Artists, musicians denounce sexual harassment, misogyny in local music scene

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Fay Gumba from the office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, musicians Aly Cabral and Mariah Reodica, fashion designer Mich Dulce, and Eugenie Huibonhoa of Tala: Mental Wellness.

It started with a tweet from netizen and local music fan Adrienne Onday that recounted her experience of being the subject of several accounts of sexual harassment.

The tweet became the start of a series of exposes by women sharing similar experiences that exposed the local music scene’s dark side: a culture of sexual harassment and misogyny that has gone under the radar. Until now.

In commemoration of the end of the 18-Day Campaign against Violence Against Women on Tuesday, female artists and musicians launched a campaign for the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill to penalize gender-based harassment in public spaces including the streets, schools, clubs, gigs and concerts.

On Tuesday, Mow’s Bar, an unassuming gig place in Quezon City popular among indie bands and musicians, offered a safe space for female musicians to get together and discuss ways the music scene can move forward.

Mariah Reodica, vocalist of the band The Buildings, has been one of the most outspoken voices against this problem.

“We are working towards a more inclusive music scene,” Reodica said. “We condemn the allegations of sexual misconduct that has shaken the local music world. Now is the period of reflection and reckoning: men around me are examining their past actions”, she added.

Aly Cabral of the Teenage Granny and Ourselves the Elves, on the other hand, pushed for female musicians and artists to come together and “celebrate female talent”.

“We should demand that production companies, gig bars, and concerts should be safe spaces for women and the LGBT”, urged Cabral. “We need this commitment from the usually male-dominated spaces to respect women’s dignity and our body autonomy”, she furthered.

Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros, author of the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act in the Senate, supported the artists’ call. “Misogyny in the music scene stifles creativity. Safe spaces, on the other hand, foster creativity for our women artists,” Hontiveros declared.

“Sa ngayon, pag-uusapan sa Senado ang Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill. But I’m here to say that we should never be afraid to say no, we should never be afraid to call out harassment not only when we experience it, pero lalong lalo na kung nakikita natin itong ginagawa sa iba,” she said in a statement.

Senate Bill 1326 takes the fight against sexual harassment to the ground by penalizing catcalling, wolf-whistling, groping, leering, persistent request for contact details and other acts that violate women and LGBT persons’ personal space.

Former “Pinoy Big Brother” housemate, fashion designer and stylist Mich Dulce expressed support for the proposed legislation. “My recent experience having been groped in public in Makati by a stranger made me realize that we need a legislation to counter this problem,” Dulce expressed. “This is a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution. The Safe Spaces Bill will help facilitate a change in culture towards a more respectful manner of how society treats women and the LGBT,” she said.

The artists committed to act as a support for women who have been victims of sexual harassment. “We are extending help in solidarity to these women. We are currently speaking to counselors and lawyers to support those women who will decide to file cases against their harassers”, Dulce also expressed. “This time, sexual harassment will not fly. And those who committed these crimes will pay,” she said.

Reodica also said that they plan to appeal to more gig bars and concert producers in ensuring that they are safe spaces for women and the LGBT. “There should be no harassment, no sexism, no homophobia in these places of artistry,” she urged. “We need hope and strength, which we can find in each other. We need the perseverance not to lose sight of the bigger picture: safe spaces for everyone,” Reodica concluded.

Last month, indie bands led by Jensen and the Flips, Ang Bandang Shirley and Sud apologized after a series of exposes alleging sexual misconduct were published online.