If you're a semi-frequent visitor to punknews.org (probably aren't), you may have seen the massive discussions about sexism in the punk scene. They've gotten the girl from P.S. Eliot and two other bands I can't remember to weigh in on the topic, and so far, the consensus seems to be that girls don't feel equal, or even safe, within the punk scene. This has insighted a firestorm of sorts on the comments section, and sexism/whining aside, a few good questions have been asked. Who and what is responsible for sexism in punk? How far should we go to combat it and what should be done? Is it really that big a problem to begin with?
Since comments as massive as the one I'm about to make never get read on message boards, and since nobody I know/who will employ me will ever stumble upon said board, I've decided to blog my opinion on the matter. Here goes.
I don't consider myself a member of any kind of punk “community”, but I do go to a lot of shows, and for the most part they are extremely enjoyable experiences. So when I hear that a sizable portion of the fairer sex can't go to a show and enjoy it in the same capacity I do, it bothers me. I don't believe “girls have no place at shows”; in fact I commend them for indulging and supporting something that isn't usually catered towards them. I also don't believe girls should have to “suck it up and deal with” all the boy's club shit that goes on; rape jokes, sexual harrasment and the like just aren't acceptable. The people responsible for those actions need to cut that shit out. I also guarantee I'm not the only one who thinks like this; at least 80 per cent of guys at shows have no ill will towards women, and don't want them to feel uncomfortable or excluded at a show, or anywhere else for that matter.
So where does the problem come from? It would be easy to blame it on a few lonely misogynist assholes, but I don't really think that's the root of the issue. I think the fault lies (as it does with most gender problems) in a lack of communication.
In order to understand these communication problems, ladies, you have to understand the 'pinnacle of human evolution' that is the male brain. Forget any pretense you may have, it basically comes down to this; we want to eat and fuck. I'm not saying we're incapable of understanding our emotions and displaying empathy towards other people, it's just that we don't pick up on the subtle nuances like you do – we're too busy thinking about eating and fucking. Guess which category we process you under.
The moment we see a girl at a show, our brains instinctively start sizing her up, deciding whether or not to 'go in for the kill' so to speak. And if a guy comes up and starts talking to you, he's decided to go for it. This might seem a little sexist amd demeaning in itself, but good luck on going anywhere other than a gay bar and finding guys who will treat you differently. Unfortunately, you may be subjected to it more at a punk show, but that's because there are fewer girls. Think of it in terms of basic economics – you're just a more valuable commodity than a girl fist bumping to Lady Gaga at a club.
Now lets say hypothetically a guy approaches you at a show. You talk to the him for a bit, give him your number, but decide you don't want anything more than friendship. Since you go to the same shows and probably have a few mutual friends, the two of you might become familiar with each other. Eventually, he'll get that you're not interested, and at this point, you become either an aquantance or a friend. This is the context in which I feel most of the problems lie.
When guys hang out with each other, they communicate much differently than girls do. If you were to read a transcript of some of the conversations I have with my buddies, you'd assume we hate each other's guts. I use a whole arsenal of perjorative terms and phrases when talking to my friends, including a number of racist and homophobic slurs that my superego knows I shouldn't be proliferating. I don't use any of those terms out of anger – quite the opposite; it's a show of admiration. Odd, I know, but that's male bonding for you.
So when we're standing around in a circle of friends at a hardcore show (whose attendees are, for the most part, dudes), it feels perfectly natural for us to call you a “dumb bitch” or ask you to “fetch a sandwich.” We don't realize you aren't used to hearing that kind of shit from your friends, and that you might think we're belittling and insulting you. We don't realize telling you to “suck my cock” might make you uncomfortable; we tell everyone and everything to suck our cocks, the phrase means next to nothing. To us guys, that vernacular is meaningless at worse and said out of admiration at best. We're not trying to hurt your feelings, it's just that once you become one of the guys, it's easy to forget that you're still a girl.
So if that is the problem, what can we do about it?
Well, to misquote Martin Luther King Jr., equality is never voluntarily given by the oppressor – it must be demanded by the oppressed.
In other words, if something's bothering you, speak up. In the case of a joke gone too far, it's probably better to bring it up a bit later. If you go up to the friend who made the comment when he's alone and explain why it bothered you, he'll most likely apologize and try not to do it again. If he doesn't, he's not only sexist, he's an asshole who's not worth your time. The same goes for any other situation. If a guy's touching you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask him to stop. If he doesn't, tell security. They'll gladly fix the problem for you. If you're in a band and a promoter/engineer/whoever else is making misogynist remarks, get all punk rock on his ass and tell him to fuck off. If he calls you a bitch, don't take it personally – either his father didn't love him or his wife left him for a man with a bigger dick.
Here's the skinny; the vast majority of guys in the “punk scene” or whatever you want to call it aren't sexist, and probably love hanging out or being in bands with girls. We want to make shows comfortable and enjoyable for everyone, especially women. But if we don't know what's pissing you off, we can't do anything about it. So speak up, and together we can kick sexism out of punk rock.