April 06, 2011


I keep thinking about Ben Weasel and his canceled Weaselfest. I feel bad for the guy. Yes, he lost it and jumped off stage and punched a woman who was antagonizing him, and her rescuer friend, and punching someone is never okay, even if they spit on you. Punching women is not ok, fighting people who are smaller than you is not okay. But Weasel is not Chris Brown, and he's not a serial assaulter of women. He's someone who fucked up and fucked up publicly. Reading his tweets from before the incident, dude really did not want to play SXSW and was agonizing over being there and it appears that being heckled just pushed him and he did something regrettable. It wasn't premeditated.

If he had punched a guy or two or even punched five dudes, we might be thinking more of him. If he punched a dude that heckled him we would say that the guy had it coming. We might dismiss Weasel as a macho freak or loose cannon. If anything other than what happened happened, no one would be reporting on it weeks later.

Weasel's mistake may have effectively ended his career, a punishment that doesn't fit his crime. His band quitting is one thing, bands pulling out of his festival and being very careful to distance themselves from him in print and professionally is their prerogative. To me, all this reaction might make sense or seem reasonable if this same scene didn't routinely and historically turn a blind eye to rape, assault and similar sketchiness perpetrated by dudes in bands.

Your indie rap crew can run a train on a girl too drunk to stand in an alley behind a venue and be welcomed back to that same venue on the next tour. You can beat up your girlfriend and not kicked out of the Shins for another year. You can do almost anything you like on a festival tour and have it hushed up. You can have a reputation for sexual assault and when your label decides to be the one to say the buck stops here and refuses at the last minute to ship your record, the existing copies of the record become collectors items. I know multiple stories, told to me first hand, from Chicago girls who were raped while passed out at parties by Chicago musicians--musicians who continued to work and have unimpeded careers long after these things happened or word got around. And this shit happens everywhere.

But those things didn't get caught on video and posted on YouTube. And those people in those bands are perhaps less disposable than Ben Weasel 25 years into his career. And those things are written off as a personal matter even when someone else witnessed it, and accepted as a rumor by everyone whose business depends on that band to put some money in their pocket, and everyone ignores a rep and goes along to get along.

Until all these bands, labels, anonymous commenters and 10-percenters expend the same outrage over sexual assaults that they do over Ben Weasel and his regrettable actions, but it's just a sanctimonius kabuki, making a big show of nothing but their double standards.

Posted by jessica hopper at April 6, 2011 01:29 PM | TrackBack