When we say something out loud, we can’t take it back. When we write something down, we can’t really erase it. And when we post something to the world on the internet, we will always have that associated with our name.
One of my favorite artists/musicians/humans in the whole world is Amanda Palmer. I organized her Kickstarter party (with the help of Siouxzie and Dave, awesome people), documented her work in a music studio, and was one of two people to brigade for her and The Dresden Dolls at the True Colors show years ago. I’ve loved her for years.
In the past few weeks, Amanda has come under a lot of scrutiny, and I have scrutinized her too.
If you haven’t heard of Jian Ghomeshi or the allegations surrounding him, I’ll give you the short version. He’s a Canadian broadcaster who is under investigation for violence and sexual assault against several women who have no connection to each other. He posted an explanation to his Facebook account, I assume because he didn’t want to make a recorded statement and felt Facebook would be acceptable. In this statement, he mentions that he and a former girlfriend “began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission.” This girl, as well as at least three others, have brought charges against Jian that much of what happened was not consent.
Before any of these allegations came to light, Amanda had asked Jian to be a guest speaker on her book tour scheduled for this month. Once the allegations came through, she posted that “of course he will still be guesting at the Toronto show” and shared his Facebook status. Some of her fans were supportive, but many were frankly pissed.
“I hate to be ~that person~ who says this, but as a survivor of sexual assault who believes the allegations of these women, I won’t be coming to your show in TO (which is two days after my birthday!) if he’s there. I’m not going to pay to see or show support for a man who violently assaulted women and has a behaviour pattern of being a manipulative scumbag.”
“I’m saddened that your stance seemed to be a fast decision rather than a pause to consider the women who have asked to be heard but instead are being drowned out by those who like this man.”
“Amanda Palmer, you may have many fans: fans who will find justification for every horrendous thing you do or say; fans who will attack me, and any other person who can no longer sit silently and pretend that you are someone worthy of admiration. I hope they enjoy your company, but you can count me the fuck out.”
“In short. Fuck you, Amanda Palmer.”
It went on and on. And rightfully so. Every single person who said “fuck you” to Amanda Palmer was completely right. They were right because they were expressing their disappointment in someone who they saw as a hero, an idol, and an inspiration. I was upset at these people at first, but the more I read about the allegations, I agreed with them. How could she take his defense so quickly? It was lightning fast, and that was a bad move. A very bad move.
A few days later, she posted that she was thinking through what her fans had said and that she was debating on what to do. Throughout this time, she lost fans. She lost diehard fans who felt she was not doing the right thing. She lost new fans who were fed up with her lack of decision making. She lost fans who had been abused throughout the spectrum. **(I personally don’t use the words “victim” or “survivor” when discussing abuse because they don’t accurately describe the situation, in my opinion. One sounds pathetic, one sounds vocally victorious. Often, the person who suffered the abuse feels like neither. Trust me. Again, this is my choice, and I respect anyone’s choice to use these words.)
While going through this thought process, she responded to her Facebook fans (as she often does). She was met with mostly thoughtful replies, even if they didn’t agree with her.
“As a Canadian who bought tickets to this show, I would really strongly request that Jian Ghomeshi not be present. With love for survivors and those recovering, I believe Jian Ghomeshi’s presence would turn a safe space sour.”
‘I hear you.’
But more often than not, the comments were not responded to. Perhaps she chose not to fuel the fire, or perhaps she couldn’t handle what people were saying about her.
“Yeah…as a survivor this is pretty much it for me. Basically what you’re saying here is you’re only an advocate for a safe space for survivors when it’s convenient for you and doesn’t involve anyone you know and like. Kind of like with your Woody Allen rape apologist crap when Dylan Farrow came out with her story. Spare us the condescending “don’t fight hate with hate” trope. As survivors we are condescended to and belittled enough. This kind of stuff is always so much more depressing when it comes for another woman. Sincerely hope you reflect on how much of a hypocrite you are while at Bard making a musical about freakin’ rape culture , which you just directly participated in and contributed to. Brava, Miss Palmer.” (Amanda Palmer also came under scrutiny when she seemed to “defend” Woody Allen during the allegations made against him by his stepdaughter.)
What did you do? Girl, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? This is all I kept asking myself.
I am not Amanda Palmer’s friend. I am not her confidant. I am not her lover, partner, accountant, mother, sister, ex, dentist, or teacher. I am a fan.
I am Amanda Palmer’s fan.
And because I am her fan, I look at everything she does as a personal boost for my choice to be her fan. Her artistic style makes me a better person. I play with my hair in the mirror and sigh and say “Gosh, I wish I was her best friend!”
We all do. We do it with every single celebrity we’ve ever liked. But on some level, we want to be friends with the art, not the artist. And when an artist falters, we aren’t the same person we thought we were. We’re tainted, and we’re wrong, and we’re angry.
On October 30 (two days ago), she replied to her fans.
“listen: i am a woman who has spent a lifetime struggling to be believed myself – for so many reasons. and i am so happy to see a conversation about women and consent taking center stage right now. it means that we are moving forwards.
i am *not* happy to see people flinging insults, using violent language and wishing harm on others. when that happens, it means that we are moving backwards.
i have spent the last few days, doing my best amidst all-day rehearsals for a musical that opens on wednesday, to read and follow all of the stories that are coming out. thank you to everyone for sharing forward all of the articles and content, you’ve helped me. the story is incredibly, incredibly sad.
given everything i’ve learned, and especially given how upsetting it would be to so many, jian will not be coming to the show in toronto.
i’ll see many of you soon, tour starts in about a week.
meanwhile: may we all hold the space – in the physical world and on the internet – to take care of each other. we’re in this one together, friends. please don’t forget that.”
She decided to drop Jian from her tour. Now, I don’t know if this was just her choice. I wonder if perhaps Jian also didn’t want to come to a book signing that would be filled with rightfully angry people. But, she did make the decision.
She made the decision four days after the allegations against Jian came to light.
These were some of the responses:
“Thank you for hearing us, Amanda.”
“It really bothers me that you are shaming anyone for feeling or expressing anger over this but I am glad you ultimately decided to not support this monster.”
“Amanda Palmer, I think you handled this situation with tact and aplomb. This certainly isn’t something you could have seen coming, and it put you in an awkward position. It’s probably, to a degree, a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation, but my takeaway from it in regards to you is your compassion and rationality in how you dealt with it.”
“Too little, too late for me, Amanda. I do hope you continue to learn and grow, but it will be without my dollars and my backing. Your words would have meant so much more if you began, not ended, the conversation with words of support for victims and the need for consent.”
“In the words of Jamie Lee Curtis, “hurt people hurt people”. I don’t condone his actions in any way, shape or form but I do appreciate someone taking the time to look at the big picture before making a decision. Well played Amanda. My heart goes out to ALL the victims.”
“This narcissistic non-apology turns my stomach. No real recognition of the actual harm you have caused, and you avoid the issue of your ongoing support for Ghomeshi by not even indicating whose decision (his or yours?) that he no longer appear. I feel literally sick from this. And I don’t know how to reconcile that with the years that I have admired Amanda Palmer and her music.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t really know what to say. I was still staring in the mirror with my hairbrush, wishing we could be best friends, and knowing that I would have done something very different than she did.
In 2009, a friend of mine owned a recording studio and let me come watch Amanda record a cover for Steel Train. I was a goddamn terrified 21 year old and wouldn’t really look or talk to her right away. She motioned me over during a break and asked me how to get to O’Hare the next day. Then she showed me Twitter (she only had 66,000 followers at the time) and some photos from backstage Dolls shows that were not public. She then asked me to run an impromptu webcast for her so all of her fans could see the song recording process.
We were there for over 12 hours. Not once was she rude, unkind, or a “celebrity”. She wrote on her hand with me and made me laugh. She made me feel like…a friend.
Today, Amanda posted an article about Lena Dunham and her book. What she may or may not have realized was that today a group of conservatives called Lena a “sexual predator” and accused her of abusing her sister for years. Admittedly, this is written in Lena’s book. She admits that she “looked at my sister’s vagina” when she was 7 years old and would masturbate next to her.
I have not read this book. I’m not a fan of Lena’s (not because of this, I just can’t stand Girls.) But, because Amanda posted this article, she was met with so much more hatred and anger.
“Amanda, the fact that you’re promoting someone who is an abuser and sexual predator is disappointing in the least. Completely heartbreaking for all of the women that you’ve stood up for previously. You’ve done so much good work but the hesitation over Jian joining your book your and then this, is really bewildering.”
“In Lena’s book she also talks about being sexually predatory towards her younger sister. Direct quote from the book ‘anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.’ I will really miss being your fan, Amanda. So fucking much.”
Amanda wrote this in response to the anger:
‘wow, guys – or at least you who are upset i posted this: i posted this article before i saw that lena is in a keruffle. and there’s no reason to take it down. i shared this because i thought the content was great. i am getting more and more saddened by the tone here lately. so now lena dunham is an evil person with nothing to add to society and nothing important at all to say? whether or not she did or didn’t do/say/whatever in her book….there’s good stuff in this article. that’s why i posted it. if you don’t want to read what she and caitlin were chatting about, then don’t click the link.’
“This is such a shame. I have to agree with a lot of what people are saying on here, and I wish I didn’t. The fact that you have publicly shown support for Jian and only decided to change that support after thousands of your fans showed outrage really upset me. This is too such a disheartening thing to see. I have not read Lena’s book, nor will I, but it’s clear this is upsetting many many people.
I am still your fan. I am still going to support you. But, I think you may really need to start putting more thought into what you post on social media. You’re a big influence on many of us, as a performer, writer, and feminist. You’ve gotta be careful.”
^^ I wrote this. I meant it, too.
It’s been a weird week for me, for a plethora of reasons, and this all kind of hurt my heart. But I have to say that Amanda Palmer is not a sexual predator. Amanda Palmer did not sexually abuse at least four women and get fired from the CBC. Amanda Palmer did not write a book about sexually interacting with her sister. (I do not know what to call Lena’s actions, because I do not know all the information.)
I do not think Amanda Palmer is a bad person.
I think Amanda Palmer is a person.
I think Amanda Palmer fucked up.
I think Amanda Palmer is trying to maintain a close relationship with her fans.
And I think her fans are going to be more critical than anyone else in the world.
Because we expect perfection.
Play with my hair, Amanda. Make me your best friend.
I’m still a fan. The end.