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Person of the Year

by FOH Staff • in
  • FOH at Large
  • January 2018
• Created: January 16, 2018
Illustration by Andy Au

I find it ironic and fitting that our president came in second place when Time magazine named the “Silence Breakers” as person of the year. The coveted title and cover of the magazine is usually reserved for public figures — such as world leaders and great innovators — and, not surprisingly, every four years, the magazine cover is delegated to the president-elect of the United States.

The cover choice celebrates the individual who has had the most influence in shaping the world around them and since 1932, there have been 13 presidents who have been featured on the cover of Time under the title “Person of the Year.” Seven of them have appeared on the cover twice, and one president who has the sole distinction of achieving the title for a third time.

In 2016, the current commander-in-chief became the 13th president to grace the cover as the person of the year and, regardless of one’s political affiliation or viewpoint, it would be hard to deny the powerful influence he has had in shaping the world around him while serving his first year in office. The magazine’s title is not supposed to reflect a vote of popularity, nor is it supposed to be an editorial confirmation of righteousness or personal policy — a fact underscored by the controversial figures who have had the “Person of the Year” title bestowed upon them, including Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979).

‡‡         Silence Breakers

The “Silence Breakers” are the women and men who have been sexually harassed and abused by men who hold powerful positions in business and — since the fall of Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein — a slew of other entertainment and political personalities have either been fired or have resigned from their jobs after these accusations were brought to light. It’s interesting to note this movement is gaining momentum during a time in which we have a president that is accused of multiple harassment infractions and one who endorsed a politician seeking a Senate seat who is also accused of sexual misconduct. It is also interesting to note that in most cases, large companies such as Fox, NBC, Netflix as well as the U.S. Senate have been quick to fire and disassociate themselves with some of their biggest stars, while claiming ignorance and proffering up dismay and outrage over abusive behavior that has been going on for years.

While it seems that these companies are taking the correct course of action by distancing themselves from the accused persons, there is also a concern about due process of the law, which constitutionally assures an accused person of a fair trial. This due process seems to be lacking in these cases, even if many of these men are losing jobs and privilege based upon multiple accusations. Of course, it might just be that they are voluntarily waiving their rights, as they know that their actions are inappropriate. Possibly they realize that although they were ignoring the obvious, the corporate bosses had plenty of proof to support the allegations. Fox entertainment star Bill O’Reilly paid the astounding sum of $32 million to settle with a woman who accused him, according to reports, of a “non-consensual sexual relationship” and, despite the incredible payout to his accuser, he was just too toxic for Fox to keep him on payroll, and they terminated his employment.

‡‡         The Touring/Performance Side

Considering the huge impact they are making on the corporate and political arena, it is evident that “The Silence Breakers” deserve their “Person of the Year” status, as they bring the culture of sexual bullying out into the open for full examination. Everyone must reassess their behavior, and that includes those of us in the professional audio and touring field. Due to the nature of our jobs, we are often in social and party environments, and there are many times that we are looked upon as a possible liaison between a band member and some adoring fan. Said fan might be a little tipsy or high and cozy up in order to gain what they think might be inner circle access.

What seems to be a consensual relationship may turn out to be a misunderstanding and not as consensual as it was thought to be. While there are plenty of female technicians in the tech and audio field, they are certainly outnumbered by the male majority. The women I have known in the tech field and on the road have seemingly enjoyed the camaraderie between themselves their fellow workers. Most have been able to hold their own with a male crew, but despite their good nature and expertise, boundaries can be crossed, thereby making it difficult to tell when male banter borders on becoming inappropriate harassment.

‡‡         Crossed Signals

One doesn’t have to be an entertainer, senator, president or business mogul to misread signals from their co-workers. The production assistant who is being friendly is not necessarily coming on sexually, but rather just being pleasant to a fellow touring buddy. We men are often easily fooled by our raging testosterone and hubris, and it might be in our interest — when confronted with a situation — to step back and count to ten before we speak or act. No, we are not high-powered entertainers or politicians, but taking liberties with someone either physically or in speech can prove to be detrimental. In a post-Weinstein world, sensitivities are heightened, and what once might have been dismissed as boorish behavior might very well turn into a job-changer.

I think it’s a good thing that so much of this behavior is being exposed for what it is, and that the perpetrators are being called out for their repulsive actions, but I do not think all of these deeds are on equal ground, nor that each infraction merits exile and ruin because of trial by public opinion. These multiple allegations carry weight and — while hard to prove in a court of law — they have a way of attaching to the accused like a pair of cement overshoes.

So, while you’re out on your next tour or event, make a point of while keeping your eyes on the band and your hands on the console. Do not read into someone else’s words, and remember to take “no” at its face value.

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