#WeBelieveShelby – Stop sexism in the music industry
Joint statement of ROSA activists in Germany and Northern Ireland
In Mid May, Shelby Lynn, a woman from Northern Ireland published a statement on Instagram about her experience of a Rammstein concert in Lithuania. She stated she suspected that she had been spiked during the concert.
Shelby’s brave public statement led to dozens of young women in Germany reporting to newspapers, like die Süddeutsche or der Spiegel that they were approached and selected in clubs, via social media or at Rammstein concerts to come to ‘row zero’ (a special area right in front of the stage) or to after-parties of the band. Some stated that they felt pressured to drink alcohol and use other drugs. There are also reports of a further room under the stage where specifically ‘chosen’ women were brought during the concerts to have sex with the band's singer Till Lindemann. Others reported that during after-parties attended by the singer and separate from the ‘official’ party, they were told to hand in their mobile phones and wait in a special room ‘full of beverages and strong alcoholic drinks’, for the singer to join them. This is specifically disturbing, when considering that the members of the band are now around 60 years old, while the ‘chosen’ women were in their twenties or even younger - evidently a situation with a significant power imbalance based on age, fame, and other factors.
We believe Shelby
Victims and survivors of abuse face many barriers that make reporting and speaking about their experience very difficult. Victim-blaming only makes it less likely for people to come forward. Making them believe that what they have experienced is "not so bad" protects the perpetrators and perpetuates sexist structures. It silences those affected. Solid evidence is often demanded by the media, which exploit and market the accusations without questioning the patriarchal structures and thus reinforcing them themselves. Many victims do not report assaults because these are often people they have trusted, perhaps even loved and admired.
The discussion about Rammstein must be the beginning of a long overdue reappraisal of structural sexism in the music and entertainment industry - which is hugely profitable! After the incidents became public, the concerts in Munich and Berlin have reportedly scrapped a ‘row zero’ and according to the BBC are going ahead without an “extra after show party” with Lindemann. Also, there is an internal investigation team and a safety team for the concerts. The woman who contacted the young fans to join "row zero", Alena M., is not part of the team working for the band anymore. She had been also depicted as the actual problem, while the obvious “System Rammstein” stays intact and the band members claim all accusations were wrong.
Meanwhile, Rammstein hired the law firm Schertz und Bergmann, which specialises in media law, described the accusations that women were drugged by alcohol or spiked as "untrue" and threatened: "We will immediately take legal action against the individual persons for all accusations of this kind". Rammstein's lawyers consider the quoting of reports by those affected and the suspicion derived from them that there is a system behind it to be legally inadmissible. Shelby Lynn is one of the first who received a letter from this law firm on which she publicly stated: “Take me to court. I am not afraid. You have a lot to lose & a lot to hide. I have nothing to hide."
Socialist feminism means solidarity
The threatened legal prosecution of those who speak up against abuse reminds us of the aftermath of the Ulster Rugby Rape Trial in 2018. Famous rugby players who had been accused of sexual assault and related crimes in Northern Ireland were able to access very expensive lawyers for their legal defence and they also threatened to take people to court who after their trial, were the players were found not guilty, went onto the streets as ROSA activists did to loudly proclaim "We believe her!" When one of the players' lawyers threated to sue people the response from placards the chant was: "Sue me, Paddy!". The inherent sexism in our legal system here was on full display then and we see the same engrained inequality also in other spheres including in the music, entertainment and hospitality industries.
Shelby’s public statement is very brave. We as ROSA believe her and stand in solidarity with her and all victims of sexism, misogyny, abuse and harassment. We fight the structures in which such incidents emerge, whether in the music and entertainment industry or anywhere else. We do this together and internationally because we know that our solidarity is one of our strongest tools. We have to organise ourselves internationally and discuss together how we can break this system. The international impacts of #metoo for example shows that this is a global fight where we can also gain inspiration and insight from the struggles of our siblings around the world. Arts workers must organise in trade unions and initiate the debate about sexist structures inside them. They can use their reach to educate about the profits that in large part rely and perpetuate these same sexist structures. Rammstein and also Lindemann's solo tours should be challenged with protests. We also fight to challenge misogyny, harassment and abuse in the music industry and elsewhere. That means fighting for safe venues, ensuring that there is a zero-tolerance abuse to misogyny, LGBTQIA+ phobia and abuse and harassment of all kinds.
As socialist feminists we believe that to overcome sexism in the entertainment industry, we need to fight profiteering. To create a culture that promotes equality, the entertainment industry needs to be taken out of the hands of a handful of super-rich label bosses, record companies and ticket and booking companies. These large companies should not be run for profit but instead collectively and democratically run to make the arts accessible to all and to encourage and develop skills and talent vulnerable to abuse. Artists need a secure income, even if they don't have an audience of millions. Everyone involved in the production of culture (crews, technicians, security and awareness people...) needs collective wages.
We need democratically elected structures that develop security concepts for concerts and events, are trained to be cognisant of gender and sexuality based power differentials and to recognise dangerous situations. In Northern Ireland, ROSA has taken a joint initiative with Unite Hospitality - a trade union branch that organises hospitality workers (in cafes, bars and other venues) - to launch a charter against sexual harassment in hospitality. We will be campaigning for venues to implement this charter to make hospitality safer for workers and customers.
We want a society where not just one but many female and genderqueer acts are celebrated in metal bands, hip hop etc. and where all hospitality and entertainment workers as well as fans can feel safe at concerts and aftershow parties. To get involved in this struggle, get in touch with ROSA - [Instagram: @rosa.germany; @ROSANorthernIreland.]