Dear Alternative Press: The Frustrating Problem with “No More Silence”

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.
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Originally published on October 28th 2015 on AbsolutePunk.net

Everybody’s non-controversial music-journalism BFF, Alternative Press, put out a rather lengthy piece titled “No More Silence” on Monday. It is a largely honest piece, outlining some of the horrific things that young women in the scene have gone through, and continue to go through every day. It is hugely important that an outlet with a large female readership like AltPress tackles this issue. For that, I commend them.

And yet, the way it was done has left a lot of us a little less than impressed. I want to explain why.

It’s worth noting that the article emphasized making positive change, and gave a voice to quite a few young women that, in theory, were previously unheard. That is good. That is important. Sharing our stories is a huge part of begetting positive change. But what the article did not do is even more telling.

The article did not mention whom these survivors were victimized by, which would have provided its many young female readers with the option of avoiding those men in the future. The article did not mention how many – or which – AP stars have been accused over the past few months of the very “misconduct” vilified by the article itself. The article did not mention how AP acted as a vehicle for Kevin “Sexual Assault Accusations are Just Witch Hunts” Lyman to rant about how young women speaking up for themselves are just keyboard activists who need to present arrest warrants or shut up. The article did not mention its own history of ignoring those who speak up about abusive band dudes in favor of pseudo-apologetic statements from the accused band dudes in question, the manner in which their writers spoke with vocal victims, or of teaming up with bands and labels no matter how sketchy their track records are. That’s why so many women spoke out that the article itself was big talk with no weight. And when you combine this with the complete lack of specific instances of abuse and refusal to name names, it becomes just another feather in the cap of the idea that sexual assault and misogyny are faceless boogeymen we must rally against.

Here’s the thing, AltPress. This boogeyman isn’t faceless. Yes, it looks like Front Porch Step – but more than that, it looks like Jonny Craig. It looks like (most of) Neck Deep. It looks like Ronnie Radke. It looks like Pure Noise Records. It looks like Kevin Lyman, and Warped Tour. It looks like every single band dude who has ever treated a woman as though she was less than, LEGALLY OR OTHERWISE, and has been rewarded for it by this scene and by your publication. This isn’t about changing the past. This is about your attempt to blithely ignore the reality you’ve perpetuated while this movement was finding its roots, and being spoken about by (female) voices who have been directly affected by it. To co-opt it now, through a male voice and from a safe, non-controversial distance is downright insulting. This is the opposite of “no more silence”.

If you want to talk about a popular musician that preys on girls and give a quote from one of his victims, I think you owe it to your readers to tell them who it was. For all we know, he’ll be on next month’s cover, headlining next year’s Warped Tour, releasing a new album, participating in your interview series under this hashtag – and we will all be made complicit (or in the case of young female fans of the band, potentially victimized) because you wanted to say something without really saying anything. That isn’t good enough. You owe your readers better than that. If you want to brand it, you need to follow through with the claim. So there’s a list of bands that wouldn’t talk to you about the issue? How is there “no more silence” when you don’t say who? Shouldn’t their fans be able to ask them? Shouldn’t we know who the silent are? We aren’t upset because what you’re saying doesn’t matter. On the contrary, what publications like yours say matters all the more simply because your audience is so vast and exactly the demographic that most needs to hear about this. But we get upset when what you’re saying dances around the issue and ignores your own complicity in it.

It seems clear to myself and those who take issue with the premise of your article that the issue isn’t that these young men are tarnishing the scene. That makes it about them and lets them dominate the conversation. The issue is that emotional, physical, and psychological violence against women is considered the norm in this scene. In terms of fighting that – well, suffice it to say that people far braver than you with a whole lot more to lose fueled this train leaving the station a long time ago. Ask Kayla St. Onge, who just last week was doled out death threats from fans of the band Whirr when she publicly called them out on their transmisogyny. Ask Megan Seling, who was virtually bullied by AltPress contributors and made to feel uncomfortable by Kevin Lyman himself over the summer. Ask the hundreds of women that responded to Jessica Hopper‘s open inquiry – myself included – on Twitter. To walk in after all these months and try to take over with graphics and hashtags and a male writer at the helm – yet unwilling to get into the grit of naming names, defining consequences, or pledging not to work with those responsible – suffice it to say you won’t find those of us who have been in the trenches quite so welcoming.

The truth is that I want to believe this is all sincere. The social media reach AltPress has is impressive and growing. In that case, I humbly request that you stay in your lane. You don’t get to take credit for something you didn’t build. Maybe someone needs to remind you – as convenient a rallying point as he is, you didn’t take Front Porch Step down. His courageous ex girlfriend did. PupFresh and AbsolutePunk did. We “keyboard warriors” on social media did, while you and some of those you laud and partner with fought hard to keep him on his feet. If you’re interested in more than lip service, let us know. We’ve been out here screaming for people to listen for what feels like forever now. Until then, this feels like a cheap marketing ploy by a publication that finally figured out that the majority of these scumbag’s victims are their own readers. Maybe that’s too cynical – maybe you guys have had a change of heart and really do want to make a difference. After all, you went to the effort of finding a freelancer to write this piece in the first place. In that case, it was a first step, Alternative Press – but not good enough. You can do better. In order to do better, in order to truly be an ally, you can’t divorce your narrative now from the harmful things you have done in the very recent past. That has to be addressed and made right. Need help? The resources are right here waiting for you. Then again, we want real changes and that doesn’t come along with clean hands, nameless villains and happy-to-ignore it record labels. It’s your call.

At the end of the day, if you can’t do what it takes to truly champion a cause – and make the enemies that go along with that – because of advertisers or appeasing a bottom line, then you don’t have what it takes to truly champion that cause and maybe it’s best to stay out of it. Because when you say “no more silence”, your readers believe you. They trust you to follow through. And with that trust you send them into the “meet and greet” arms of bands like Falling in Reverse and Attila. Otherwise, all you’re creating is more white noise, more obfuscation, more cover for silence. Otherwise, the only people who win are the ones who benefit from that silence to begin with. Do better, Alternative Press, or continue to do nothing at all.

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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.

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