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Chvrches' Lead Singer Speaks Out Against Fans' Online Misogyny

Chrches on stage

Scottish synthpop band Chvrches has become wildly popular in the last year. But that popularity has a sad, dark side for lead singer Lauren Mayberry, who wrote a column in The Guardian this week noting that she now has to sort through dozens of sexually aggressive messages every day on her band's Facebook page. 

When Mayberry wrote on the band's Facebook page politely asking people to stop sending notes about how they'd like to have sex with her, the post got thousands of "likes" and received hundreds of comments, most of them supportive. But some comments helped prove the horrible point, with a handful of men writing things like, "It's just one of those things you'll need to learn to deal with. If you're easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn't for you."

Mayberry reads through messages on the band's Facebook page because she wants to connect with and be accessible to genuine fans, but her Guardian column lays out how the way fans treat her often makes her feel sick and dehumanized:

I read them every morning when I get up. I read them after soundcheck. I read them, as we all do with our emails and notifications, on my phone on the bus or when I have a break in the day. And, after a while, despite the positive messages in the majority, the aggressive, intrusive nature of the other kind becomes overwhelming. During this past tour, I am embarrassed to admit that I have had more than one prolonged toilet cry and a "Come on, get a hold of yourself, you got this" conversation with myself in a bathroom mirror when particularly exasperated and tired out. But then, after all the sniffling had ceased, I asked myself: why should I cry about this? Why should I feel violated, uncomfortable and demeaned? Why should we all keep quiet?

Women are spoken to like this every day, and not just those deemed to be in the public eye. The depressing reality is that campaigns like the Everyday Sexism Project would not need to exist were casual sexism not so startlingly commonplace. I should note here that I have never said that men – in the public eye or otherwise – do not receive such comments. I can, however, only speak of what I know, which is that the number of offensive messages directed towards me, "the girl singer," compared to my bandmates is undeniably higher. 

The music industry and everyday social dynamics that lead to talented musicians like Mayberry being seen as just "the girl singer" are part of the problem here. Getting up on stage is nerve-wracking for any performer and comments like the ones Mayberry documents seem to justify the fears of female artists who worry that despite however talented they are, some audience members will only ever see them as a sex object. And the sexually aggressive comments Mayberry sifts through are meant to make her fearful—she's in a position of power, holding the mic onstage. Guys who are jealous or afraid of that power want to feel like they can get in her head and shake her up, just by typing out a simple message.

As Mayberry notes, she's only a special case because she's well known. Many, many women face online attacks like this. In some ways, the social aspects of Facebook and Twitter allow us to bring this sexually aggressiveness to light, but in other ways, the technology itself enables the aggression.  The trouble with trolls shapes how we all interact online. While social media provides the ability to connect instantly and intimately with people all over the world, including our favorite musicians, that level of connection can be dangerous for many people.

We can push for some infrastructure changes to prevent the social problems that social technology dredges up—like being able to report sexually aggressive memes on Facebook—but those are often Bandaids at best and counter-productive at worst. Comments like these make clear that deep and widespread parts of our culture need changing. 

In the meantime, Mayberry shouldn't be defined by her reactions to online haters. She's first and foremost a musician who just wants to make music. I want listen to it. Here's a great single from Chvrches' 2012 album The Bones of What You Believe

Photo of Chvrches in LA ia via the Daily Record


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Comments

3 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Let's turn the shame around

Recently, a friend of mine, who happens to be a gay male, received via personal message hateful homophobic slurs from his "friends" on facebook after making a political post. He then commented again on his facebook about this happening and how hurt he was. One of his real friends suggested that he take screen shots of these messages with these people's names and profile pictures visible and post them. His friend was suggesting we shame these people. I thought, maybe we should shame these people.

These people who say hateful and misogynistic things are the ones who have done something worthy of feeling shame, yet they think they're anonymous because they're on the internet? Let's shame them. We should not feel shame for the things that people do to us. They should be the ones who feel shame.

Rape Culture

This is all derivative of and feeds back into rape culture.

Rape involves sex, but is not about sex. These types of attacks may involve sex, but are not about sex. They are, as has been correctly pointed out, about dominance, hate, and power. For so incredibly long we have been told that it's improper to admit to being attacked... whether it's rape or otherwise. As a victim, you are to blame for being the weaker, because we're told that's what being attacked makes us, by default. As women, we're told that it's our place to be weaker, our place to be attacked, and our place to shut up and take the abuse because if someone wants to abuse us it's their prerogative really and we just need to learn to accept it: if we had been better women we'd have found someone who protected us and didn't abuse us, but because we're not it's our fault for ending up in a situation where we're free to be attacked and abused, because it's not actually our place to do anything about it or say anything about it.

It's improper to admit to being attacked... because the truth makes other people uncomfortable. Because the truth makes other people face the issues in our society instead of brushing them under the rug. And because the truth makes other people look at the choices and situations in their own lives that they've tried to bury or resign themselves to because of our culture. It's time to say that enough is enough, and cram that truth down people's throats until they do the right thing with their discomfort and deal with the attackers rather than blame the victims.

Spot on!

Very well-written article! What you say in paragraph 2 is especially notable. The most frustrating part of this phenomenon are the men (and even some women) who say "you just need to learn to deal with it" or worse "shut up you like the attention" or "you'd be complaining just as much if they didn't say anything to you" proving just how little they value a woman's right to be seen as a human being and not just a sex object. Not to mention the implication that that is all we should aspire to be. I recently contributed to a conversation about Street Harassment and received many responses like that. It was downright infuriating and it's only amplified when a woman is in the entertainment industry.