Why It’s Taken So Long For Ausmusic’s #MeToo Moment To Surface

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After anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct were posted to social media, music photographer Jack Stafford came forward and admitted that he was the abuser.

It was a big moment, and when the story unfolded it felt like #MeToo had arrived for the Aussie music industry.

Now people are questioning why it’s taken so long locally, to call out behaviour that was being flagged overseas back in 2017 when #MeToo first erupted – especially considering the amount of voices and stories that highlight this type of abuse.

What Sparked 2020’s #MeToo in Ausmusic?

But first, how did we get to this #MeToo moment in Ausmusic?

In early July, Brisbane artist Jaguar Jonze shared a handwritten post-it note to her Instagram detailing abuse she’d experienced while working in the music industry.

She wrote on the note, “if you have been affected by a similar story and need a safe space to land in this sometimes-terrifying industry – please reach out”.

In just 24 hours, Jonze received direct messages from 20 separate women telling similar stories about one photographer. This number then jumped to 105 people.

Artist Rosie Fitzgerald also joined the conversation through a post throwing back to 2015, when she was initiated into what she called the ‘raped in the Australian music industry’ club.

The gravity of these claims seems shocking, but they aren’t all that surprising to Aussie artists. Many of them say it’s extremely hard to call out bad behaviour from those who could book you for a gig the following week.

What’s Happened Previously?

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here.

In 2017 the #MeNoMore campaign tried to demand change in the industry that was very much (and still is) defined by men in positions of power.

Over 360 women signed an open letter, including high-profile Aussie artists like Tina Arena, Missy Higgins and The Veronicas, but nothing really eventuated from it. 

Hannah Marshall: “Our defamation laws are having a really chilling effect on the #MeToo movement.”

That’s Hannah Marshall. She’s a lawyer and partner at Marque Lawyers in Sydney, who specialises in defamation.

HM: “Defending a defamation claim can be really difficult where it boils down to one person’s words against another’s. The consequence of that is that many news publishers are very reluctant to pick up on stories at the moment because the cost to benefits just doesn’t stack up for them, and so that can make it a lot harder for survivors to find a forum in which to tell their stories.”

Even excluding the photographer’s name didn’t protect Jonze from our defamation laws.

If people can figure out who the person is that you’re calling out and their reputation has been lowered because of it, you could still end up in court.

This is what makes it so hard for survivors to speak out against their abusers here in Australia, and why not a lot has happened over the past years to identify alleged abusers with big names.

Myf Warhust shared on her podcast Bang On, that “we know who these people are. Women share stories. It’s fairly common knowledge because that’s how we’ve protected ourselves in the past, rather than outing them publicly”.

How Is Social Media Helping Victims?

But what’s changed this time around?

Well rather than going to a news publication, Jonze used social media to bring victims together and to make people aware of the unnamed photographer.

Which led to Stafford outing himself in a 3,000-word apology posted to Medium where he wrote, “I accept that my whole make-up was inappropriate, that my personality was not okay, that even the little things matter”.

HM: “Making a disclosure like Jaguar Jonze – it takes a lot of bravery, but it does also carry a lot of legal risk. There’s power in numbers. If there are a lot of women speaking out about the same individual that can … make it a lot more difficult for the abuser to disavow responsibility.”

The Takeaway

HM: “We need to do something to fix it [defamation law] and it’s only when people do find ways to tell their stories that we’ll be able to build momentum and seek the change we so drastically need.”

While we still need legal reform to make it safer for survivors in the spotlight to tell their stories, this is at least a step in the right direction – and maybe there is momentum now to push for meaningful change, thanks to people like Jaguar Jonze.