If you have a Twitter account, it’s likely that you might have heard about the downfall of popular radio station Radar Radio. Popular feminist collective Pxssy Palace stopped working with them for mistreating black women and failing to address their own shortcomings as a workplace. After this revelation another accuser stepped forward detailing really horrific mistreatment by some of the staff at Radar and its founder, Ollie Ashley. Ollie Ashley happens to be the son of Sports Direct Mike Ashley, a company that exploits their workers by underpaying them and making them work crazy hours. This is an important part of this story – you’ll understand why soon.
Pxssy Palace cited mostly Radar’s mistreatment and exploitation of marginalised bodies as their reason for leaving. They compiled a list of incidents in which they detailed sexist, transphobic, homophobic behaviour and expressed how they had tried to discuss the incidents with Radar, to no avail.
Ashtart Al-Hurra of Mixed Spices wrote an article essentially exposing what she went through as a woman of colour with the staff and leadership at Radar. Her exposé is pretty grim.Al-Hurra cited the toxic environment created for women of colour as the motivator for why she was speaking out. She worked as a Studio Assistant for 9 months with NO PAY. That’s right, no pay. Ashtart says she was sexually harassed by DJs, had ghastly rumours spread about her by other women, was victimised while out at events and more. She notified the people in charge but nothing came of it.
She went on Facebook to complain, without mentioning anyone. As literally everyone does. Facebook is full of people talking crap about their jobs. About their industries. Venting. It’s what Facebook is there for. However, they got mad. They called her in and told her she shouldn’t be talking about her experiences on social media. She was asked to recall the harassment. She did. According to them they were just “boys being boys.” Could their response be any more disgusting?
Well, yes, actually, it could. They brought in a HR representative from Eacotts, the company that deals with Sports Direct (I told you to remember this) and made her go through the harassment all over again, during a series of interviews. As any survivor of any kind of abuse or harassment will tell you, having to recount your experience countless times to a group of people who doesn’t seem to genuinely care about you is exhausting and borderline traumatic. Can it get worse? Well, yes, it can. They made her sign what was essentially a non-disclosure agreement, asking her to declare that she would not reveal any information about this situation or Radar without Ollie Ashley’s permission. Radar is supposed to be a home-grown, backyard, cool kids radio station. So why is this big ass corporation bullying this woman into silence?
Her article led to a mass departure of Radar DJ’s and presenters. Big names like Snoochie Shy and The Slumflower took to social media to formally detach themselves from Radar. While the massive walk out is pretty great considering how little action is often taken when it comes to disclosures like this, it’s also pretty sad. Radar gave a platform to a lot of people of colour, gave them opportunities to discuss topics close to their heart and celebrate music not loved by mainstream media. How many of these people will be left without a job now that the station has suspended its broadcasting? Why is it always the marginalised that are left with the task of speaking up?
I’m white and a woman. As a woman, I’ve experienced discrimination at the hands of men. But as a white person, I haven’t experienced the fetishisation and racism that women of colour do. Women of colour are often at the cutting edge of culture. They create the trends. They make things cool. But they are never properly credited for it. They are hired for diversity sake, but are left with hostile work environments that stifle their talent and make them feel unsafe. They’re cool for your Instagram shots, they’re just not cool enough to be treated with actual respect. The amount of women coming out with similar experiences not just with Radar but with the music industry in general is so disheartening. This particular case is just an example of the social/cultural hierarchy that dismisses women, PoC and the LGBTQ+ community. They are perpetuating the corporate culture of enabling racial and sexual harassment.
Ashtart is amazing. She had the bravery to violate the NDA she was forced to sign, which could have real repercussions, and is standing, defiantly, against the face of a really powerful family. So, what do we do now? Well, firstly, we stand by Ashtart. Secondly, we support women of colour collectives that provide safe spaces and opportunities for PoC creatives. There are loads of amazing ones out there: gal-dem, Mixed Spice, Room 4 Resistance, BBZ London and others that have been mentioned in this really great tweet. Thirdly, support those speaking out. The hosts of the shows you loved? Retweet their stuff, recommend them, call out on other stations to collaborate or work with them. Make it known that speaking out on an issue like this isn’t a career ender, it will only create a much needed culture of accountability.
Written by Inês Mendonça