Published Feb 02, 2016Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino has lashed out against misogyny in the music industry in a new essay titled Burgers, Bitches, and Bullshit. The piece appeared today (February 2) in Lena Dunham's online newsletter Lenny, and finds Cosentino standing up to sexist industry standards.
She discusses the terrifying world of online commenting, noting that for every "Yaaas, queen, you are my spirit animal!" there are just as many sexist, unasked for opinions about her appearance and identity.
Using social media to connect with fans and give them a glimpse into life as a working musician — sometimes glamourous, sometimes decked out in PJs eating mac and cheese with her cat — Cosentino has never shied away from sharing parts of her personal life online.
"I'm just not afraid of being myself," she writes. "I never have been. Even as a kid, I never felt like I had to put on an act to impress people or conform to the way people thought I should be. I will NEVER apologize for being an outspoken boss, because I don't owe anyone an apology. The Bethany you see in interviews and on social media and out in the world, that is the absolute, real-deal Bethany."
That's the same Bethany, she reminds us, that walked out on a journalist in Toronto for asking: "So how does it feel to be a female rock star who plays guitar? You really don't see many female rock stars with guitars."
In the essay, she shuts down the notion that it's okay for the press to impose expectations of "sexiness" on her band, saying:
For example, I recently read a review that mostly lauded a Best Coast show — it specified how great the band sounded and how "sexy" I looked — but it bemoaned my lack of smiling. This article has, and continues to, deeply trouble me. This reviewer's gendered critique of my presence onstage revealed how he thought a woman who he saw as "sexy" should behave. It also showed how ideas about the sexualization of women are reinforced. Many people did not see the underlying sexism of the review. In fact, in the social media referencing the article, countless people attacked me with comments like "Get over it! He complimented you! Quit being a whiny bitch!"
She also recounts a particularly ugly gig at a school campus, where she was assaulted with flying food:
While we were playing, a male student in the front row of the crowd took it upon himself to throw a cheeseburger directly at my face while yelling, "YOU FUCKING SUCK." My reaction to this? "Wow, you're really lucky there is a barrier between us, because I would really like to come down there and slap you across the fucking face. It's a shame your mother didn't teach you any manners."
In the moment, I was pissed. I mean, wouldn't you be? Imagine you're standing there, doing your job, and suddenly, a fucking cheeseburger comes flying at your face. And attached to it: a man yelling at you that you suck. No, saying that I wanted to physically harm someone wasn't the right thing to do, nor was I really blaming this guy's mother for his bad behavior. But I was humiliated, and also smelled like a McDonald's, so I had no problem just saying the first thing that popped into my head. Keep in mind there were three other people onstage with me that day — two of whom stand on opposite sides of me, all of whom are men — and no one else got pelted by a burger. Maybe the tossing of the burger at my face had nothing to do with the fact that I am a female front woman; maybe I just happened to be standing where the burger landed. But to me, it had everything to do with the fact that I was a female front woman.
Finally, she opens up about the recent sexual assault allegations made by Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman against disgraced publicist Heathcliff Berru. Adding to her already well-documented defence of Coffman on Twitter, Cosentino writes:
As much as it pains me to see these stories from so many women, stories that go back as far as ten years and are as recent as only a few months ago, I am so glad that this situation was finally brought to light and that these victims now have a supportive bond and can provide strength to others who may want to come forward.
The essay ends with a final call for female empowerment in the industry:
It might be evident from this essay that I feel a lot of things, including confusion and anger, toward the way I am perceived as a woman in the music industry. I just want to be able to exist and make music without people asking me the question "So what is it like to be a girl in a band?" In reality, it's one of the best things in the world. But on a bad day, it can make me question if I chose the right career.
I know I absolutely chose the right career. I am a creative, strong, outspoken woman, and my voice will not be silenced. If anything, I will deal with the sexist bullshit and have burgers thrown at my face so that I can use my voice to say "THIS IS NOT OK!" and let women (and men) know that we don't have to accept this type of behavior. To the girl who is feeling confused about her own identity, I say this to you with total confidence: You are talented, you are resilient, you are unique. And don't ever let some burger-tossing bro allow you to think otherwise.
You can subscribe to the Lenny Letter over here.