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by Katherine Dee
Thursday, 3
August 2023
Behind the news
07:00

Lizzo’s lawsuit exposes the problem with permissive culture

One person’s fun may be another’s lifelong trauma
by Katherine Dee
Three former backup dancers have filed a lawsuit against singer Lizzo. Credit: Getty

Three former backup dancers have filed a lawsuit against singer Lizzo, her production company, and the dance team’s captain, Shirlene Quigley, accusing them of creating a hostile and sexually charged work environment during her recent tour. The suit alleges that Lizzo was involved in acts amounting to sexual harassment (like ‘pressuring’ dancers to eat a banana out of a stripper’s vagina at an Amsterdam strip club) and weight shaming, while Ms. Quigley is accused of making explicit comments and religious harassment. 

Generally speaking, it’s hard to read too much into these kinds of lawsuits. Sometimes, there really might be a hostile work environment. But other times, employees may be trying to exploit a weakness in the system, like an unlikeable boss or a poorly understood (or poorly regulated) industry. It is even more complicated when the lawsuit relates to entertainment, which has an unconventional work culture, making it notoriously difficult to establish a hostile work environment. The same fluid culture that might nurture creativity also complicates the process of defining the boundaries of what constitutes “professional” or “appropriate” behaviour.


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For the last decade, this type of cultural confusion has been reflected in the wider corporate sphere. Many white-collar workplaces, especially in technology and creative fields, simultaneously enforce opaque restrictions on what you can and can’t say (in other words, “cancel culture”) while also collapsing interpersonal boundaries, particularly with the rise of casual, West Coast-inspired work culture. Rarely do we reckon with these two cultural shifts and how they might inform one another. 

For example, what does “work appropriate” mean in an environment where, according to a friend at one unnamed San Francisco Bay Area company, there is a Slack channel for the sexually-charged furry fandom? Or, less extreme, what about Employee Resource Groups, groups within companies formed around certain identity characteristics, such as race and sexual orientation? Quite often, what one group may view as normal, the other may view as hate speech.

Then there is “radical candour,” a corporate communication strategy that stresses both empathy and directness, but what happens when this leads to a CEO changing clothes in front of employees, as Thinx-founder Mikki Agrawal was accused of doing? Where does “freedom” end and a “hostile work environment” begin? And we haven’t even mentioned social media yet.

This boundary collapse didn’t just affect business, either. It rose in prominence alongside late millennial culture, which included the popularisation of the “overshare” and a push to de-stigmatise mental health conditions. But as time went on, nobody knew what rules to play by anymore. Which brings us back to Lizzo: from at least one perspective, the hostile work environment might have been the product of cultural confusion, even if she is also genuinely at fault. 

If the rules are so contradictory and the boundaries so fluid, where do you draw the line? One person’s fun outing (eating bananas out of a Dutch stripper’s vagina) might be another person’s lifelong trauma. In the entertainment industry, the law seems to suggest that people accept lax boundaries and pay the tax of not being able to litigate it when they feel harmed. In the corporate world — we’re still figuring it out. Arguably, #MeToo was at least partially a reaction to the missing script. Remote work may buy us some time, but it’s going to take a lot longer to figure out where the new boundaries should be drawn.

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Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 month ago

I’m just wondering what the odds are that Justin Trudeau comes out as trans or gay so Canada can be the wokest country in the world.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

What an incredibly strange thing to say. Are you people really so obsessed with Trudeau and LGBQT?
You are really weird!

Max Price
Max Price
1 month ago

I’m stoned and may be making a strange connection but it seems to me Trudeau is perfect to bring up here. Is Lizzo too big of a progressive icon to be canceled? Obviously in reference to Justin’s compulsively putting on black face.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 month ago
Reply to  Max Price

That plus the announcement he has separated from his wife, his predilection for dressing up, his outspoken support for wokeness and qwerty (alphabet) people, his abuse of power over those below him (freezing the bank accounts of truck drivers and their supporters and redirecting funds – an act of war when applied to the Russians). It just seems like a natural progression for Trudeau who is a cheerleader for the world Lizzo represents.

Last edited 1 month ago by Aphrodite Rises
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

Well, why don’t you just let us know how your prediction turns out, sweetie?
I mean, I already know, obviously, but I’m sure the trans-obsessed loons will want an update…

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago

Erm… maybe wait until you’re less “tired and emotional” before posting again?

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago

Have a banana!

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Maaaate.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Hahahahahaha!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago

And you have no sense of humor, but people on the left are notorious for lacking one.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

I have a wonderful sense of humour, as demonstrated by my incredibly witty posts here.
But if you think what the original poster wrote was humourous then I can understand why you wouldn’t get the jokes. Wee bit above your pay grade..

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago

I don’t think most people here are finding your posts witty – but if you’re happy, we’re all happy, yeah?

Chipoko
Chipoko
1 month ago

Cut your crap!

Charles Boespflug
Charles Boespflug
1 month ago

Oof, interesting, maybe one in three or four??

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

Is this referred to in the article?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

No, but the article and the announcement were posted about the same time so intentional, coincidental, serendipitous or synchronous – who knows.

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago

My comment of the day so far. Maybe he could explain his “unfortunate costume choices” as being part of an obscure queer subculture. As ever with our élites, “we would not understand…”

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 month ago

3…2…1….

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

The suit alleges that Lizzo was involved in acts amounting to sexual harassment and weight shaming
That sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle a fatass.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

They might have been shamed for having insufficient weight.

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good point.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

You feel better about yourself after sharing that thought?

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago

I’m more amused after reading it. Just sayin’.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago

“Arguably, #MeToo was at least partially a reaction to the missing script.”
The script ain’t missing. It was present for decades, then consciously thrown out when the sexual revolution pretended that human sexuality was just another physical appetite to be satisfied according to one ethical criterion (‘consent’). Turns out ‘consent’ is way too indefinite a mental state to support that kind of weight.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kirk Susong
Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago

Generally speaking, it’s hard to read too much into these kinds of lawsuits.

Hmmm. I wonder if the author would be so dismissive if it was a man allegedly abusing his employess in such a manner.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago

The boundaries have been broken down between the entertainment industry and the porn industry.
A young woman may want to be a dancer, but want nothing to do eating bananas out of some poor woman’s vagina (can’t imagine that job is a confidence builder).
Porn has infected music, movies, and tv so that it has become unavoidable.
A young person cannot enter any aspect of the entertainment industry without also being expected to perform pornographically in one way or another.
This is harming vulnerable people, and it is making a lot of entertainment gross and unwatchable.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I think you need to calm down a bit, grandma!
Porn is very easily avoidable – you just need to stop looking for it everywhere!

Claire England
Claire England
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Agreed. I’m old enough to remember when ”I Dream of Jeannie’s” female star’s costume was obliged to cover her belly button. She was still beautiful and sexy but ok viewing for a child. Today it seems pornified images are ubiquitous, and those of us who aren’t fans are called “grandma” instead of proponents of some measure of restraint in popular media.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

A really insightful piece.

I feel the whole notion of creativity and the environments in which it thrives needs to be examined though.

First, Lizzos activities constitute a pretty low rung in terms of creativity.

Second, and I know Borges considered this, it is not clear that creativity is at its peak in anything goes cultures.

My prejudice, but it seems to me that we have plenty of low level creativity, but not much that runs very deep.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago

The US is a country where it is financially rewarding to be overly sensitive and offended. Until this situation changes, hate speech laws and HR policies will continue to increase until even glancing the wrong way or making a clumsy generalization will be cause for suing or firing. We are living in a time where mawkish victimhood is the highest badge of honor and denouncing others is considered virtuous.
I’ve been traveling a lot lately and what is becoming increasingly apparent is the number of people who are emigrating from the US to start a new life abroad. These are highly intelligent and creative people who no longer want to work until their old age and pay taxes to a system that is rapidly toxifying.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The American liberal must be quarantined at all costs. The only decent Americans one meets in Europe are on holiday, the others … don’t bear thinking about. They’d happily turn the whole planet into the Tenderloin.

B. Mink
B. Mink
1 month ago

No wonder there’s confusion about ‘appropriate’: exposing and discussing personal matters is required by school curriculum for years. In assignments and as unconsenting lab rats for research studies, students are required to describe their personalities, beliefs, household/household members, diet, out-of-school activities, identity, goals, dreams, sexual behaviour, etc. and may have to post this on-line with photos. And then they’re taught about ‘consent’ (“yes means yes”) and ‘boundaries’ by teachers who have trampled these. https://www.curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies/personal-and-social/positive-personal-and-cultural-identity

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

Lizzo?….

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

Don’t worry about it, gramps. You stick to your classic rock and let the kids do their thing.

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago

Laugh? We almost did.

David Shipley
David Shipley
1 month ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Laugh? We nearly sh4t, as Peter Cook famously said.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

“Three former backup dancers have filed a lawsuit against singer Lizzo, her production company, and the dance team’s captain, Shirlene Quigley, accusing them of creating a hostile and sexually charged work environment during her recent tour.”
What were they expecting, a vicar’s tea party? If you sign up for the world of rock follies this is what you are paid for. 

RM Parker
RM Parker
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Unsure why the downvote. It’s cr@p that these things happen, but not many people reach the age of majority and remain so naive as not to see what’s on public display. Not to excuse crass behaviour anywhere, but we’re all grown ups (at least in theory).

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 month ago

BTW, will Lizzo finally achieve official Victimhood for the slobs? They’ve been trying to attain it for many decades with little success. But now that people with penises can be women, surely 600 lb. women can be beautiful and healthy if they declare it so? And just as one commits a crime by saying that a person with a p***s is not a woman, so surely one will commit a crime by saying that a 600 lb. woman is grotesque?

Dave R
Dave R
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Thanks, Ray. Your much needed candor is refreshing indeed. The Queen of morbid-obesity-positivity has a lot to answer for.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 month ago

A sexualized environment! A sexualized environment! … the litigant prostitute complained of her time working in the bordello. I reminds me of that girl who sued Hooters because while working there, clients were noticing her breasts.