How Lady Gaga, Kesha & More Helped Musics Anti-Harassment Movement Take Shape in 2017

Gil Kaufman | December 07, 2017

In the same way that Harvey Weinstein's alleged misdeeds and sexual crimes were something of an open secret in Hollywood for years, the whispers about some similarly abusive practices in the music world were brought into the light this year. The empowering #MeToo anti-harassment movement made it onto Time magazine's cover this week as the group of abuse survivors the magazine dubbed "The Silence Breakers" were named its Person of the Year.

At the same time that Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Jeffrey Tambor and Pixar's John Lasseter -- among dozens of other entertainment industry figures -- have lost jobs or stepped down after accusations of sexual assault or abuse, the music industry has seen a number of musicians and executives called to justice for their alleged misdeeds. The clarion call appeared to sound in early 2016, when Life or Death PR founder publicist Heathcliff Berru was accused of sexual assault and harassment by a number of women, including Tearist member Yasmine Kittles, who filed a complaint in April 2016 against Berru for sexual battery.

That action began a conversation in the music industry that rose to a roar in May of this year, when queercore duo PWR BTTM were accused by multiple fans of sexual misconduct, an action that heralded a rising tide of fans and fellow musicians speaking out about their experiences.

Billboard takes a look at a timeline of some of the most prominent incidents in the anti-harassment groundswell of 2017:

May 11: As PWR BTTM winds up the hype machine for their second album, Pageant, a Reddit thread and Twitter conversations raise allegations that member Ben Hopkins is a "known sexual predator [and] perpetrator of multiple asssaults." The whispers quickly catch fire as the owner of a DIY Chicago Facebook page reveals how she became a kind of clearinghouse for complaints against Hopkins. In quick succession, touring members leave the group, opening acts bail, the band's management and label drop them and their tour is canceled. 

July 13A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Bari tells Billboard that a dispute over a "misleading video clip featuring adult content" that appeared to show him trying to force a woman to give him oral sex has been resolved "amicably." Despite Bari's claims, shortly thereafter Comments 2 with the clothing designer. A$AP Ferg later says that Bari is still part of the clique, but adds, "we don't condone that kind of behavior."

Aug. 11Kesha releases her empowering album Rainbow, the first new music from the singer in the wake of a several-years legal battle against former mentor/producer Dr. Luke, whom she accused of sexual assault and rape; Dr. Luke has denied the accusations. Without naming names, the singer makes it clear that the people in her life who have kept her down, denigrated her and abused her heart and mind have not and will not win on tracks such as "Praying," "Boots" and "Bastards."

Aug. 14: After detailing how a veteran radio DJ lifted her skirt and grabbed her butt during a photo shoot, Taylor Swift earns praise for speaking out about the kinds of routine indignities women in the music industry are subject to. In one response to the DJ's lawyer about why her skirt did not appear lifted in a certain picture and why she didn't immediately call police afterwards, Swift said, "Yes, and your client could have taken a normal photo with me."

Aug. 17: Swift makes a "generous" donation to Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps survivors of sexual assault, after winning her countersuit against the Denver DJ who allegedly groped her in 2013.

Sept. 20: After news surfaced that some vinyl copies of Beyoncé's Lemonadewere mistakenly pressed with the first side of Canadian punk band Zex's Uphill Battle, the group's label receives several emails accusing guitarist Jo Capitalcide of sexual assault. The label, Magic Bullet Records, responds by saying in light of the allegations, as well as "routine boycotts of promoters, venues and record stores when the band is booked or carried," and firsthand information from singer Gretchen Steel, they are dropping the band and pledge to donate to RAINN and Cornerstone Housing for Women in the band's hometown of Ottawa.

Oct. 13: Canadian musician Alex Calder is dropped by Captured Tracks after the label says it was alerted to a sexual assault allegation, noting that his Oct. 20 album would no longer be released by the label. On the same day, the members of Real Estate confirm to Spin that former guitarist Mat Mondanile was fired from the band in February 2016 over allegations of "unacceptable treatment of women." Within weeks, a number of shows from Mondanile's side project, Ducktails, are canceled, while the label that released Ducktails' 2011 album III: Arcade Dynamics, drops the artist.

Oct. 16: After actress Alyssa Milano kicks off a massive Twitter trend by resurfacing social activist Tarana Burke's decade-old #MeToo hashtag as a means of showing solidarity with other sexual abuse/assault survivors in the wake of the Weinstein allegations, stars such as Lady GagaSheryl Crow and Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino add their voices to the rising din.

Among those sharing their stories are Veruca Salt's Louise Post, who joins the dozens of women accusing director James Toback of sexual assault or harassment, claiming that when she met him in 1987 as a student at Barnard College, Toback told her that "he'd love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes."

Oct. 17: After initially sharing a story about an unnamed "Danish director" that she claimed sexually harassed her, Björk posted a list of detailed incidents that many have assumed are tied to her Dancer in the Dark director Lars Von Trier. Among her allegations: The director "wrapped his arms around me for a long time" after each take and later "exploded" when she urged him to stop the unwanted touching, breaking a chair in front of everyone on set. "During the whole filming process there were constant awkward paralysing unwanted whispered sexual offers from him with graphic descriptions , sometimes with his wife standing next to us," she writes, adding that "while filming in sweden, he threatened to climb from his room´s balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention, while his wife was in the room next door." Von Trier has denied the allegations.

Oct. 19: Kesha tweets out support for women sharing their stories. “I support the tremendous amount of women who are coming forward to tell their stories of harassment and abuse,” she tweeted.

Oct. 23Tori Amos visits Billboard's Soul Sisters podcast and declares herself to be in "warrior mode" in the midst of the almost-daily reports of sexual assault and abuse. "It's been a boys club for too long," she says. "So I'm in warrior mode, sisters. I'm here."

Nov. 1Metric's Emily Haines drops by the Billboard offices to play songs off of her solo album Chair of the Minddedicating the song "Statuette" to "all the women who are finding the strength and courage to face and deal with and address the world they've [been] forced to live in professionally."

Nov. 2Kid RockHank Williams Jr. and a number of other country acts cut ties with Webster Public Relations following allegations of sexual assault by founder and CEO Kirt Webster. The firm subsequently changes its name to Westby Public Relations. 

Nov. 3: In a moving op-ed for Billboard, Best Coast's Cosentino writes about her experience with sexual assault, writing that there are "Weinsteins everywhere. Not just in big powerful industries, either. They're in colleges, at Halloween parties, at car washes, in grocery stores -- they're everywhere." Vowing to use her voice to amplify those of other women who've faced similar situations, Cosentino dubs 2017 "the year of male consequence."

Primary Wave co-CEO David Guillod takes a leave of absence from the music publishing/talent management company following allegations from Ted actress Jessica Barth that he drugged and sexually assaulted her at a dinner in 2012.

Nov. 12: Thousands of protesters take to the streets in Hollywood for the Take Back the Workplace march, which combines with a #MeToo Survivors March headed by hashtag creator Burke. In response to mutiple accusations of sexual misconduct, Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey pens a lengthy Facebook post in which he writes that he has "developed a dependent and addictive relationship with sex" that led him to "hurt people, mistreat them, lied, and cheated." The comments come after a woman claimed Lacey solicited nude pictures from her beginning when she was 15 and he was 24.

Nov. 14: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Lady Gaga announce an initiative to provide support to victims of sexual assault by setting up trauma centers for long-term relief.

Nov. 15: As part of The Hollywood Reporter's actress roundtable, Mary J. Bligeshares her experience growing up as a "tomboy" in the industry, stressing the importance of women opening up about abuse. While Blige says she hasn't been the victim of sexual harassment, she's "happy" for the women who have shared their accounts because it has allowed them to become free, and is optimistic about the future. "I believe things will change because it's making other women say, 'Me too, me too,' and that's why it keeps happening every day," she says. "And it will change things because people don't want to be in bondage anymore."

Four women come forward to speak to Spin alleging that FYF Fest founder Sean Carlson sexually assaulted them or made unwanted advances just days after Coachella promoter Goldenvoice abruptly cut ties with him.

Nov. 16: A top executive at Warner Music Sweden us suspended amidst multiple allegations of sexual misconduct involving both Warner employees and artist signees. News about the ousting was first leaked by Swedish tabloid AftonBladet, which claimed that the exec not only made sexual advances towards young female employees and artists, but also promoted an unhealthy work culture including sustained alcohol abuse. The exec is not revealed per local procedures about naming subjects accused of wrongdoing. The news came after the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an open letter signed by nearly 2,000 women working in the Swedish music industry -- including Zara LarssonRobynand members of Icona PopShout Out Louds and First Aid Kit -- condemning rampant sexual harassment and the myriad environmental conditions, including alcohol abuse and grueling work hours, that lead to such activity. On Dec. 1 Warner Music Sweden reportedly confirms the man's firing.

Nov. 22: Jeff Boxer resigns from his position as the executive director of the Content Creators Coalition on Wednesday following sexual harassment allegations from Americana musician Rosy Nolan, who published a Medium post alleging that Boxer deceived her when she planned to volunteer at the 2016 Americana Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. She wrote that he told her he would find a place for her to stay, but it “turned out to be a foam mattress on the living room floor of HIS Airbnb.” In his resignation letter Boxer mentioned two other women while apologizing for making colleagues uncomfortable.

Nov. 30: Hip-hop icon and Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons steps down from running his various companies following a second allegation of sexual misconduct. In an essay published by The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Jenny Lumet described a "circa 1991" incident in which she says Simmons offered her a ride home following a social gathering but instead took her to his New York apartment against her will and had sex with her. Simmons says in a statement released after the essay that although Lumet's memory of the night is "very different" from his, it's clear to him "that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real." He apologized for being "thoughtless and insensitive" in some of his relationships. Simmons' name is later removed from HBO's All Def Comedyseries.

Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz speaks out after nine women accuse his father playwright Israel Horovitz, 78, of sexual assault and misconduct dating back to the mid-1980s. The rapper issues a statement to The New York Times that reads: "I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them."

Dec. 2: The female cast members of Saturday Night Live are joined by actress Saoirse Ronan for a comedic song skit about the sexual harassment scandals embroiling Hollywood entitled "Welcome to Hell."

Dec. 5: Chase Igliori, manager of Into It. Over It.resigns from his position at Middle West Management in the wake of allegations that he sexually assaulted a colleague during a Hellogoodbye tour in 2013. Hillary Corts, who managed that tour, wrote in a Facebook post that Igliori non-consensually groped her, kissed her arms and shoulders, and fell asleep on top of her in a “forced cuddle position” during a stop in Brooklyn.

Dec. 6: Swift is among the five women depicted on the cover of Time's annual Person of the Year cover for 2017 as one of the "Silence Breakers" who have broken the code of omerta in Hollywood about sexual assault and harassment.

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About the author: Gil Kaufman Contributor