Misogyny Digest: Taylor Swift Deepfakes to The Last Dinner Party

Misogyny Digest: Taylor Swift Deepfakes to The Last Dinner Party

Following on from the UK Government's Misogyny in Music report, here's a digest of 11 articles & videos & podcasts that directly and indirectly highlight the issues raised by the inquiry. I've added a few thoughts after the links at the end.

Article: Music and misogyny – we have the facts, so what happens now? (The Forty Five)

Following on from last week's DiS newsletter summarising the UK government's Misogyny in Music report, this must read piece by Janessa Williams that covers a lot of ground, but I wanted to pull out this paragraph:

In smaller or more local scenes, offending artists often become ‘open secrets’, quietly waiting out a few years before staging a comeback, or else maintaining a fanbase who don’t much care for the allegations or insist that they must be untrue. As the Misogyny In Music report found, the informal environments in which music work takes place means that abuse is upsettingly common, with those who are self-employed or on freelance contracts being particularly vulnerable due to the lack of clear company ‘rules’ or reporting procedures. 
Music and misogyny – we have the facts, so what happens now?
Jenessa Williams writes about the findings of the Women & Equality Report into music industry misogyny, and chats to women who know the story all too well.

News: Black Honey: “The music industry’s endemic misogyny is real” (FarOut)

Black Honey singer Izzy Baxter Phillips has shared a statement on the issue [of Misogyny in Music], drawing from their experiences. “The music industry’s endemic misogyny is real. We have been dealing with it on the daily since the dawn of music. We feel like we have to survive in this industry. Two of the most common examples to know are studio sessions run by mostly middle aged men taking advantage of young female artists and label members abusing their artists under their boys club rules,” the message began.
Phillips went on to say how she has a “zillion and one sexual abuse stories from every woman I know.” Furthermore, the vocalist said women are frequently “belittled, undervalued, spoken down to and underestimated.”

Note: aside from being the "vocalist", Izzy is also the guitarist, lyricist, songwriter and creative force behind Black Honey.

News: Phoebe Bridgers Tells Ex-Grammy Head Accused of Sexual Assault to ‘Rot in Piss’ (Rolling Stone)

It will be 5 years this week that Phoebe Bridgers' allegations and those of other women about Ryan Adams were reported by the New York Times. The award-winning songwriter spoke backstage the Grammy awards:

Bridgers called out Neil Portnow, the former president accused of sexual assault, when Rolling Stone asked her about women driving the future of rock music

Article: America’s Paranoid Taylor Swift Super Bowl MAGA Fever Dream (New Yorker)

Call it the Swiftularity: it’s not that Swift is all we talk about; it’s that anything we talk about bends back toward her, stretching the boundaries of logic. The collision of such gargantuan cultural forces has occasioned conspiracy theories that the N.F.L. is fixing the Super Bowl so that Swift will appear at the event, as she has at many of Kelce’s games, and boost ratings into the stratosphere, reviving American interest in the sport. The maga camp went into speculative overdrive. A chyron on the conservative One America News Network deemed it a “massive superbowl psy-op.” The game would be little more than Democratic propaganda, showcasing what Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republican Presidential candidate turned Trump booster, called an “artificially culturally propped-up couple.”

Article: From Deepfakes to Assault in the Metaverse: The Urgency of Ethics in AI (Byline Times)

I thought I knew a fair bit about deepfakes, but there's been a lot of great reporting since the despicable images depicting Taylor Swift being assaulted in the stands at a NFL game went viral on Elon Musk's "freeeeee speech" (unless you're a journalist critical of him) Twitter. The grim non-consensual images were made with AI and regulating artificial intelligence is a topic we'll likely return to a lot this year. This piece by the inspiring campaigner Patsy Stevenson is a great read.

Long read: The Taylor Swift Deepfakes Disaster Threatens to Change the Internet As We Know It (404Media)

Relatedly, this is a thorough read but there's also a podcast discussion with the writer and team behind the site that I found really fascinating.

Social Post: Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp, Insta, Threads) is going to down-rank or deprioritise social commentary and political news (Threads)

Taylor Lorenz has a series of posts on Threads highlighting the issues this raises.

Interview: Brit Beat: Island Bets Big on Last Dinner Party (Variety)

Everything about the "industry plant" discourse has a whiff of misogyny. Interesting to hear the realities of the album campaign addressed in this piece, published shortly before the band went to number 1 in the UK album charts with their debut album (pictured above):

“Bands like this don’t come along very often,” Island U.K. President Louis Bloom tells Variety. “It’s important that they are recognized when they do because they fit into what we do really well as a country. They’re in that great lineage of Kate Bush, Queen and Bowie; eccentric, quirky, British acts that can move the cultural dial. As soon as we launched, eyes were on the band and it created a discussion.” 
Not all of that discussion was positive, however. Indeed, at one stage last year, the Last Dinner Party seemed to be enjoying more backlash than actual hype, dubbed “industry plants” by some online after they spotted the band had heavyweight management (Tara Richardson and Cliff Burnstein at Q Prime) and had played an early Rolling Stones support slot at BST Hyde Park. 
“We laughed at it,” chuckles Bloom of the criticism. “You can’t make something like this up. If only we were that talented, to create something so wonderful!”

Podcast: Annie Mac on Sidetracked (BBC Sounds)

The podcaster and DJ speaks (from about 18 mins in) about her experience giving evidence to the Misogyny in Music committee. It's a really great 5 minute summary of the report, which begins:

It's really grim reading, but you realise how important it is when read it in black and white...

Annie then underscores:

Nothing has to happen by law. This gets presented to the government and they will decide if they want to change laws.

Long Read: Is the Media Prepared for an Extinction-Level Event? (New Yorker)

I don't mean to sound like a broken record but one of the reasons I've been recording a season of Drowned in Sound podcasts about the future of media, is because I can see the damage it's doing. The economic model incentivises friction and amplifies enragement bait, much of which has a big overlap with misogyny (there's a lot of pieces about the male insecurity-to-fascism pipeline)

Playing the search-engine-optimization game—racing to get an article within the first page of Google results—insured that your Web site got page views. And page views were what mattered: they were a new way of selling advertising. Gawker, which launched in 2002, famously had an office leaderboard that showed which writer had the best-trafficked story; bonuses were tied to views. But the Internet’s exponential growth only depreciated the value of clicks. By 2008, Gawker was getting half the revenue per page of what it earned in 2004. The model was, the financial journalist Felix Salmon wrote, in 2010, “looking increasingly like a race to the bottom, where publishers desperately try every trick in the book to boost their pageviews and ad impressions, just to compensate for the fact that their revenues per page are very small. The results—sensationalism, salaciousness, and slideshows—only serve to further erode the value of the sites in the eyes of advertisers.”
Is the Media Prepared for an Extinction-Level Event?
Ads are scarce, search and social traffic is dying, and readers are burned out. The future will require fundamentally rethinking the press’s relationship to its audience.

Video: Grift Drift  (Media Matters YouTube)

A really revealing exploration of how Russell Brand became a big voice in the far right ecosystem. Whilst not directly about his misogyny and the recent allegations he faces, this is about following the money that incentivises the toxicity. Abbie Richards (@tofology) who hosts this video is one of my favourite TikTokkers, she specialises in debunking conspiracy theories and this is her first video for the watchdog Media Matters. 

Many manosphere-radicalised men on the internet don't seem to think misogyny is an issue in music, nor in society. It was notable that the pile-on targeting our Facebook post about this government's report came from angry lads, who don't follow our account, all with very similar talking points. It was another reminder of the hostile environment we live in and how needed change is.

What's the manosphere? Here's a brilliant 80 minute explanation/documentary from Munecat, who is one of my favourite YouTubers, to bookmark.

One of the big takeaways from the Misogyny in Music report was the need for more Diversity and Inclusion training. The hope is that this will begin to address high levels of harassment and abuse, as well as assist some people in understanding the law, which may reveal how much of the low level everyday toxicity is never something anyone should ever have to tolerate.

Meanwhile, this week the disgraced, economy-crashing-PM Liz Truss, spoke at the Popular Conservative conference about wanting to get rid of “wokeism” in institutions, which is one of the think tank talking points that have been imported from America's Heritage Institute, behind a lot of the US's far right politics. (If you weren't aware of this "PopCon" faction of the Conservative Party, Lewis Goodall's report on The Newsagents is worth a watch on YouTube)

If "woke" means awake to prejudice and discrimination or alert to injustice, does being proudly "anti-woke" mean you're pro continued injustice, ignorant to it or both!? (Related: This episode of Slate's ICYMI podcast is a great history of the word "woke")

And you know what the new 'political correctness gone mad' 'leftie extremist' flavour of the moment is? Yes, Diversity and Inclusion training or DEI (Diversity Equality and Inclusion) as it is referred to by US politicians. The promotion of inclusion policies or training is the sort of thing everyone from GB News to dog-whistler Joe Rogan gets annoyed about.

What's becoming clearer to me about the so-called "culture war" is that increasingly the coded double-speak and catchall terms like "woke", alongside "concerns about immigration" and "identity politics", hides the truth that it's often bigoted, racist, misogynistic, anti-trans, anti-planet rhetoric, with real world consequences. These often subtle inversions of language is often appealing to those looking for simple answers to complex problems and to unite in their hatred of minority groups. It's becoming far less debatable that these increasingly far-right Tories and Republicans in the US are dangerous and regressive.

Meanwhile, this image lives in my head rent free.

Source: according to a Reddit wormhole I just crawled down, this cartoon which has become a meme, was originally by Denis Lushch from Victoria, Australia. You can find Denis on Instagram here.

I'll leave you with this, in a week when the so-called "trans debate" dominated the British media, here's ANOHNI from the latest Atmos magazine newsletter:

Trans people in some Indigenous societies have been held, both contemporarily and historically, in high regard. The alchemy of gender variance can become a portal through which some communities gaze upon joyful trans expressions as a point of access to knowledge of divinity and interconnectivity. In a trans bodied person, the spectral magic of nature emerges like a genie from our commonly-held binary adherence, insisting on deeper reflection. 
Is the tide turning on Misogyny in Music?
Music’s MeToo moment? The Time’s Up tidal wave has reached the shores of the UK music industry…