, etc. I currently mod and contribute to Chorus.fm and have been a regular on the local blog Buzzbands.LA since 2012.

These pieces were all originally published on AbsolutePunk, from a time spanning July 2015-February 2016. The site went dark in March 2016, and these pieces went along with it. I’ve elected not to change them, as I believe leaving them as they were in the moment in which they were written preserves their integrity as time capsules of sorts.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, I can be reached on my socials or at anna.acosta@absolutepunk.net.I believe these conversations are important, exhausting as they may be.

For as many times as I’ve been called a man-hating harpy (or worse) for using my voice, I’ve gotten messages from people saying their perspective became just a bit broader after reading. Those people keep me going. Progress isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy, but at the end of the day all I and my fellow “SJW”s are looking to do is to leave behind a world that’s a little kinder than the one we grew up in for the people who look and feel like we did. Like we still so often do.

So here it is, for your convenience and consideration. Sometimes it feels like screaming pointlessly into the void, but maybe that void just needs a little more screaming before something gets through. So that’s why these are being reposted, and that’s why I’m here. As long as there is progress to be made, you’ll know where to find me.
________________________________________

Originally published on September 15th 2015 on AbsolutePunk.net

(ICYMI: This is a follow up to ‘Witch Hunts & Straw Men: Internet Discourse’)

I want to start by saying that this is not about any particular incident, but instead is addressing a larger issue that is prevalent in our scene – misogyny and the underlying theme that overall treatment of women is a footnote of little to no consequence. We are starting to know who the culprits are, but each time there is an accusation, the same general outcry goes up regardless of evidence provided, or even our own common sense in regards to how society works.

In reality, we all know bad behavior is treated as though it were acceptable from young men. We wouldn’t cling so tightly to the law to provide our moral compass if that wasn’t the case. The issue isn’t that we don’t think these dudes might be treating women badly. The issue is that we have decided, somewhere along the way, that unless their treatment of women is illegal, it isn’t an issue.

I don’t accept that. The status quo is easy, I understand. It is heartbreaking to find out that someone who created something you love is a flawed human being, and people should always be allowed to own up to their mistakes. With this, I wholeheartedly agree. However, only consequences beget change, so I’d like to address what I would consider the most consistent line of mental reasoning from those who would defend the way we currently address these issues: the myth of objectivity.

There was an atrocious Billboard article on one of the young men who was exposed last summer for being a manipulative misogynist and hebephile (you know the one) that framed the musician in question as being a victim of circumstance, comparing his situation to that of the one proven false allegation made against a male musician in this scene in recent history, as opposed to the many others that remain standing.

The article chose a very strategic, non-threatening image of the musician, neglecting to mention that as he was whining about the stress of basic accountability, he was preparing to take his ex-girlfriend to court for essentially telling the world the truth about how he treated her and other young women. (He lost.) The article was written this way to remain “objective”, and to maintain neutrality. It was written that way to avoid a lawsuit from the young man it was written about.

Which is why I would like to talk about the myth of objectivity for a moment. Reading that article, and realizing that it is what we as a society consider objective, was a bit of a wakeup call for me. Here’s the thing: everyone is biased when it comes to hot button issues like the way we allow certain portions of the population to treat everybody else. To be objective when it comes to civil rights, or domestic abuse, or sexual assault, is impossible unless one is completely devoid of empathy.

Thinking someone’s behavior or treatment of others is unimportant isn’t being objective – that’s bias in favor of “the way it is”.
Objectivity is a farce and a tactic used to silence anyone who asks for change, and we need to remove it from discussions about journalism, especially regarding conversations on abuse.

Why? It’s simple – we’re being lied to.

Quests for objectivity don’t translate to a lack of bias. Effectively, it means adhere to the status quo. It means don’t rock the boat, and don’t form an opinion that differs from deference to male priorities and male feelings. It means women don’t matter. It means emotions don’t matter. It means that abusive behaviors towards women only matter if that abuse is physical and easily proven in a court system that systematically disenfranchises and neglects anyone who isn’t a straight white man.

“Showing both sides” is a nice idea, but one that rarely shows itself in practice because framing, tone, and context are everything when presenting information. It isn’t enough to pretend that telling both sides of a story is fair or balanced when that story implies that abusers are somehow the real victims, as is a recurring theme in modern society. Straight white men, I am not saying you’re the devil. Please do not choose to take that away from this. What I am saying is that if you are reading this and your own indignation and hurt feelings at being told you have privilege are foremost on your mind, then you are making my point.

Objectivity is the idea that your feelings and maintenance of your privilege are all that matter, and must be protected at all costs. That has been the story and the conversation for far too long. I am not asking. I am telling – and it’s going to be okay. Everybody else who has never been the world’s priority is here for you. We understand, because our thoughts, feelings and rights have never been anyone’s priority but our own.

Male musicians who get called out for how they treat people – be it through hebephilia, sexual harassment, infidelity, domestic abuse, etc – are not embattled. They are not the victims. They are, perhaps, being confronted by the world with diluted privilege for the first time in their lives, but that is not the same as being mistreated. Lads: you are not being oppressed or treated unfairly when someone speaks up about how you treated them.

That’s called a consequence, and the sad truth is it’ll probably be all over soon and you can carry on as though nothing happened. This isn’t a witch hunt – you made your bed. It’s on you if you chose the wrong sheets.

When a young man goes on tour, he makes his treatment of his fans our business. When he uses that privilege – yes, there’s that word again – he makes his treatment of any significant other back home via relations with women on the road our business. He adopts a responsibility to be a decent human being because he’s making himself a public figure. Gentlemen, if this is too much to ask, then please stay home. Please get a 9-5, one that leaves you with plenty of free time to remind yourself that women are, in fact, people worthy of respect by default.

There is a school of thought that guys only become touring musicians to get laid. First – I don’t believe that. I absolutely believe there are cases where that is true. I’ve seen it. I’ve dated it. But it is nonsensical to me to put all men in a sad little box that way and it baffles to me when other men do so. Are you all the same? Are you all made of so little substance and integrity that you honestly have no passion or love for what you’re doing unless it comes with a happy ending with some stranger who had the poor sense to look up to you in a dirty tour bus at the end of the night?

I won’t accept that, and if redefining community standards to expect better rules you out of the equation, then this corner of music doesn’t want or need you. Please, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Perhaps you aren’t convinced. Perhaps it is easier to cling to grey areas of legality and to eschew morality and decency entirely because “it wasn’t technically illegal and laws are complicated”. I have a solution for the creepy band dudes of the world there, too, and here it is: if you want to protect yourself from potential accusations, fans are off limits. Yes, all of them. Young ones, old ones, tall ones, small ones. They’re off limits. Just say no. The fact is, when you are in a fan-and-idol interaction, everything is loaded. The scene is set for manipulation and coercion, and achieving true consent where nobody gets hurt – hurt that you have the power to avoid, by the way – is incredibly rare, because of the core power dynamic between a fan and someone they look up to. So if appealing to your sense of integrity is a losing battle, then do it for self preservation.

For the same reason it is a poor idea to date a band mate, or to have casual sex with coworkers, or for most male politicians to be given internet access, it is simply most logical to keep relationships with fans purely professional. That isn’t to say they can’t be warm, and rewarding, and plentiful – but if you find yourself wondering if your lack of judgment might just get you into trouble, then keep it G-rated. If not hooking up with people who idolize you on the road is an impossibly daunting task, I have a simpler one that will also work just as well – JUST TREAT PEOPLE BETTER. Look at each individual situation. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Is this going to benefit both of you, or just you? Are they likely to get hurt? Look at the scenario, and then try to be the responsible one as the one who holds the power.

True consent isn’t impossible – but in the case of a fan and an idol, it is certainly far trickier to achieve. Do what’s kind, instead of what provides instant gratification. Everybody ends up happier that way.

I understand that this seems like a tall order, but when you break it down, the only thing I’m suggesting is that we normalize the behavior of treating other human beings with basic decency and respect. That’s all this is. And when you put it that simply, it starts to seem like a far less daunting task. If we don’t think holding these very fortunate young men up to that is reasonable, then we can’t really think that much of them in the first place. Musicians and entertainers have to stop being exempt from accountability and integrity. The world has never asked for decency from young men in entertainment (or anywhere else, but that’s a different can of worms) as long as they continue to entertain – or at the very least, overall treatment of women has never factored in to the definition of decency.

That needs to change. We need to evolve. Our standards as a community need to be higher than they ever have been before, and the first step there is breaking down the way we prioritize which bad behaviors are our business. This is a call to action – and all I am asking anyone to do is to expect more of the people we support, on and off the road.

Advertisements

Author: Anna Acosta

Writer for Chorus.FM, Buzzbands.LA, Infectious Magazine and more. Previous outlets include Alternative Press and Substream Magazine. I'm in a band. Go listen to Staircase Spirits.

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s