Power and sexual harassment

Often I’ve thought that power does strange things to people. It seems to be true. Research shows, that power damages your brain: “Subjects under the influence of power acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury – becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.”

Sexual harassment and abuse is just as much about sex as it is about power and the abuse of power. The power makes the victim carrying the burden of guilt and shame, instead of the perpetrator. It often takes many years before victims dare to speak about what happened to them, as we’ve seen in the scandals around the catholic church and military.

The entertainment business appears to be different, right? There are no hierarchical structures like in the catholic church or military. So why is there so much sexual harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry, as we now have seen in the #MeToo campaign?

The #MeToo campaign shows, that the entertainment industry is very much about power too. US comedian Louis C.K. makes it pretty clear in his open statement:
“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was O.K. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me.”

While most people see a liberating potential in music, the business behind music is just as much about power and the abuse of power as the rest of the entertainment industry. It shows in an open letter signed by almost 2000 women, working in the Swedish music industry. Among them are musicians, producers, managers and agents. They all share their experience of sexual assault, harassment and overt sexism.

Sweden has made a start, I hope that the rest will follow to speak openly about sexual assaults, harassment and overt sexism in the music business. The power in the music business lies in the team around famous artists that have big album sells and play arena shows. It’s with the managements, agents and promoters. Many musicians don’t even realize their own power in this environment.

The above mentioned research also shows, that power is in your brain. The brain injury doesn’t occur with people who have experienced periods of severe helplessness while hit by natural disasters in their childhood. They know that power is relative and keep being able to see things from other people’s point of view.

If we want not only music, but also the music business to become liberating, we should look for more equality in the structures in the business. It starts with putting all forms of power into perspective, and become resilient to intimidating behavior, not only when it’s sexually oriented. I know of enough people in the business who share this attitude, male and female.

For all women and men in the music business who have been harassed or assaulted, who want some guidance in if, when, how or what to make public, and who want to become resilient to more intimidation, I have developed a personal training of only 4 meetings. Ask me for more information.


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