Holding Abusive Gatekeepers Accountable

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

Most of my teenage years, I’ve aspired to become a film director somewhere in my wildest dreams. I spent my weekends watching movies and talking about them with my peers. I started making my own movies, writing scripts, with iPhone cameras and makeshift microphones covered by cheap socks. The times between “action” and “cut” were some of the most exciting experiences of my life. I do not know exactly why this dream of mine fell out—I remember it was an accumulation of Asian social expectations and a desire to snag a six-figure salary after two years of graduation. But, I remember vividly that one of them is because of the gatekeepers in the industry. I opened a Reddit page a few years ago and read a post about how actresses have to bear their physique during an audition, or how producers would trade sex for a film production deal—and worst of all, people are acknowledging that this is a normal rite of passage in the film industry for women. I was disgusted on the prospects of being belittled by industry giants to get ahead in the industry, and that was one of the reasons why I dropped my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

Recently, news broke about prominent indie musician Ryan Adams being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, including another indie musician Phoebe Bridgers and his ex-wife Mandy Moore. It follows the same narrative as we’ve seen before in people like Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, or even Blood on the Dance Floor’s Dahvie Vanity: He lures in young girls in the promise of a music career, established a relationship with them, and turning that relationship abusive and non-consensually sexual. The New York Times article that broke this news outlined the experiences of these women.

What is the most distressing of these revelations is that some of these stories resulted in the victims, who initially has a lifelong passion for music, to be turned off by their motivations once they are faced with an abusive gatekeeper. A woman who identifies herself as Ava stated that the experience “just totally put [her] off to the whole idea” of making music, and never performed since what happened. Singer-songwriter Courtney Jaye was quoted in the article saying, “Something changed in me that year. It made me just not want to make music.” And, most distressingly, these abusers make their victims lose the dream they’ve cultivated for years on end.

While I cannot speak on the experiences of these women, this brings me back to my brief stint with the film industry. My flicker died while I hear about these experiences. This is happening not only in the music industry, but in other industries too, and you need to be aware of the fact that your favorite public figure could be an abuser. It is hard to take it in—this happened to what used to be one of my favorite American authors, Sherman Alexie—but if you think about the harm they have caused to tens, even hundreds of their victims who could have been pioneers in the industry, it is clear that exposing abusive gatekeepers in the industry is more important than ever. Now, when I listen to the music of gatekeepers like Ryan Adams, I think of countless women and their works, which could’ve been number one Billboard hits, Pitchfork Best New Music releases, Grammy award winners, and now I think of how it all came crashing down because of these toxic industry figures.

This is why I salute the organizations in various industries that create an environment for women to thrive and get ahead: Girls Rock Camp Alliance, GIRLSCHOOL, WriteGirl, and one from my own industry, Girls Who Code. I salute those who create empowering opportunities for women who want to reach their dreams. Movements like #MeToo made me want to pick up that camera again, if I had the chance. But, most importantly, change starts within yourself. Don’t be hesitant to call out those you know, even your friends, if you know that they have sexually abused someone, or act as gatekeepers to a certain industry. Educate the people around you about abusive relationships. Educate yourself and be part of the conversation. We are all striving to create an inclusive future where no one, ever again, shall be fearful of their own dreams.

Image credit: ISSAT

One thought on “Holding Abusive Gatekeepers Accountable

  1. I just got finished reading a post very similar to this, which gives me hope for women in the music industry. It’s truly a shame that young women are sometimes turned away from their passions out of fear. As a male audio engineer, I cannot imagine being in such a position. I admit that I can’t relate, but I sympathize deeply. Thanks for posting!

    If you’re interested, I put together an interview with a professional female producer about the gender imbalance in the industry: https://bit.ly/2XX45Ir


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