Sex and power in New Jersey
By Cameron Grieves
On Nov. 21, at 10:12 a.m. a message was posted on New Jersey indie-folk band, Pinegrove’s Facebook page by lead singer Evan Hall. And with the stroke of a key, or the thumbprint press of a touchscreen, yet another band announced their tentative disbanding over a male member’s sexual misconduct.
Hall’s 10-paragraph social media thesis goes above and beyond a simple acknowledgment and apology of the accusations against him. In fact, it seems that according to Hall, there is very little in his musical career that isn’t blemished by his unwieldy use of sexual power over female fans.
From the accusations of sexual coercion from an unnamed woman he was involved with for a “short but intense period of time,” to his confession of his prior inappropriate sexual behavior with fans while on tour, Hall paints himself as a veritable sexual deviant. But there is one critical problem with his approach – he couches his statements in such ambiguous language that a full confession of the true nature of his sexual crimes can never truly be discerned.
“I should have more accurately acknowledged my position of power as a public figure, and also as a man. I have always tried to approach all of my relationships under the premise of equality, but I see now more clearly that the inherent privilege of my gender and the accumulated privilege of being a recognized performer most certainly impacted this interaction,” Hall said in his statement.
However, acknowledgement of a problem does not equate with absolution of guilt. Hall refuses, in the wording of his statement, to ever place himself at the forefront of what he is being accused of and own up to it. His privilege is what “impacted” the situation, taking agency away from himself, and ascribing it to intangible moralities of male power and privilege.
Throughout his entire novel-length statement, Hall never comes close to outright admitting to what he is being accused of – even drawing attention away from the allegations by shoring up his own moral capital by apologizing for unrelated sexual behavior that has nothing to do with the criminality of the accusations.
I will give Hall credit for mentioning the impact of male privilege on the music scene and for ending his post with what appears to be a sincere attempt to seek therapy. However, all of this focus on him only proves that female victims of male sexual violence, whether it is implicit or explicit, often do not receive the retribution or closure they deserve, even in their perpetrators’ apologies.
Perhaps Hall’s and other accused male vocal leads’ departures from music is a good thing. This creates space for female voices to be heard over the deafening egotism of male artists who revel in their status and exploit their privilege.
Nandi Rose Plunkett, another member of Pinegrove, is the lead vocalist on her own indie-pop project, Half Waif. Perhaps it is to her we should be lending our ears in the wake of these accusations.