Steve Harmon from Synthrotek ended up making rape jokes on a facebook post. There was no apology in response to the community response to the sexist jokes, just hostility. This is not the first time this type of thing has happened though in the community, and sadly not likely the last. This time felt different though, the community did a better job of policing the behavior. To that, I applaud the modular synth community. It took a step in the right direction towards being inclusive. I think Andrew Tomasello’s response speaks volumes to how far the community has come, as he openly detailed a pattern of problematic behavior from Steve Harmon (EDIT: the post has since been made private). His response to this was direct as it was personal, such a response would not have happened in the past. What we are finding out is the issue went far beyond this single joke, but rather a pattern of sexist and problematic behavior over years that was not known to the public.
The modular community has had its share of sexist garbage, some worse than others. For a time a few years ago it seemed like it was getting worse. In some ways, it inspired me to launch this blog. I chose to disengage and stay away from the toxic parts of the community and to create my own voice. I don’t need sexist noise in my life, I just wanted to make music and talk about synths. I also know openly fighting against sexism sometimes can result in backlash that is an outright danger. A big reason women don’t speak up about anything from sexual assault, harassment, or anything else is that we are well aware of the possibility of backlash.
During a period where I was less engaged, something changed, and surprisingly for the better. More women picked up synths, and more men also got sick of the sexist crap happening within the community. With more women becoming synthesists, I think it would be a good idea to make sure the community is a welcoming place. The less toxic sexist garbage there is, and the more the community focuses on making music, the better. The truth is the community will be better off it is open, inclusive, welcoming, and focused. While the community is not perfect, and it still has a long way to go, I am more hopeful today than I was in the past.
There is an interesting thread on the synthesizers subreddit regarding this, which you can find here.