TW: this post discusses domestic, physical, and sexual violence.
This summer we got to see excellence on display in so many ways. From women athletes absolutely dominating in the Olympics to women artists putting out some bops and sad girl summer albums, the content was up to par to say the least.
But even in the midst of the amazing performances and displays that brought audiences joy this summer, something all too real was happening behind the scenes. Even on the most elite and highest of stages, survivors have had to deal with the fear, pressure, and retraumatization of working with abusers—often their own.
Protect Hot Girl Summer
Hotties came out in full force for the inventor of Hot Girl Summer, Megan Thee Stallion, for her set at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami. But you know who else came out in full force? Abusers. Last summer, Megan publically shared that she had gotten shot while at Kylie Jenner’s pool party. Megan didn’t initially name who shot her, but a few weeks after the incident—and after a lot of misinformation and smearing of Megan—she revealed it was rapper Tory Lanez.
Fast forward to this summer, Megan is a headliner at one of the largest music festivals in the country and who pops up on stage? Tory Lanez. No, he wasn’t on the lineup. Fellow artist (and overall problematic man) DaBaby brought Tory on stage with him. Aside from violating Megan’s order of protection against him, Tory and DaBaby showed no regard for Megan, her trauma, or her livelihood. Not even a full year after the traumatic pool party, Megan had to be backstage, in soundchecks, and named in press attention with the very man who caused that trauma. We shouldn’t be surprised DaBaby chose an abuser over a woman who basically helped propel his career but, yeah, the misogyny AND homophobia jumped out during his set.
Megan Thee Stallion is at the top of her game. She is near universally respected for being the face of hip hop, confidence, and all things hot today. Yet even her trauma is not respected, as the institution of Rolling Loud and apologists like DaBaby prioritize letting the abuser of their headliner into every possible space, even though he was never invited. And we know her experience is not a solitary one.
Athletes En Garde
Meanwhile, as athletes (ahem, women athletes) kicked ass in Tokyo, the U.S. Olympic machine did what it does best: being trash. Shortly after the 2021 Olympic ceremonies kicked off, news broke that a fencer on the U.S. Olympic team made it to the team despite a history of sexual assault allegations.
Alen Hadzic’s reputation is far from a secret in the tight-knit elite fencing community. While competing at Columbia University, multiple women came forward in 2013 with reports of sexual assault, demonstrating a pattern of sexual coercion and aggression. Following a Title IX investigation, he ended up suspended from campus for a year and removed from the fencing team at Columbia University—but while he could no longer represent his school, he was never removed from USA Fencing.
Seven years later, he made it to the Olympic team, despite the multiple reports survivors submitted to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the agency responsible for investigating misconduct, which was established following the Larry Nassar revelations in 2018. This supposed outlet for reporting was created on the backs of survivors like Simone Biles, who despite being failed by USA Gymnastics, came back to compete to ensure institutions would be held accountable, and athletes would be protected. The agency created to keep all athletes safe, thanks to the bravery of athletes like Simone, is doing anything but that.
SafeSports’ response to the 11 women who expressed concerns about their safety? A separate plane, a separate hotel, and separate practice space, away from women fencers. Oh, and a recommendation that the survivors download—get this—Headspace.
As one of the women fencers expressed, “We were all so helpless in the situation because he just continues to get what he wants because he is a really fantastic fencer.” Men like this may have talent, sure. But so do survivors. Why do we protect abusers when there are so many talented survivors having to minimize their trauma or sacrifice their career to avoid triggering and dangerous situations? Why do we actively put them in those situations?
A Way Forward
Women in these positions work their entire lives to reach the top of their arena, whether it be headlining music festivals or competing in the Olympic Games. And the people we allow to continue to be on the public stage who are jeopardizing their safety? Well-known abusers with convictions and a track record of violence and abuse. People in power are abandoning and endangering talented survivors for…this?
These women have to be at the top of their game while constantly keeping one eye open. They shouldn’t have to protect themselves—these institutions should be protecting them.