#meNOmore: The Veronicas, Tina Arena join campaign to end sexual harassment

The Veronicas (left) and Tina Arena (right) have added their names to a list of hundreds of women calling out sexism and harassment in the music industry. Source: AAP

More than 600 Australian women in the music industry including The Veronicas, Missy Higgins and Tina Arena have put their names to an open letter calling for an end to sexual assault and harassment.

Hundreds of Australian women have signed an open letter calling for an end to sexual assault and harassment in the music industry.

Anonymous accounts of assault, rape and abuse have also been included in the open letter published by new music media publishing company Seventh Street Media. 

Prominent music artists including Courtney Barnett, Tina Arena, Sarah Blasko, The Veronicas, Missy Higgins and Jenny Morris are signatories - alongside managers, publicists and record label employees.

The authors said they were motivated to organise the letter as an Australian response to the #MeToo movement triggered by the accounts of sexual abuse in the wider entertainment industry, including allegations made against Hollywood heavyweights such as US producer Harvey Weinstein.

'We all have our own stories'

"It's become clear that the magnitude of #MeToo extends to our own shores and to our own industry," the letter reads, which has adopted the hastag #meNOmore.

Inspiration for the initiative also came from the Swedish music industry that managed to collect 2,000 signatures from the likes of Robyn, Zara Larsson and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit.

Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music responded with words of support. 

The women say the letter is also a warning to the predatory men who committed the harassment that they are noticed.

The letter states repeat offenders and "toxic workplaces" will be subject to investigation.

"We have names of perpetrators. We know the same names that are repeated in unrelated circles," the letter reads.

"We all have our own stories, or know someone who does. We are not whingers or vibe-killers. We are passionate people dedicating our lives to music.

"In the face of uncountable discrimination, harassment, violence and the general menace of sexist jargon, we have gritted our teeth and gotten on with the job. But today we say, no more.

"Together, we give a voice to these issues and demand zero tolerance for sexual harassment, violence, objectification and sexist behaviours. There is no place for sexual entitlement in the workplace and in our industry. Change starts today."

The call for others to share their stories and sign their name to the letter has resulted in a total tally of 638 signatories - a near doubling of the number of names in less than 12 hours.

'I quit music years ago'

Many of the anonymous accounts recount men in positions of power using their status to commit sexual assault and harassment - sometimes over months.

"He constantly would put his arm around my waist at shows, occasionally pinch my bum at after-parties and once Snapchatted me a totally unsolicited nude picture of himself, comfortable in the fact we were 'close' and that his position of power with a band we represent would keep him safe," one woman wrote.

For a number of women this resulted in them exiting the industry and also started a downward spiral with their mental health.

"My head has been pushed towards a colleague's crotch and held there despite me saying no," one account read.

Another account detailed how they were "groomed" as a teenager.

"After winning awards at a national high school music competition I was recruited by an Australian musician to study with him," the person wrote.

"It turned out that I was to be groomed and sexually abused over many months. He told me that he selected girls for awards at the competition on the basis of their looks. The abuse triggered years of struggles with my mental health. I quit music years ago."

Change comes from making yourself uncomfortable: Manfredi

The Veronicas' Jessica Origliasso said she is proud to have added her name to the list.

Isabella Manfredi, from The Preatures, said the response had been phenomenal.

In October, Manfredi went public about her own experiences of sexual harassment in the industry.

In two Instagram posts, she wrote of the unwelcome advances from a New York independent label head and a US booking agent.

"I don't want the next generation of women coming up in the music industry to face this kind of morally ambiguous, second-guess-yourself crap. It's not on," she wrote.

'They're not alone'

Manfredi's account prompted the lead singer of indie band Julia Why?, Julia Wylie, to add her name to the #meNOmore open letter.

"It really resonated. And it is something that I have been thinking and feeling for a long time. So when she put the call out for other musicians and other people in music to tell her their experiences, I just felt compelled to do it," she told SBS News.

"It is a known secret among women in music but it is not something that is openly acknowledged, and I think it needs to be. And it can't be accepted anymore."

Wylie said she had taken strength from seeing so many other women in the industry also add their name to the letter.

"It is validating and gives people strength to know that they're not alone as well," she said.

"It personally makes me feel validated that what I have to say is supported.

"And just to know that there is this group of musicians - and they range from all kinds of different people in the music industry - but they are all banding together to say this behaviour is not okay."

Wylie said she hoped men read the stories and became advocates for change.

"I hope that this makes men realise that behaving like this is totally unacceptable and they are not going to get away with it anymore. I hope the first step to realising that this does happen and it is happening. I hope it leads to change, I really do," she said.

Tina Arena has also spoken out against sexism and gender inequality in the music industry.

She used her ARIA Hall of Fame induction in 2015 to talk publicly about the difficulty of career longevity for female musicians.

"Women and men of all ages have something interesting to say but what I have struggled with is the complete ostracisation of a woman at a certain age," Arena said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch