Part III of Issue 1 online – “No more excuses”

Posted: January 18, 2009 in Past issues

No more excuses

If I had to list what bugs me at shows it wouldn’t take much time to think of some points. And I’m not talking about stuff like dead expensive drinks, a boring band or my neighbour’s stinking armpits.
What I have in mind is the stuff that prevented me from „feeling at home“ at a certain location for that evening. The lack of this cheesy but comforting „we are family“-feeling which is an important aspect to me together with the fiery shiver a good performance can give you and the inspiration to change the world.
But all too often it happens that something or someone will abruptly disturb or prevent the nice illusion of a more perfect little world that a satisfying evening at a show can create.
It’s the lame attempts of wasted or just plain brazen idiots to pick you up for a one-night-stand in the most disrespectful way and ignoring the fact that you’ve said no more than once.
It’s the guys who „accidently“ touch your body in whatever places when dancing or simply walking by when it’s crowded.
It’s the folks who dance like they’re trying to seriously hurt everyone in a five metres radius.
It’s the looks you get from the girls who are apparently regular guests and don’t seem to particularly like it that you, as a girl, threaten their precious status of the female minority at a punk show; who kiss their cool boyfriend-in-a-band with ostentation to make sure you won’t set one foot too far on her territory.
It’s people who think it makes them look cool, experienced and a „scene insider“ if they comment your appearance or loudly disesteem the fact that you, as a girl, dare to happily dance like a lunatic instead of lasciviously moving your body in an „aesthetic“ way (ever wonder why it’s usually more guys dancing at shows???).
It’s the merchandising guy telling you he will give you a sticker for free if you lift up your shirt and show your boobies after you complained you lack a few cents.
Alright, I will stop here, you got it and probably experienced this or similar situations yourself.
Let me tell you I’ve had really lots and lots of gorgeous times at shows anyways and shit like the above mentioned very rarely kept me from going there.
I think it’s more than just a hair in the soup though. It isn’t necessary to act disrespectfully at a place where everyone is supposed to have a good time, to get away from the everyday’s rat race, to feel some community spirit or at least have the possibility to enjoy live music in peace.
It can get really hurting, annoying and disappointing and – call me biased – especially if you happen to be the owner of a nice pair of ovaries.
I mean, wasn’t this the original purpose of punk? To rise a big middle finger against society’s rules that restrict your individual expression, that want you to see each other as competitors, that expects you to give in to your „official role“ – males acting like superiour cavemen and females like docile pretty decoration?
Now look at it closely. Most of us have given in to these „rules“, including myself here and then – out of insecurity, thoughtlessness or simply being tired of fighting it.
There’s still places that are awesome to go to, even if they might not be the majority or a perfect paradise. But why do they nevertheless exist? Because there are a bunch of people who hasn’t given in, who do their best to create a fair and encouraging environment, even if it’s „just“ by acting respectful themselves.
It’s the girl who finally slaps the guy who grabbed her ass and therefore pretty much discourages him from doing that to other girls, too – at least for this very evening.
It’s the girls forming bands, encouraging and inspiring other females to forget their shyness and join the fun, as much as getting the guys a little more used to female musicians on the stage – and last but not least contribute to the variety of the local music scene and enrich it.
It’s people in the pit who put the ones who fell down on their feet again, who decide to shout compliments towards the band instead of unnecessary dumb obscenities, who invest nerves and energy to run the whole thing in a way that nobody has to feel uncomfortable.
This isn’t self-evident, and it’s usually an unselfish and hopeful minority doing a little bit more than averting the worst and investing extra time and courage in something that others benefit from most of the time. Without them the sentimental hope of being quite a bit more than lower price entertainment machinery would be abandoned within the shortest time.
Pretty much a reason to give out some thank-yous, isn’t it?
And guess what, a better world – oops: scene is possible. And yes, I give Riot Grrrl the credit for that one.
The Riot Grrrl movement intensely fueled my passion and hope for a creative revolution within the music scene, with its bands, zines, websites, message boards, tapetradings and the whole idea and spirit in general. Where I live you can’t really call it an active scene, it’s more a few grrrls or grrrl-inspired people spread here and there, so I had to go somewhere else to find an amazing example of alive and practised grrrl spirit that the 90ies grrrl veterans would be proud of:
in 2005 I finally managed to visit a Ladyfest, and it had to be Ladyfest Berlin.
Fuck, this is the best evidence that shows don’t have to be half as risky concerning disappointment and hassle as it often can be at „normal“ locations.
I’ve seen girls (and not only them!) of allllll different sorts, I can’t even describe, being proud of what they are and do instead of hiding in false modesty, dancing and screaming along as if there was no tomorrow, spontaneous air-guitar performances on stage, girls dancing half naked just to celebrate their new gained freedom and enjoying the abstinence of judgement, so many talents, so many ideas and dreams from grrrls all over the world. Riot Grrrl is dead? Hah! Far from that!
Sure, there were some unfriendly and strange people, too – but they didn’t matter, they were the minority and just were not important. Cause they got outweighed by so many fabulous individuals that I am glad of having met.
I risk being pathetic here, but Ladyfest Berlin gave me a lot of strength and passion back and every single person there contributed to that.
It seemed so easy: making honest compilmets instead of arrogant judgements, encouraging each other instead of being competitors, welcoming each other whole heartedly instead of getting all cliquey, treating each other honestly, sincerely and respectfully instead of putting others down to make yourself look better.
Ladyfest became an important source of hope, encouragement and inspiration for me, a little oasis. (Do I have to mention I didn’t hesitate a second going to Ladyfest Berlin 2006, too?) This here is also a huge thank you to the organisators and everyone who has been there; I have never felt so totally welcome by complete strangers just for the sake of being the person that I am and for being there. You grrrls seriously rock, and you know that. ❤
The question is: why does it seem an utopia to transport at least a wee bit of Ladyfest spirit to the everyday punkrock show?
Are we that much caught in our habit of judging people by their looks („Huh look at that girl’s outfit over there; seems like someone’s trying badly to prove to be oh so punk!“), by their seemingly distressing behaviour ( „Well, I would be embarrassed being so completely drunk and dancing that ridiculously – everyone can see her underpants when she’s jumping!“), by their way to enjoy the evening („They probably think it’s cool to wave their hands like that…“)? Why do we still have this habit of judging people at all when it’s often just not necessary? Why not just congratulate them for having the time of their lives, for relishing the show in their very own way or even joining them?
Cause if we’re honest, we all prefer a friendly word to a disparaging look, even if we might not be too worried about what others think of us (and mind you, not everyone is confident enough to continue acting unconcerned if they feel observed and judged).
And it really doesn’t take that much to treat each other welcoming and in a respectful manner. All it takes is thinking before we act and to not let our sometimes tattered egos triumph over our integrity.
Sure it might take a while till we overcome our predjudices, but hey, it’s worth it. For both sides. And it’s really not that much of a strain!

Even so many years after the first flames of grrrl revolution started spreading we still can’t properly expect to be treated respectfully and loyally when attending a show, playing in a band, acting in the scene in general – especially if you’re a girl (not even talking about how hard it can be for transgenders or homosexuals…). Because, as much as we embrace the idea of Riot Grrrl, we still try to meet someone else’s standards and also apply someone else’s standards ourselves. We still fear to get hurt and ridiculed if we dare to freely be ourselves or show solidarity with somebody who’s considered „uncool“. We judge others cause we’re afraid of being judged ourselves – in a scene that is meant to be revolutionary, open-minded and oh so different compared to this corrupt and competetive society, when we’ve already adapted society’s rules that we claim to detest so much. Not only does this mean we accept and practice norms somebody else set up and maybe even contradict what we honestly believe in and wish for – we’re the ones that keep running this bullshit system by voluntarily controlling ourselves and others wether we meet this idiotic standards. Cause you know, there really is no Easterbunny, no Santa Clause and – I swear!- no officially approved punk rock police.
We behave like lemmings, being the ones keeping a system running that limits ourselves.

The good news is: if we’re the ones who keep up those dumb standards, it’s also us who can drop that and therefore make a change. And I promise it will feel good!
So let’s stop solely dreaming of grrrl networking, grrrl action, loyalty, respect and in general revolution grrrl style now. Let’s not only wallow in the images of pink websites, lyrics of Bratmobile songs or daydreams of how it could be – but do something ourselves.
Spread the word, share your thoughts. Form bands, make zines (heh…), organise a Ladyfest (or something else), put an exhibition, do a workshop, form a chapter (and remember: there are no formal rules: regularly sitting at your local pub at a certain date, reserving this time for discussions about your local music scene, gender issues and the likes is a cool thing to do, you don’t need to have an official homepage or an elected directorate or something!) – or „simply“ start acting in a way you’d like to see it from others.
No more excuses – it really isn’t necessary to judge wether your fellow female punk show attendant wears a „slutty“ dress, looks „way too scene“, dances „like a moron“ or likes the „wrong band“. Cause it doesn’t matter. She could be you, and you very well know that.
What about trying to make a honest compliment every time you recognise something you like instead? The reaction will most likely be positive, so there’s no reason to be shy.
Or loudly comment on sexist, homophobic or racist crap and the likes. Even if you annoy someone, at least they’ll get sensitised for it and you’ll probably have more supporters on your side than you might think, and they might even increase.
Or if you hear someone complain about how somebody „really shouldn’t dance if it looks like this“ – join the dancer and cap it all off if you wish (anybody seen „Little Miss Sunshine“? Heh there we go…)
And try to be fair, nobody’s perfect – and so aren’t you. Try to neither be overly strict with others nor with yourself, but applaud accomplishments of all sorts. Nice things do deserve appreciation.
Try to be open minded – that’s the huge advantage and strength of the Riot Grrrl movement: That there is space for everyone, as long as they are willing to encourage, inspire, honestly and respectfully commenting each other and think critically. Don’t let this wonderful idea be reduced to nothing but babydoll dresses and listening to all girl bands when it’s got so much more to offer and has more revolutionary potential than any other scene.
Cause we need it, we still need it! Unless you live in a place that already is totally the way you wish it to be. If that’s the case, please tell me and I’ll make sure to visit.
You don’t 100% agree with my ideas from above or have something to add, maybe a better concept? Good. Then try that! My intention was not to establish new rules and force them on you but to make you think and to make you act.
Let me know how it goes, I’d really like to hear about it – and maybe you’ll have the urge to write that down and contribute to a zine *cough*.
May the force be with you! ☺

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    _________________________________

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