Why defending Cabbage is detrimental to women everywhere.

Cabbage. Political indie-rockers from Manchester that were well on their way to big-time success. “Were” being the essential part of that sentence. The 5-piece have been touring and grafting like everyone else, recently being part of the Blossoms-headlined NME Tour which helped them out a bit with that late majority of the indie community that only heard of them since their Soccer AM appearance. However, something has put a stop in Cabbage’s tracks for now.

If you haven’t been on Twitter in the last two days, you might have missed this.

*edit – this account has now been made private, you can read her words below*

I would recommend reading it all, but if you prefer not to read the whole thing, here’s the gist. The 19th April saw Cabbage supporting Kasabian at O2 Forum Kentish Town in London. Accusations have been made against frontman and lead singer Lee Broadbent stating “he proceeded to put his hand down his trousers, fondle himself, then rub his hand over the girl, ragging on her hair.” I’m going to stop here before quoting the next sentence. This is sexual assault. Many don’t seem to understand this. Sexual assault is “any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behaviour that happens without consent”. Ragging on or ruffling or even touching someone’s hair or head after touching your privates is assault. Straight up. The girl in question did not consent to come into contact with any amount of Broadbent’s sexual organs, and that is sexual assault. I just wanted to make that clear as the next sentence is “Basically forcing her face first into his crotch” which is the part many are disputing. Forcing her face into his crotch or not, having your hands down your pants then touching another person is sexual assault. Super, glad we’ve cleared that up.

 

Now, the tweet goes on to state that the girl’s dad (who was there while the incident occurred, terrifying if true) complained to security, who brought out Broadbent to apologise to the girl and “all he did was start an argument with her dad…refused to apologise and got aggressive…stating that it was all part of the act”. ‘All part of the act’ is the worst bit of this for me, this is the position and opinion of “lad” bands and their “lad” fans. Get rowdy on stage, have fun, perform well, but any amount of non-consensual interaction is not just part of the show, it is assault and should be treated as so. The lad fans have been out in droves to defend poor Lee and whether he did it or not, they are totally wrong to do so.

 

Victim blaming comes from a state of mind where the person of privilege – in this situation, Lee, the older male in a position of power stood on a barrier and representing his musical outfit as the frontman – is presumed to be the one telling the truth. This comes from systems of privilege going back an extremely long time from Broadbent being a white male, but also due to him being the frontman of a band which apparently makes you a god impervious to criticism or wrongdoing. The main argument seen in comments and tweets defending Broadbent are things like this:

Whether you’ve met Lee at a gig once, twice, fifty times, have had a drink with him down the pub, have mutual friends, are his best mate or known him since he was a baby doesn’t mean you know whether these accusations are true or false. Have you never met someone you thought was totally sound, liked them, loved them, and they turned out to be an utter dick? Or even if not, we all know friends who are total arseholes when they’re intoxicated. It was stated in the original tweet that Lee needed help putting his guitar on because he was so “off his head” which has been corroborated by others in the crowd. Whether he was out of his mind on drugs or alcohol is no excuse for his behaviour, I’m only mentioning it to try and make those with that mindset understand that these statements could easily be true. Lee Broadbent could be a lovely guy but that has nothing to do with whether he assaulted this girl or not. People aren’t always what they seem, and situations like this are not irregular.

 

The main point to consider for anyone reading this is that presuming the party in a position of power is innocent, often the male in cases of sexual assault (Lee Broadbent in this case), is the reason why so many women do not report cases of sexual assault and even fewer perpetrators are sentenced. Fans presuming Lee’s innocence purely for their own happiness and a clear conscience is a form of victim blaming. These people have no concern to whether the girl in question could have been hurt, upset or a lot worse by the possible actions, only that their favourite band is going to be okay and can still make a living. There has been an overwhelming consideration and worry about slandering Lee or Cabbage’s career, and very little for a young girl’s wellbeing. But okay. Yes Cabbage are there to make a living, and the other 4 members are not to blame, but unfortunately, when an event like this happens on stage, it is the entire band’s responsibility.

 

You don’t have to pick a side, you don’t have to think Broadbent did it, there is just no need to defend a man in the position of power. Every single person defending Broadbent is making it harder and harder for women who are victims of sexual assault which is 1 in 2 women !!! (source). 1 in 2 women experience sexual assault yet people are still so surprised that a musician they like could do such a thing. It’s not shocking, it’s to be expected. (I am just concentrating on women here as this article is concerning Cabbage who are male, I am not in any way saying only women get sexually assaulted, 1 in 5 men are victims of sexual assault, and many more who do not identify as either gender.)

 

Furthermore, comments like the ones in the tweets and Facebook comments above are frustrating, not only because they are so ridiculous but saddening that a lot of them are from women. Women referring to sexual assault as “a bit of grit” or Sarah here starting her comment with “As a female”. As a female?! Being female does not mean you represent all females and doesn’t mean other females haven’t felt unsafe at Cabbage gigs. I’m disappointed if anything.

 

Cabbage made a statement a few hours after the accusations were made on Twitter. Here it is.

 

 

Again, I recommend reading it but the important bits are:

 

“We completely deny the accusations put against Lee this morning”

 

“His hands were never down his trousers”.

 

Firstly, this statement is not an apology as some are calling it. There isn’t an apologetic tone to any of it and to straight away deny these accusations is foolish. If Lee understood the girl was “offended” enough to go and meet with her and her father, why are they denying he did anything wrong? If nothing happened, Cabbage and the security could have easily ignored them and moved on. But clearly, something did. Whether Broadbent and the father shook hands or had a heated argument – something happened. Furthermore, stating that “anyone who’s listened to our music, been to one of our gigs or read one of our interviews knows that we would never engage in any of the actions this Tweet accuses us of” is simply Cabbage covering their backs in the same way their fans have done already. Basically, ‘come on guys, you know we’re sound lads, this is ridiculous!’ when it is very clear even by their own statement something offense-worthy occurred.

 

In addition, it is quite clear this wasn’t written by the band themselves. Not only because of Nadia Mendoza’s eagle-eyed point that there is a quote mark at the end of the statement and not at the beginning “as if it’s been copy/pasted from someone telling them what to say.” This may or may not be the case, but it would be foolish to think Cabbage wrote this themselves, because as much as they may be ‘anti-establishment lads’ they are managed by some very big companies in the industry with big PR teams who immediately step in when acts come to a fork in the road such as this.

 

It also very quickly became clear on Twitter that “his hands were never down his trousers” is a probable lie.

 

Videos and pictures (see below) from – admittedly not the same gig – showing Broadbent with his hands clearly down his pants and touching himself makes their claim his hands weren’t down his trousers seem more and more unlikely. Additional corroborations from other twitter users (1, 2,  3, 4, 5) and Safe Gigs For Women telling the Quietus that they “have had multiple reports from different people about the incident at the Kasabian/Cabbage show” seems to be enough evidence to show Broadbent often does put his hands down his trousers and considering his intoxicated state, probably did do on the evening of the 19th.

 

 

 

These are examples of evidence that many Cabbage fans are already denying, forgetting, ignoring after asking for “evidence” of the alleged assault when defending Broadbent’s reputation and immediately blaming the victim. There is often no clear “evidence” in cases of sexual assault which leads to victims being accused of lying by those more privileged. It is the reason that “only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police” and “only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator” (source). In comparison to the number of sexual assaults that occur every year, this is a horrific statistic. Why are victims presumed to be in the wrong or be lying immediately? Why do we live in a society where this is accepted? Why would we presume a young girl is a liar when a drunk man with a history of touching himself on stage is accused of sexual assault? It is anything but surprising to me and many who work in the music industry. People at this point may now say I’m overreacting. Broadbent didn’t rape anyone or anything of the sort. No, he didn’t, but even less major forms of sexual assault should be and need to be considered and treated with the same attitude. Assault is assault. Only when pinching a girl’s bum is considered assault and not just another part of a cheeky night out with the lads is when we will be closer to resolving these serious issues.

 

I’m not here to accuse anyone of anything, simply to reiterate that continuing to defend lad culture and the misogynism within it means events like this will continue to happen. It’s unlikely we will find out if these allegations are true or not, but the thing to remember is that Cabbage did nothing to try and make this situation better. Broadbent may have apologised to the girl’s father but apologising while also denying what happened is cowardly. The decision to deny all allegations from the band’s management is PR suicide. If the girl was offended and Lee Broadbent apologised to her, then why are they denying it? It makes no sense and is just another reason on top of all the reasons already that this issue needs to be discussed. Sexual assault is not discussed because women are scared they will be retributed or not believed and when they do they are victim blamed which leads to more silence. This cycle will indeed be never-ending if we do nothing to stop it. Cabbage’s punk persona already died slightly after their appearance on Sky TV less than a week after openly attacking The Sun newspaper, but this may be the final nail in their coffin. Bands are allowed to have on-stage personas and align with attitudes that will make them seem cooler to their fans but don’t pretend to be crazy onstage with a punk attitude and when your act backfires, run crying into the corner pretending it never happened. It’s not cool, it’s not punk, and it’s not right. Stop defending those in the position of power, stop victim blaming and stop sexual assault.

 

Tell Elli that Cabbage are nice guys on Twitter @cometobrazzill