The 'Weinstein moments' a star Australian singer has endured show how widespread the problem is

Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures performing at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Cassandra Hannagan/WireImage

If you’ve been on social media in the last week, you’ve probably seen “me too” appear in the timeline of your female friends with depressing regularity.

The abhorrent predatory sexual behaviour of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which while nothing new, as corporate Australia already knows, is starting to look like it’s breached the dam wall on decades of unwanted abuse of women by men in positions of power.

As screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who collaborated with Weinstein on several hit movies in the 90s wrote on Facebook this week: “everybody-f…ing-knew”.

Among the many women now speaking out about their experiences is Isabella Manfredi, lead singer for The Preatures, one of Australia’s hottest young bands. Their debut single, “Is This How You Feel?”, made the Triple J hottest 100 top 10, and their debut album “Blue Planet Eyes”, peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA albums chart. The band has just released its follow up album, “Girlhood”.

Manfredi, 29, took to Instagram yesterday to detail the ongoing harassment she’s received from leaders in the music industry, including the head of a record label.

She wanted to speak out, the singer told Business Insider, because: “This is a collective, cultural, systemic sickness. I want people to know that it effects women at all levels”.

The details of her experience are sickening and brazen, but more importantly, show how widespread and relentless predatory sexual behaviour by men continues to be, especially in the arts industry.

“My heart has been breaking for all the women who have had to deal with Harvey Weinstein’s total degradation of their talent, drive and worth as artists and human beings over the course of his career. Of course this sickness is not confined to the film industry. Perhaps the greatest clarity this unfolding story has given me is some perspective on my own experiences in the music industry, mostly in, but not confined to, America,” she wrote.

“There was the touchy feely US booking agent whose behaviour became so inappropriate that the boys told our manager to keep him away from me (I felt embarrassed to do this myself). Or the head honcho who, when meeting the band, looked me up and down and licked his lips before turning to the guys to shake hands and talk ‘business’ (we were all stunned).”

Manfredi also had multiple “Taylor Swift moments”. The US singer sued a radio DJ for groping her before a 2013 concert in August and won.

The Preatures singer recounts “multiple executives at a corporate gig in Vegas who slipped their hands up my dress while taking a photo with the band”.

Then there was the New York Indie label head who invited her to what she thought was a friendly business dinner.

“He introduced me to people and talked me up, telling everyone who I was and what I did. I felt accepted, excited; I was meeting artists I respected. I felt respected,” Manfredi recounts.

“Later, in a cab on our way to the next venue with another friend of his, he suggested we go back to my hotel and have a bath together. When I refused, politely and then firmly, he said my band was a joke. The gig we’d played at Rough Trade was mediocre. He snickered to his friend. He said other things I can’t remember. What I do remember was the dreadful, sickening realisation that I was a f…ing fool.”

Isabella Manfredi fronts The Preatures. Source: Facebook

And that’s the longer-lasting abuse inflicted by men making unwanted advances on women – the lingering sickening doubt and sense of stupidity that women feel because they trusted men who turned out to be lecherous bastards.

“What do these experiences do to women?” Manfredi writes.

“Well, they tell you, not only have you suddenly become part of the clichéd female experience you were raised to believe no longer exists, you ARE the cliché.

“You are the woman getting your arse groped by a guy in a suit, too shocked to do anything about it, you are the woman holding an artist pass with tits on it, you are the woman whose violent ex-boyfriend is stalking you across your American tour, you are the woman doing the dishes in the studio, you are the woman nagging the guys to ‘help’ you, you are the woman being shushed in rehearsal, and you are the woman making yourself smaller and smaller so you don’t unsettle or disappoint the men you work with, rely on, and care so much about.”

And in that moment, Manfredi unpacks a much bigger problem in the relationship between the sexes – the same one that’s sparked yet another debate this week about women receiving equal pay.

One of many dark aspects to the Weinstein case has been the circle in which his behaviour was tolerated and enabled – the astonishing level of complicity amid the subtle signals from women such as Courtney Love who tried to speak out yet knew there dangers of doing so.

Manfredi said she didn’t speak out because she thought the only way to get beyond what was happening was to “keep my head down, work hard and become a respected and powerful woman in my own right”.

She makes this point about its impact on all women:

Like Jia Tolentino says in The New Yorker “This makes for a false but often convincing narrative—you are prey only when you are not good enough, and so you must not have been good enough if you were prey.” I have worked hard to become untouchable. But in doing so I’ve also limited myself and kept a permissive silence on things that matter to me.

But now she’s coming out fighting, saying it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“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,” she writes.

Her post concludes with the email [email protected]m for people who want to share their stories.

In less than 24 hours, the reaction has been overwhelming she says, with “a tonne” of responses.

“I want to give a broader account of women’s experiences in the music industry,” Manfredi told Business Insider.

Watch this space.

Here are her Instagram posts.

1/2 My heart has been breaking for all the women who have had to deal with Harvey Weinstein’s total degradation of their talent, drive and worth as artists and human beings over the course of his career. Of course this sickness is not confined to the film industry. Perhaps the greatest clarity this unfolding story has given me is some perspective on my own experiences in the music industry, mostly in, but not confined to, America. There was the touchy feely US booking agent whose behaviour became so inappropriate that the boys told our manager to keep him away from me (I felt embarrassed to do this myself). Or the head honcho who, when meeting the band, looked me up and down and licked his lips before turning to the guys to shake hands and talk ‘business’ (we were all stunned). Or the multiple executives at a corporate gig in Vegas who slipped their hands up my dress while taking a photo with the band. Or the New York Indie label head I had met through mutual friends in Australia who, after telling me he loved my band and songwriting, invited me to what I thought was a friendly business dinner with some publishing friends of his (He knew I had a boyfriend), and to see a new signing of his afterward. He introduced me to people and talked me up, telling everyone who I was and what I did. I felt accepted, excited; I was meeting artists I respected. I felt respected. Later, in a cab on our way to the next venue with another friend of his, he suggested we go back to my hotel and have a bath together. When I refused, politely and then firmly, he said my band was a joke. The gig we’d played at Rough Trade was mediocre. He snickered to his friend. He said other things I can’t remember. What I do remember was the dreadful, sickening realisation that I was a fucking fool. #metoo

A post shared by Isabella Manfredi (@isabellamanfredi) on

2/2 What do these experiences do to women? Well, they tell you, not only have you suddenly become part of the clichéd female experience you were raised to believe no longer exists, you ARE the cliché. You are the woman getting your arse groped by a guy in a suit, too shocked to do anything about it, you are the woman holding an artist pass with tits on it, you are the woman whose violent ex-boyfriend is stalking you across your American tour, you are the woman doing the dishes in the studio, you are the woman nagging the guys to 'help' you, you are the woman being shushed in rehearsal, and you are the woman making yourself smaller and smaller so you don’t unsettle or disappoint the men you work with, rely on, and care so much about. I’ve never spoken about this because I thought the only way beyond it was to keep my head down, work hard and become a respected and powerful woman in my own right. Like Jia Tolentino says in The New Yorker “This makes for a false but often convincing narrative—you are prey only when you are not good enough, and so you must not have been good enough if you were prey.” I have worked hard to become untouchable. But in doing so I’ve also limited myself and kept a permissive silence on things that matter to me. This IS only the tip of the iceberg and I know there’s more to share here. 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. On this album cycle I’ve been asked, does sexism in the music industry still exist, and what does it look like? I think it’s time to compile our experiences and give it a face. If you want to share your stories with me, send me an email: [email protected] #metoo ?

A post shared by Isabella Manfredi (@isabellamanfredi) on

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