Throughout the Mark Kozelek/War On Drugs saga that has been playing out over the past few weeks, it’s been difficult to take a step back and consider the whole situation. (Though to their credit, our commenters have brought up the sexist and homophobic nature of Kozelek’s comments numerous times.) Today Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves published an essay on Pitchfork called “Sun Kil Moon Yells At Cloud: ‘War On Drugs: Suck My Cock’ and the Language of Male Violence.” As with her piece last month on double standards and authenticity, it’s smartly considered and packed full of ideas that cast a critical eye on the nature and make-up of the music industry. She brings up how publications have been practically celebrating Kozelek’s use of abusive language (and even mentions Michael’s essay from earlier this week about his feelings on the matter as a Kozelek fan). “It is imperative, when we see men exhibiting this manipulative behavior, for us to identify it and name it as abuse,” she writes. “This can be scary: some incidents, such as this one, are so public and obvious that it’s easy to start an open dialog about why it’s terrible. But when I sit with my friends and hear their stories about times they’ve been manipulated, intimidated, coerced or outright abused by older men in the music industry, I wonder how anyone ever feels brave enough to come forward.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Which is why, in all likelihood, Kozelek chose to say “suck my cock” instead of “I think your band is bad.” “Suck my cock” is a command heard most often in two places: heterosexual porn, and schoolyard taunts between presumably straight boys. In no way does Mark Kozelek actually want his cock sucked by the members of the War on Drugs. What he wants is to make them feel violated, to make them feel submissive. “Suck my cock” is an order, not a request. “Suck my cock” is, when used by the wrong person, the language of physical force, the language of rape. He wants the world to know that he thinks TWOD sucks cock, implying that sucking cock is a bad thing. Who sucks cock? Not straight dudes like Mark Kozelek, but women and gay men. Which one of these groups is he using as an insult?
His behavior is indicative of a larger evil bred in the dark corners of the music industry, that of the middle-aged, straight white guy slowly fading into obscurity. He may be a musician or a music critic—could be both—who is obviously talented, but he isn’t receiving as much attention as he used to. Maybe he sees other people getting the work or praise that he once received—younger people, women, people who don’t agree with his worldview or go along with his way of doing things. With less to do now that he’s slowly greying into obscurity, he spends his free time taking out his frustrations on soft targets: people who aren’t likely to fight back, people who are already marginalized and without the platform or agency to speak out against someone with that amount of privilege and reputation. These men go off in interviews or on social media and take shots at anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their worldview, and it gets personal quick. They’re staring down the barrel of obsolescence, aimed at them by a culture where the most exciting music and art, as well as critical writing about that music and art, is being created by people they have nothing in common with. It becomes “you can’t fire me, I quit” very quickly—they’re no longer considered important voices, so they strike out against the people who are gaining traction.
She concludes the essay with this:
If we desire a more just world — and a better music scene for sure – we would be doing ourselves a favor to take the space we would normally dedicate to men like this and give it over to artists who represent a broader diversity of voices. This goes for music as well as art, literature, politics, any area where middle-aged white men have the most agency to make sure their voices are heard. The more of us there are, the more things will be like the show that pissed Kozelek off in the first place; no matter how cruel their banter gets, at the end of the day, we’ll still be louder.
Read the whole essay here.
[Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty.]