Hey writers, here's a tip: Slow news week? Just post a listicle of scantily-clad girls dancing at a music festival and voila — you’ve got yourself a story!
At least, that’s the questionable journalistic approach that LA Weekly's music blog West Coast Sound took with their recent post “The Hottest Dancing Girls at Coachella, as GIFs.” Because if there’s one thing that the music industry's been lacking, it’s misogyny in GIF form.
Daniel Ralston — editor, co-producer, and co-host of the music podcast Low Times — spotted the offensive story, and decided to call out LA Weekly via Twitter. LA Weekly got defensive, as publications are wont to do when they know they've posted shamelessly sexist click-baiting in the place of actual news, and a snippy Twitfight ensued, partially reproduced below:
A subsequent phone call between Ralston and LA Weekly's Music Editor Ben Westhoff appears to have resolved little. As Ralston writes in a post for the Low Times blog, "I will simply say that I found a great deal of what was discussed problematic and symptomatic of larger issues in the media."
In his post, Ralston also nicely sums up why the original “article” was offensive. For one thing, the girls featured were ostensibly unaware that not only was someone filming their antics, but also that these videos would be turned into GIFs meant to entertain anonymous readers across the internet. And while there’s nothing wrong with shaking your thing at a festival, there is something very wrong with thinking that turning women’s fun into voyeuristic animations somehow qualifies as a relevant music article.
As Ralston points out, the fact that some of the featured women might not object to their inclusion in such a gallery does not excuse the content; the post was completely out of place. As a music blog, one would assume that West Coast Sound would write about, I don’t know, music? At the very least, it should have been possible to write about a festival without resorting to such a sexist angle.
The whole situation becomes particularly shameful when you consider the rampant sexism that still characterizes much of the music industry — an issue of which LA Weekly is most certainly aware. Just last week, for example, electronic musician Grimes announced her departure from the scene in an awesome Tumblr tirade that railed against the discrimination and sexualization she has continually been forced to face as a female artist. Solange also recently joined the crusade against music-industry sexism with her blunt series of tweets aimed at misogyny in music journalism.
Ralston's refusal to the let LA Weekly's post slide serves as an important reminder for all of us to speak up whenever we see things like this being passed around. Because in their efforts to produce click-able content, LA Weekly seems to have forgotten that women are music fans, too. And I don't think we are asking too much in wanting to read a music publication without having to wade through exploitative GIFs of girls in bikinis. After all, this isn't Barstool Sports.