Last night, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast dropped by The Daily Show With Trevor Noah to discuss, among other things, her involvement in the public dialogue surrounding Life or Death PR founder Heathcliff Berru's alleged history of sexual assault.
To recap: In January, Berru was outed on Twitter by Amber Coffman, a member of the band Dirty Projectors, as allegedly being a disgusting garbage man who, in her words, once "rubbed [her] ass and BIT [her] hair in a bar." Soon after, women from many areas of the music industry came forward about their own alleged experiences with Berru, from verbal harassment to sexual assaults ranging from groping in a cab to attempting forced oral sex. Most tellingly, many of these women shared that, though they’d initially been afraid to speak out, Coffman's testimony made them feel it was safe to share their experiences. Within hours, Berru was fired by many of the artists he worked for — including Killer Mike, Speedy Ortiz, and Kelela — before announcing his total departure from the firm, which soon shut down entirely.
Cosentino’s tweets about Berru undoubtedly augmented the story’s total impact: Her 153,000 Twitter followers now knew Coffman’s story and that of the other women who came forward about the real-life impact of Berru’s allegedly completely gross and inappropriate behavior.
It was brave for these women to speak out in a world where it is well documented that publicly airing abuse often draws negative attention and harassment to survivors. When Noah questioned why Cosentino felt that Coffman’s story needed to be amplified, she presented him with the unsweetened tea:
Let’s be real: Sexism and sexual harassment and sexual, you know, this idea of women being sexually assaulted – it’s everywhere. It doesn’t exist just in my industry, which is music. But as a woman, I felt it was so important to support my peer — my female peer. I didn’t realize it was going to become such a huge thing. I thought, 'I’m gonna back Amber, because that’s what I feel I should do. This is an incredibly important conversation that needs to be had.' And the next morning, I woke up and it was huge, and I said, ok, suddenly I’m a spokesperson for this now. And I’m so happy for that, because it’s a huge, important thing.
Cosentino went on to state loud and clear for anyone who just started using the Internet that the threat of harassment, both online and in real life, is the main reason women don’t speak up about sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The rest of the interview centers around more insidious, sneaky forms of industry sexism often cited by female musicians — namely, the omnipresent shitty sound guy who assumes that tits get in the way of turning on an amp correctly. Props to Cosentino for putting voice to a broad (pun fully intended) spectrum of concerns. The more we focus on these harrowing and difficult conversations and circumstances now, the more likely it will be that women in music will be safer in the future.