Stand in Solidarity with Jackie Fox and Survivors of Sexual Assault
The Runaways, one of the first major all-female rock & roll bands, have long been respected as a groundbreaking and iconic band especially for other women in the music industry. Joan Jett in particular is still heralded as a feminist and queer icon (to the point of inspiring WW(J)JD merchandise), for being very outspoken about women in rock and challenging notions of female sexuality in music. On July 8th 2015, Huffington Post Highline published an essay about former Runaways band member Jackie Fox and her experiences with being sexually assaulted by their band manager Kim Fowley. In the essay, writer Jason Cherkis notes that Joan Jett did not respond to requests for comment, and that she had remained close to Fowley until his death in early 2015. Fox also notes that her bandmates did not really support her through the ordeal, eventually leading to her departure from the band. Other people, including Salon's Scott Timberg as well as many other Joan Jett fans, have called on her to provide a stronger statement of support for Jackie Fox. So far the only statement I could find is from Yahoo! Music, where she says that she was "not aware" of the incident and talked about "bizarre relationships" happening at the time - a rather weak response to Fox's courageous revelations. I am calling on Joan Jett to live up to her feminist ideals and make a stronger statement against sexual assault by publicly standing with Jackie Fox, and by extension all sexual assault survivors. ----- Why focus on Joan Jett? There were other people in the room and she wasn't the rapist. Indeed, I am not holding Jett responsible for the assault in and of itself, even though (according to Fox) she had watched without doing anything. It is understandable that as a teenager in a vulnerable position (a party with plenty of men in positions of power over her, possibly under the influence of drugs) Jett may have been powerless to respond in the moment. However, especially now as an adult woman, and especially as one who is very vocal about women's rights, she is in a position of responsibility as a role model. Having her make a definite statement against sexual assault, in support of Fox, would be an incredibly powerful gesture both for Fox as well as for other survivors of sexual assault, especially those who were assaulted by notable people and people in positions of power. Jett claims that she does not recall the incident. What if Fox was just making it up? Firstly, it is highly unlikely that Fox made up her sexual assault allegations, given that only about 2 to 10 percent of rape allegations turn out to be false (and some of those are usually only marked "false" due to coercion and bullying). More commonly, survivors of sexual assault are not believed, with about 97 percent of perpetrators going unpunished. It is certainly very possible that Jett genuinely does not recall such an incident taking place, or might have parsed it as something different. However, that does not mean that Jett's story is suddenly more true than Fox, or that Fox was lying. It is generally good practice to believe victims of sexual assault and support them in their healing. Why do you care? I am a fan of Joan Jett; like many others, I strongly respected her for her strength, power, talent, creativity, and her commitment to women's rights. I am also a sexual assault survivor, who had to deal with people not believing my story, and have been actively championing rights for other survivors. It was very disappointing to see Jett's non-response to Fox's story, and I truly believe she can do better. I come at this not as a hater, but as someone who is passionate about women's rights, and wants Jett to truly join in the fight with us.