This past week, month, and year I have been thinking a lot about safety. As a teacher, I’m very familiar with the idea of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you don’t know about this psychological theory, it is pretty simple. People have a hierarchy of needs that include physiological, safety, social belonging, esteem, self-actualization and self-transcendence. Basically, people need to have their physiological needs met first. This makes sense, right? People require air, food, water, etc. If they don’t have those things, the rest of needs cannot happen. If people have food, water, etc, then they can worry about safety, which includes both physical and emotional safety.
This week featured a test to Duranies sense of emotional safety. Everything fans believed about Duran was called into question with this accusation of sexual assault. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll refer you to this blog post here.) I think I can speak for a lot of fans when I say that Duran has provided me with an emotional safety net of sorts. It is the “place” I go when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, sad or whatever. The examples that immediately pop into my head are numerous. I remember listening to Ordinary World over and over again to deal with my overwhelming loneliness when I first moved to my city over 20 years ago. Before the Rain played in the background as I hugged my mother as we waited for my grandma to take her last breath at Christmas in 2010. For years, Duran has provided the catalyst to countless friendships, parties and trips. I felt confident in my fandom as I knew that the band members, while human and imperfect, are also good guys. They do the right thing when it counts. So, when something comes out that questions that assumption, it hurts. It causes pain and confusion. It makes my emotional safety net feel a little less strong, a little less secure.
Since the allegation came out and statements were made both by Simon and Katy, that emotional safety net has been slowly repairing itself. It is easy to begin to assume that this woman, for whatever reason, got it wrong. I want to believe that. In many ways, I need to believe that. Yet, something has been eating at me that calls into question my emotional safety.
When the articles first appeared, many fans responded as Rhonda and I did with a complex mix of emotions. While we wanted to simply side with Simon, we understood that issues like this are inherently more complex than this even when the allegation is false or appears false. Emotions tend to ride way higher than an accusation of verbal abuse, for example. Sexual assault is one that is wrapped around centuries of mistreatment of women as well as individuals’ sense of self-worth on such a fundamental level that there are no words to adequately describe it. To say that it is a dicey topic is an understatement.
Some fans, though, immediately began to lash out from what I saw. They didn’t strike out against the situation, the circumstance, the fact that our happy place was violated. No, some seemed to focus their anger on the woman, the accuser. Now, I understand why. These fans love Simon and want to stick up for him, no matter what. They wanted her to know that they believe him to be a stand-up, honorable guy. I get that. I really do. We have often talked about Duranland feels like a family in that we don’t always get along but we always have each other’s backs and definitely have the band’s back. It is the idea that Duranies can criticize the band because of our extra special Duranie card but others without that card cannot. They are simply not allowed.
While I understand the psychological need to stand up for one’s family member, one’s hero, in this case, I struggle with some of what I saw. It wasn’t always just, “I’m sorry, woman, but I think you misinterpreted what happened or I don’t think your story is true because Simon is a great guy,” I saw insults. Name calling. Harassment. It was just defending as it sure felt like attacking. Yes, I’m sure many of you say that she deserved it. But does she? Assuming that she made up this story for whatever reason, what purpose does it serve to say these things? Let’s say that she did it for money. Would people harassing her, calling her names, or trying to prove that she is a terrible person really stop that? If she did it for attention, wouldn’t/couldn’t these types of reactions reinforce that? What’s the goal? Hoping that she would take it back? Even if she did, would that be the same thing has having a time machine to go back to before it even came out. I don’t think so. Okay. Maybe you still think that this particular woman still deserved each and every negative statement to or about her. I wonder, though, what it does for others.
What message does it send to (real) victims? To me, it sends tells them that it is best not to come forward. Why? It reminds them that this could and probably would happen to them. Why would anyone want that?
Then, I think about the message it sends to me about my emotional safety net. There have been times when individual fans or people have done or said something against Rhonda and/or myself that have made this fan community feel a little less safe to me. Yet, I could always dismiss those moments to a few individual people. I could remind myself that the majority of fans in the community don’t act like this or feel like that. Now, I’m not so sure. This situation has left me feel shaken. It isn’t just because someone I admire was accused of doing something really awful. No, I can dismiss that as one woman making a ridiculous allegation. What is harder to dismiss is the venom I saw from fellow fans. It made me fear for my emotional safety in this community as well as others. Could fans turn that rage on me? On other people? Yes, I know that people could argue that this woman’s crime was so bad and that I would never do something like that. While that is true, where is the line of what is deserving of that treatment? Who decides it?
Maybe my internal make up is different than others. Yes, maybe I am “soft” or that I feel too much. I can acknowledge that. To me, though, two wrongs don’t make a right. It didn’t take back the accusation or make the situation better. Not really. Maybe typing an insult or calling her name made some feel better at the moment but it only made me feel worse. Support Simon. Love him up. I’m down with that. Send him tweets or messages. Thank Katy for her defense. It just seems to be the more productive and healing way to go.