Over the past 12 months, as one of its primary proponents, I have spent a lot of time thinking about call-out culture. Or, as some industry heavyweights have phrased it, the trend of “witch hunts” that has been plaguing our scene as of late. I have spent a lot of time frustrated by the perpetuation of the idea that says the call-outs are the problem, instead of the abuses that said call-outs address. I’ve been upset because we know that statistically when an accusation is finally made, they are are overwhelmingly true; however, the opposite manages to live on in the minds of so many. It’s a problem, because as long as the focus is on whether or not call-out culture ought to exist, the real problems and abuses plaguing our scene fail to get properly addressed. As such, it’s a problem I want to solve.
Last week, Mariel Loveland of Candy Hearts posted a blog detailing how her former tour manager (and ex-boyfriend) physically, and verbally, assaulted her on Warped Tour last summer. She detailed the alleged abuse, claiming that she has spent the last 10 months being afraid to speak because of what it might do to her career – a decision that feels all too familiar to any survivor. She was afraid that she wouldn’t be believed – or that speaking up would forever brand her as “fussy” or “reckless”, and therefore prevent the male-dominated industry from wanting to work with her in the future. Ultimately, a desire to protect the young girls this man will inevitably be around on tour proved to be a bigger driving force than her own fear, and so she spoke.1
Last fall, Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail called me to give me some background for a piece – a piece which I’ve been trying to figure out how to write ever since. A relatively common practice amongst bands with buses on Warped Tour is renting out unused bunks to folks working on the tour. Senses Fail allowed a young band, We Are Forever, to rent some bunks while they spent the summer following the tour and hawking their music to the kids waiting in line each day. (Anyone who has ever been to Warped knows this type well.) That band was ultimately removed from the tour after Buddy became aware of allegations against a member (which came along with now requisite screenshots) of inappropriate conduct with underage girls.2 Buddy spoke to the other members and gave them a choice: either lose him, or lose your spot on my bus. The band chose to support their bandmate and leave the tour, despite knowing what he did.
They aren’t the first band to make such a decision for the sake of so-called loyalty. When up-and-comers Better Off torpedoed their own spring tour to protect a hired gun accused of sexual assault earlier this year, the response was one of shock and disappointment throughout the scene. Yet again, the accuser alleged that she made the abuse known to people close to the situation before taking her truth public, doing so only when she met the same resistance and refusal to “take sides” that so often precedes these accusations on a public forum.
So what does this mean? Where does this leave us? This brings me to my solution. It’s not an easy one, but it can singlehandedly decimate call-out culture and put writers like me out of a job. It can keep people who may have made a one-time mistake from being lumped in with the serial perpetrators. It can create a climate in which private solutions and reparations are possible while simultaneously creating a world where consequences can be doled out without the humiliation that so often falls on all parties involved. I truly believe this is possible.
The solution: when you see something, say something. When you hear something, say something. When you know something, say something. Perhaps the only thing more disheartening than abuse itself is the stark realization that said abuse had witnesses who choose to stay silent until the only option was taking the statement public. This practice ensures that “call-out culture” remains necessary. It means the so-called witch hunts have to continue. So, gentlemen, do you want to know how to destroy call-out culture you claim to hate? Speak up.
The enemy of call-out culture is action. It is a direct response to the idea of “No More Silence” – the idea that nothing will change if we don’t speak up. But imagine for a moment a world where it doesn’t have to get to this point. Imagine a world where a group of decent young men just trying to put their music out there in the world hear about someone on their team, or in their band, causing harm to another human being and not writing that harm off because it’s easier. Imagine addressing it and everyone involved doing their best to make it right, to protect others – their own fans – from harm in the future. Imagine refusing to work with people who are harmful to others – imagine prioritizing public safety over your buddy’s feelings. Imagine setting the standard higher and saying, “If you want to work with us, you have to be a decent person.” Imagine that world. You’re imagining a world where women, where people of color, where all gender identities and sexual orientations feel safe. You’re imagining the world punk promised it would be – the world it never has managed to be. Imagine that world. So next time you find yourself down about the way these allegations and scandals are harming our scene, remember that there’s only one way to put a stop to it: defend girls, not pop punk.
We Are Forever are not affiliated with Warped Tour nor were they ever part of the tour itself. Although it bears noting that allegations were leveled against multiple other artists on the 2015 tour, some of which resulted in removal of band members from both Neck Deep and Set It Off.↩