What was it I was thinking to myself just moments before? Oh yeah, “Hey asshole! I’m just trying to walk down the street. I’m not yr girl; I’m not yr baby. What I’m wearing has only to do with the weather. Stop leering, motherfucker, stop staring. I’ve tried everything I can think of; sometimes I get angry, sometimes I ignore you. But I swear you will never get the answer you’re looking for.” You’re like a fucking broken record: “Say yes, say yes, say yes, say yes” Take all the time you need, girl. Make every step deliberate, girl.
Chris Webster of Yorkshire St Pauli explains how the Yorkshire fan club of a German football team is challenging oppression and welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to Leeds. This article first appeared in the Northern Star, a bulletin of rs21 supporters in Leeds.
The politics connected to St. Pauli is the main reason many of our members fell in love with the club. An active stance against…
This is a piece that I wrote a while back about feminism and music writing. I found a home for it in Smith, my university’s student-run magazine. You can grab print copies from cafes around New Cross, or Goldsmiths SU. There’s loads of creative writing in there, and a bunch of other interesting articles.
#YesAllWomen because Rihanna can make a song about enjoying sex and sing about the way she likes it, and it gets banned in 11 countries, while Robin Thicke can completely diminish the line of consent and objectify women in the process in a song and it is a ‘smash hit’ and gets to number one in multiple countries.
At the end of his speech against the people molesting a 15 year old girl who was crowd surfing (you can watch the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9uIcWIWOLI) Aaron Lewis said “Now girls, feel free to crowd surf safely” which is the main point about this all really isn’t it?…
“People who go about seeking to change the world, to diminish suffering, to demonstrate any kind of enlightenment, are often as flawed as anybody else. Sometimes more so. But it is the awareness of having faults, I think, and the knowledge that this links us to everyone on Earth, that opens us to courage and compassion. It occurs to me often that many of those I deeply love are flawed. They might actually have said or done some of the mean things I’ve felt, heard, read about, or feared. But it is their struggle with the flaw, surprisingly endearing, and the going on anyhow, that is part of what I cherish in them.”—
I love this. She doesn’t mean that those who fight for justice are no longer accountable, but that we are still in fact human. Often times, once someone is associated with a label like “activist” or “feminist” or “humanist” or “womanist” people expect perfection from them, even to the point that they are forcing them to perform the “positive” side of binaries that are inherently heteronormative, patriarchal and/or White supremacist. This isn’t progressive. Recognizing the humanity even of those who fight for it matters and this recognition has to include both accountability and nuance. That’s progressive.
“I think writing really helps you heal yourself. I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person. That is, if you write what you need to write, as opposed to what will make money, or what will make fame.”—Alice Walker (via writingbox)
“Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men. You’re supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that’s not how it works. The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt. Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt. They think you don’t have any place on the road at all. And if you do get hurt by a car, everyone makes excuses that it’s your fault.”—A friend of a friend (via onesmallflowerofeternity)
TW: The politics of silence: sexual assault and its consequences in the punk rock community.
There have been some great articles recently that highlight that sexism (amongst other ism’s and phobia’s) as a culture that we are all complicit in, rather than a quality of an individual. Right now, I feel like my continued silence about what happened to me and how people close to me reacted to that, only serves to play into the culture of sexism, in particular how it is manifested within the punk rock community. Although to the few people who bother reading this names are pretty obvious, I have changed them anyway, because despite all of this, it is individuals and not entire bands that I wish to call out.
On New Years I made an extra effort to get my friend Tim to come out. I was really worried about him and didn’t want him to spend it home alone missing his girlfriend, another good friend of mine. In the end I bumped into him at a party my friends and I ended up at because drugs are apparently much more appealing than friends. Anyway, at some point I realised that we were the only 2 of our group of mates still there and that he was completely off his face on drugs/ booze. I still don’t know what made me think it was my responsibility to take him home and look after him and I wish I’d left him, but instead I pretended to snort the rest of his Ketamine (the only way I knew he’d leave it) and started to walk him back to my place where the rest of our friends had gone earlier. He was being a nightmare the whole way back, flailing around, flopping on the floor and repeatedly kissing my cheek, which I consistently pushed him away for. When we got back, I tried to get him to eat some of my burger, got him a glass of water and tucked him in on the sofa. At some point he got up and moved very close to me - I froze, then backed off and went upstairs to bed, leaving him to stay on the sofa in the kitchen.
In the middle of the night I woke up in my own bed because I felt a hand creeping up my thigh. For a brief moment I thought it was my boyfriend, but he was away at that point. I froze up but as the hand crept further between my legs I freaked out and shouted. Tim leapt up and ran out of my room, presumably back to the kitchen.
Of course I found this experience disturbing on a number of levels, mainly just as a fucking betrayal of trust between friends and also what would’ve happened if I hadn’t woken up, where would I have found his hand? I was quite sober by that point, how well would I have dealt with him if I’d been wasted? But actually, now I’ve had a really long time to think about it, its not so much the incident itself but how I and other people close to me reacted that is currently giving me the physical shakes whilst writing about it. All of the reasons I stayed silent for so long are bullshit consequences of a sexist, victim blaming culture. I didn’t tell anyone at all for nearly 4 months. I felt guilty, like it was my fault. My boyfriend at the time was fiercely possessive and distrustful, and I felt that if I told him, he would think I was cheating on him in our stretches of time apart. I also knew that Tim’s girlfriend would blame me, and as our friendship was rocky for other more music based reasons, I didn’t want to create any further tension. So I said nothing for a really long time and just carried on like it hadn’t happened. After all its not the first time things like that have happened to me and it tend to just be easier to carry on like normal, and pretend like nothing happened.
What made me decide to tell my close girlfriends in the end, was an incident where Tim and another friend came to disrupt a professional photo shoot my friends and I were doing for our business. They were drunk and Tim was being particularly lecherous, leering at me, repeatedly saying “you looks so hot, you look so beautiful” and touching me, generally whenever my boyfriend, who I was so relieved was there, wasn’t looking. We eventually got them to leave, but it was pretty embarrassing. Again at the time, I accepted the incident for effectively “boys being boys” and drunk, but as my friends started to point out, if we got drunk and came to disrupt them at band practice or recording or something, we’d be in shit loads of trouble. Apparently it was fine for them to disrupt us because what we were doing “wasn’t very punk rock” - seriously, fucking spare me. Once I got angry about this, it became much easier for me to tell my close girlfriends about what had happened, as a rift was already forming so I no longer cared about what effect it would have on our close friendships. Of course, all three of the women I told reacted the same way, telling me that it was not my fault and that he was out of line. That support was invaluable, gave me so much strength and lifted the guilt I’d been feeling. There is nothing better in this world than decent friends.
As my boyfriend had been slating the behaviour of Tim ect turning up at our photoshoot, and asking why I was friends with this bunch of wasters, I started to feel like I could tell him what happened. However, his attitude towards them completely flipped when he found out he could gain work and further experience doing the thing he was passionate about through that group of people. As I was moving countries so he could no longer stay in my room, he was planning to move in at Tim’s place for a few weeks. Tim ect had obviously completely taken to my boyfriend because of his band and therefore perceived status within this apparent hierarchy of punk rock (which I swear I am going to blow up from the base one day). At this point I was in a really difficult position because I knew how much it meant to my boyfriend to be able to do the thing he loves doing the most. But, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of my boyfriend working so closely with someone who had assaulted me without knowing about it, so decided to tell him. I made it clear that I didn’t want it to stop him from working with him, as I knew he had a lot to gain from it, but that I just wanted him to be aware of what had happened.
The way my boyfriend reacted was what nearly broke me on this. He refused to accept it as assault despite sexual assault being defined under law (not that the law takes itself seriously on this) as: “A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.” I put this definition to him but he still refused it and suggested that we’d have to agree to disagree which of course was something I found incredibly difficult to accept. What I found impossible to bear was the way he policed my behaviour, saying that if I even thought about another man that was cheating, whilst at the same time effectively excusing what Tim did, agreeing that it was out of line, but not letting it affect his growing friendship with Tim in any way. On another occasion that the incident with Tim came up in conversation, I tried to explain to my boyfriend how unsupported I felt by him, that I wasn’t asking him to do anything about it - its my own battle - but that I just needed support. He flipped this around, accused me of putting words in his mouth and not understanding his position. He then proceeded to talk me through what was probably going through Tim’s head that night, as though that bore any fucking relevance, and my mental strength basically disintegrated. I’ve had anxiety for a couple of years now, off the back of another problematic relationship, and I’ve come to realise that I get it in situations where I feel something very strongly, normally to do with calling out sexism, but cannot articulate it properly, because actually what I’m fighting in those situations isn’t the individual (these stupid men are no match) but the weight of a whole sexist culture and how that individual has been socialised into it. On I think every occasion that I tried to discuss what happened with Tim with my boyfriend, I ended up having some kind of anxiety attack.
Since moving to a different country I’ve had space and time to reflect on a lot of these things, and if anything I’m now just more angry. I don’t blame these individuals for the way they’ve acted because I see this so clearly as an indication of sexism manifested within the punk rock community and society at large. What I do blame these individuals for is not taking some responsibility for themselves and their behaviour. So many men are totally fine with feminism until it asks them to question their own behaviour and complicity.
A few weeks after I moved away, Tim contacted me about some music related thing on facebook. I replied with an angry tirade of what affect his behaviour on new year had had on me. He vaguely apologised and started talking shit about rehab and suicide, shifting the blame for his behaviour on to drugs ect, and putting me in a position where I couldn’t keep having a go at him because I’ve always been terrified he’d one day top himself. Its so fucked up but I still care about him as a friend. I told him to stop behaving like some bullshit caricature of a guy in a band and to take some responsibility for himself. He kept trying to start up normal conversations, not understanding that I wanted to cut some ties. Not long after this, a friend of mine confided he’d done a similar thing to her recently, touching her up whilst she was asleep and in a vulnerable emotional state. This for me cemented why I cannot remain silent about this, because if I keep quiet he will keep doing it; if his behaviour is not challenged he will keep acting the predator. I informed him via fb that he’s lucky I’m out the country because if I was in London I’d chop his balls of and feed them to my dog. He’s finally stopped bothering me.
A few weeks ago I decided to finish things with my boyfriend. I made it very clear that one of my key reasons was his behaviour around the Tim incident. I actually still think my ex is a really great guy and hope anyone who reads this knowing him doesn’t change their opinion of him - everyone’s an asshole within their private relationships. But what sparked me into writing this blog post was the smallest thing, the tiniest most ‘insignificant’ thing that for me exploded into everything that oppresses me within this community. My ex is not speaking to me - I’ve tried to end things on as good a terms as possible but as far as he’s concerned now I am no longer his perceived possession I don’t exist. Tim and his band do exist however, and my ex ‘likes’ the majority of their fb activity. This is pretty standard behaviour right, ex doesn’t want to speak to woman who ditched him but continues with other friendships as before. But this is the boys club in action - this is the doors closing on me, as a band containing a sexually predatorial man continues to be supported whilst I and no doubt my band - once a source of pride to my ex when I was ‘his’ - are quietly left off the radar.
I have not been vocal about this because, aside from not really wanting to air dirty laundry, I know that it will have a negative effect on me and my band. I know that to make any headway in this community, my band have to play the game, and not question the rules too far because it makes people uncomfortable and they will quietly stop supporting you. I have been the ex-girlfriend-of-a-guy-in-a-band before, the silences are familiar; the silences are not neutral. To reference one of my best friends bands: silence is approval. If I don’t speak against Tim’s behaviour I am effectively validating it - he will do it again.
But I have to say, it has been the process of trying to speak about this incident and the barriers I have faced in doing so that has angered me more than the incident itself. Disturbing as it was THIS SHIT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. Seriously, all the time TO WOMEN. A single incident won’t break me. But a number of incidents, similar things happening to my friends, and a community that turns its back on it will one day. I’m not asking for anyones head on a spike here, I am asking for a community that can question itself, that when something like this happens doesn’t try and excuse it to the detriment of the victim, but looks it straight in the face and says “dude you were fucking out of line.” I don’t want anyone’s band to break up, be boycotted or whatever, I just want men to take some god damn responsibility.
I’m not going to shut up about this. The opening scene of The Punk Singer is Kathleen Hanna performing a grating spoken word “I am your worst nightmare, I’m not going to shut up I’m not going to shut up” about being vocal about sexual assault. It made me realise that I’d way rather be your worst nightmare than complicit in this bullshit. And god fucking help anyone who lets me speaking out about my experiences of assault and sexism in punk rock have any detrimental effect on my band. Your silence will be noted.