The Brit Awards' Time's Up white rose pins are the worst kind of tokenism

Lady Gaga wears a white rose to the Grammy awards
Lady Gaga wears a white rose to the Grammy awards

Tonight, as stars such as Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran and Little Mix will walk the red carpet at the Brit Awards, many will be sporting a white rose on their dress strap or lapel. BPI, the organisers behind the Brits announced last week they’d be handing out the roses to show support and solidarity with the Time's Up movement, for which stars at the Grammy Awards also wore white roses.

Time's Up itself is a commendable effort. In January, a group of powerful Hollywood women including Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman and Shonda Rhimes signed an open letter to launch the movement, which will provide $13 million in legal aid to women facing sexual harassment in the workplace. Attendees at the Golden Globes and the Grammys wore black in support, as did filmmakers at the BAFTAs on Sunday, and the BPI is the latest organisation to pledge its support to the movement.

Which is all well and good, but how much, really, will wearing a white rose help tackle a problem so insidious and ingrained as misogyny and sexual harassment? While Time's Up is taking tangible action by raising funds to help less privileged women, the music industry’s equivalent, Voices in Entertainment, has so far not managed to come up with anything beyond a performative gesture with its roses.

Voices in Entertainment was co-founded by Meg Harkins, senior vice president of marketing at US label and entertainment company Roc Nation. But the 15 other female executives involved in the campaign are difficult to identify, largely because the initiative has barely any online presence. There is no Voices in Entertainment website, only a Twitter account with a relative handful of 215 followers. The disparity in the level of measurable solutions being offered by Time's Up and Voices In Entertainment reflects the gulf between how #MeToo is affecting Hollywood and the barely perceptible impact it has had within the music industry.

The very foundations of film’s established home were shaken when Harvey Weinstein’s reign of abuse was uncovered by the New York Times, and a sea of A-list names came forward to share stories and offer impassioned suggestions for change. Those directors who had allegations levelled at them were removed from projects – Brett Ratner was removed from the Wonder Woman sequel after several accusations surfaced – and Weinstein was fired from the board of his company, which is now struggling to be sold in the wake of a lawsuit from New York's attorney general.

Sexual harassment is happening in the music industry, and even before #MeToo took hold, allegations were surfacing. US publicist Heathcliff Berru resigned from his company in 2016 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct he eventually said "My behaviour was wildly inappropriate, hurtful, and terrible. But I have never raped or drugged anyone. I can’t accept that.

A mini-documentary made by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme in December featured four women – singer Chloe Howl, music manager Yasmin Lajoie, music supervisor Michelle de Vries and one anonymous interviewee – describing instances of workplace harassment, including sexual assault by senior men in the industry. Away from the public eye, whispers are circulating among women in the industry about musicians and execs who have acted inappropriately.

The music industry is yet to have a defining moment that throws it under the microscope in the same way as Hollywood has been. Instances of women in music speaking out against wrongdoing seem to be sporadic and disjointed compared to the cohesion of Hollywood’s #MeToo, with possible reasons being that such behaviour is normalised or laughed off in the process of making records, and that the specialist music press, while it does report on some allegations, is not investigating alleged scandals, or measures being put in place to prevent them, with the depth and cohesion that the film industry press has applied.

James Corden at the Grammy Awards

It is also sometimes hard to know quite where the truth lies;  Crystal Castles' Ethan Kath filed a defamation suit against his former band mate Alice Glass after she claimed he raped and abused her.

Speaking on the red carpet at the NME Awards, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson said she isn’t surprised #MeToo hasn’t had a notable impact on music yet. “I think we’re all asking ourselves that because we know it’s happened,” she said. “The problem is, musicians aren’t empowered the way actors are, we don’t have a strong union that looks after us, competition is intense, and people are fearful of their careers.”

The Musician’s Union, for its part, has stepped up by creating an inbox that people can anonymously submit their experiences to. “The reports that we’re receiving through our email are quite varied,” said spokesperson Kelly Wood. “Some people have left the industry because they got sick of sexism, lack of opportunities and people abusing their power saying they could only help them if they do something, and others are very serious claims against particular people. Some people don’t want to go further but if we hear multiple claims about the same person we might look into taking action.”

If such action was necessary, it would provide a watershed moment far more damning than the tokenistic gesture of pinning a white rose to your evening wear ever could.