Being the music fan that I am, I receive Pitchfork tweet notifications on my phone, making sure I’m never out of the loop with the latest music news. This morning, as I got ready for work, I heard my phone make its familiar notification sound, and I quickly glanced at the latest Pitchfork tweet. It read:
My stomach dropped. I immediately opened the link and shared it with a friend, and went back to getting ready, since I was already running late to work. But just like that, without even a second thought, I glanced at that tweet, shared it and firmly believed this woman’s story. There was no doubt in my mind that this did not happen; actually I knew this happened, and when I sent it to my friend I accompanied it with the first word that came to mind: “fuck”.
I have been a Runaways fan for years; ever since Ellen Page mentioned the female rock pioneers in her role in Juno (I know…lame), back when I was in high school. Juno lists her favorite bands, naming the Runaways as one of them as a black and white picture of the band performing flashes on the screen. I was instantly enthralled.
I had already known that Joan Jett was originally from an all-girls rock band, but I never really explored much of that part of her musical career. Being the obsessive type I am, I researched more about the Runaways history and music, and could not believe a band like this existed in the 70s.
I dragged my friends to see their biopic “The Runaways”, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, back in 2010, and I even checked out (yes, at a library) lead singer Cherrie Currie’s memoir Neon Angel.
That’s when my admiration for The Runaways grew.
Currie writes about the verbal abuse they had to endure at the hands of their manager Kim Fowley. Though Currie, Jett, guitarist Lita Ford, drummer Sandy West and bassist Jackie Fox were in it for the music-fulfilling a teenager’s dream of being a rock star. Fowley’s only intent for the band was to sell music using a “hot jail bait” gimmick. The girls were teenagers, gorgeous, and unfortunately sexualized by Fowley’s demands. They had to really sell it as a male fantasy in order to keep this rock n’ roll dream, and they had to also sell it to Fowley, who would harass the girls, even teaching them how to “screw” by having sex with a woman in front of them.
The stories about Fowley’s behavior in Neon Angel are endless; though these entries were hard to read at times, it just further proved to me just how feminist this group of women were. Yeah, they sold out, but they also used this abuse to send a women-positive message, and that was to own their sexuality and go do what you want, and take no prisoners like Jett did with her career. Little did I or maybe the rest of die-hard fans know, that although the Runaways launched the successful musical careers of Lita Ford and Joan Jett, that some of the other members of the Runaways weren’t so lucky, particularly Jackie Fox.
Like I said, I’m a Runaways fan, so I’ve had my share of documentaries and memoirs, but though I’ve read most Runaways-related material, I still didn’t know much about Fox, who was the band’s bassist until her departure in 1977.
From what I heard and read by the other band members, Fox was known, by the band, as kind of a charity case. She didn’t actually play bass, rather guitar, but they needed a bass player so they added her, which made her out to seem undeserving to the other members. When referenced at all by her former band mates, Fox is usually associated with being annoying, uptight and whiny. Fox refused to be any part of most of the documentaries and memoirs published about the band, and she even refused to have her name associated with the 2010 film, forcing producers to replace her character with a fictional character under the name Robin Robins.
So imagine how shaken I was when I finally discovered the reason why Fox was so ridiculed by her band mates, and left the band because she was raped by Kim Fowley in 1975 at a sleazy hotel room while a onlookers of strangers watch, which also included two of her friends and Currie and Jett. The criticism, the ridicule, the refusal to do anything Runaways-related made sense now. The pieces of the puzzle slowly starting piecing themselves back together, and the picture wasn’t pretty.
The Runaways influenced women in music greatly; especially the Riot Grrl movement of the 90s, and Joan Jett herself has been the poster girl of women in music, giving uplifting speeches about what it means to be a woman in music.
And yet, she and her other band mates not only watched a 16 year old fellow band member raped, but they also ridiculed her, and carried this secret with them for almost 40 years.
Fowley died of cancer this January, and I still remember when the news broke — music sites were referencing him as a pioneer in music, noting his accomplishments and influence. Yet, Fowley’s well-known obsession with teenage girls and sex, as documented in the numerous memoirs and documentaries, were shoved away; the damage he’d done swept under a rug, and never really addressed until now. Jackie’s revelation might be 40 years late, but it was because she was still coping with what happened to her, battling guilt, depression and the ridicule her band mates took part of.
Jackie told the Huffington Post that she has only recently come forward because of the bravery she’s seen from other women who have alleged sexual abuse, particularly those who have come forth about Bill Cosby, and the young women who are now speaking out about their campus rape, and how their school failed them.
So next time when someone claims they don’t believe someone who admits to have been assaulted years, or even decades before, tell them about Jackie. The argument of “why now?” is weak and insensitive. It is never too late to finally talk about what happened to you. Some, like Jackie, had to go through many years of self-infliction, self-hatred, guilt, embarrassment and even doubt to get where they are today.
Like I said, when I saw that tweet, I believed her instantly. It was a strong allegation, especially about one of my heroes, but I still firmly believe Jackie Fox. Childhood heroes, favorite shows or movies aside- when a victim speaks out, we need to listen.