We interrupt the regular Phishiness found at this blog to talk about something that really got my attention this past week, sexual harassment at Phish Shows. The wonderful podcast, The Helping Friendly Podcast turned my attention towards this topic. I think, and if those involved want to correct me, please do, but the podcast was in reaction to Brian Colligan’s amazing bit of work investigating the problem and getting some kind of window into it. I’ll be honest, as a man, I feel like I still need education on this situation, especially being confronted with the reality and frequency that it happens.
Another community I’m a part of, well sort of anyway*, is the running community. This piece from Runner’s World was quite jarring to me. After listening to the podcast and reading Brian’s piece, I now feel doubly chastised. Not for sexually harassing someone, but for my complete obliviousness to how pervasive sexual harassment is in the lives of women, hell, how unbelievably frequent.
*Truth is in all my interests, I never quite feel a part of said community, like Phish or running or many others. I mean I like things, but when I try and hang out with people with similar interests it always feels like they are REALLY into said interest and I feel like a poser.
What gets me, in both cases, running and Phish, is that for me, both are places of refuge, of quiet, of safety. I do both activities predominately alone, in fact I pretty much prefer it that way. When I run, I process. When I’m at Phish, I let go. Both are cathartic in their own way. One feels like atonement, the other freedom.
Hearing and reading about the amount of abuse that women take, and that’s what it is, in both venues angers me. Half of the population, some dear friends of mine don’t have the same access that I do to these events. It’s not to say that women don’t enjoy running or Phish or have a personal connection or whatever you want to plug in here. It’s that there is this other presence, this spectre that can and often does invade.
Colligan and the folks on the HFP offered some ideas to combat sexual harassment at shows and they are good suggestions, if a bit tricky in the moment. Most notably is the suggestion that if we see something, do something, especially if it is our friends doing the action. First, maybe you need better friends. Though I go to shows alone, I can’t imagine any of my friends groping a woman during a show. Second, and more to my situation at shows, is that when I tell the friend to stop something, nine times out of ten the other friends defend the perpetrator, that whole loyalty to a fault garbage.
The other thing that makes see something say something hard is that I don’t see anything much of the time. I either am focused on the band and the music or my eyes are closed. Admittedly, and now a bit sheepishly, I am not very aware of my surroundings.
One thing that Colligan suggests, if a bit weakly and the HFP panel pretty much eschewed was reporting the guy to security. I know that the relationship between security and fans isn’t always the greatest, but I’m going to betray a bit of bias here. I was a security guard at Wrigley Field for three years. Cubs fans, especially the bros and party folks in the bleachers, annoyed the crap out of me. However, when an issue was serious, like a guy harassing a woman, it was taken seriously, other feelings put aside. I would strongly urge women at shows that are harassed, especially physically, to bring in the venue’s security. They may still be jerks about other things, but I think most security personnel would take appropriate action.
One last bit of advice: If you are a woman at a show, especially alone and you feel threatened or unsafe I would highly recommend going to the Phellowship table. If you aren’t aware of the Phellowship, they are a group of Phish heads that choose to attend shows drug and alcohol free. I won’t say it’s perfect, but the table is removed from the seating area and if a woman isn’t among the staffers, there is almost always female members nearby. I would venture to guess that even as shows are relatively safe places which still need to improve, the folks at and around the Phellowship are even safer.
If I’ve taken anything out of all if this it’s that this problem falls on the men who go to Phish shows and interact online as fans. It isn’t the band’s problem, the venue’s problem and especially not the women’s problem. If the situation is going to change, we are the ones that need to make the change, no one else. Phish shows are such awesome events. It takes away from everyone if this kind of behavior persists. Let’s make sure everyone gets to share in the groove.
I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 38 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!