The music industry still isn’t ready to address sexual misconduct and violence, apparently. On Sunday, at the 2018 Grammy Awards, attendees were asked to wear a white rose in solidarity with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, bringing attention to the issue of sexual assault and harassment. The visual gesture was organized by Karen Rait, the head of rhythmic promotions at Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records, along with Meg Harkins, the Senior VP of Roc Nation. The movement, while nice in theory, could’ve used some legs to stand on. In an interview with Pitchfork, Rait made it clear that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about:
The longtime record-label executive Dorothy Carvello recently wrote a piece for Variety in which she recounted her experiences of sexual assault with Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun. She wrote, “The music business, like the Catholic church, moves its abusers around from label to label. The only way this will ever change is if the heads of the music labels all start vetting the men running the companies.” Do you agree?
I disagree. At most of the labels that I know, there is zero tolerance, and we have incredible human resource departments. What might be an issue in Hollywood is if you’re a freelancer, if you don’t have a company behind you. On the label side, I don’t think there is abuse, at all. Maybe that was her experience, but that has never been my experience here [at Interscope]. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but this is not the Catholic church.
The issue of systematic abuse was completely dodged in her answers. Not only did Rait deny an ongoing problem of sexual assault in the industry (the very one the white roses were supposed to bring awareness to?) she defended a record label that employs guilty men, further perpetuating a total lack of accountability.
You only need to read the 2017 charges against powerful industry figures like Russell Simmons and L.A. Reid to know these problems exist in plain sight for much of the music industry. Rait and Harkins were able to get a conversation started, but more, real work needs to be done in order to inspire progress—especially if their gesture was an empty one.