A response to Patrick Kindlon’s (End of a Year/Self Defense Family) piece on sexism over at PunkNews
A reader recently brought to my attention a piece by Patrick Kindlon over at PunkNews, offering his thoughts on the recent sexism debate that was jump started by Lauren Denitzio’s guest post here, continues in further guest posts on the topic, and has recently been taken up by the good people over at PunkNews. I’m gonna clarify here, in case anyone was wondering, that the editorial staff over the the Org have been enormously supportive of the series from the start, and I couldn’t be happier that they’re curating a companion series, mostly because I’m pretty lazy, and any excuse to slack off a bit is great news for me.
Anyway, Patrick’s piece is extremely well argued and thought provoking, and warns against the unwitting construction of a monolithic punk scene where individuals are frightened to speak their minds in case they are socially ostracised or otherwise silenced or excluded. I strongly suggest you read the entire piece, before considering my comments. You can find Patrick’s article here.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s my response. It can also be found, in a messier form, over on the comments to the article itself.
Patrick presents an interesting position, founded on strong basic principles of freedom of expression, and the establishment of a marketplace of ideas. However, there are a few points I’d take issue with. Firstly, I’ll address the points about prostitution, which aren’t entirely relevant to the core of Patrick’s position, but I feel ought to be addressed as well.
Prostitution, or sex work more generally, is not monolithic. That said, there are plenty of reasons to be extremely wary of the sex industry, if not outright hostile to the entrenched power structures, most notably patriarchy, economic deprivation, drug addiction, and organised crime, that cause much of the sex industry to be manifest in the way it is. While I believe that, in a free and equal society, an individual should be at liberty to exchange whatever goods and services they so choose, we live in a late modern capitalist society, with a firmly entrenched patriarchal power structure, and for a great many people, disproportionately working class women, migrants, women of colour, victims of childhood sexual abuse, etc. our society is neither free, nor equal, and thus, the exchanges they engage in, are not usually made of their own volition in any real sense.
“Efforts to bully people with different views are counterproductive. I’m an adult with a brain, so my first response was to examine the situation and attempt to see if from other perspectives. If I was nineteen when this happened, my response would have been, “Kiss my ass, nerds. I’m going shut you out and go harder in my own direction.” With that in mind, I think it’s important that punks ask themselves what the goal is when confronting someone. Is it to show them the “right” way to live through education? Or is it to change their behavior through intimidation? Or is it just to placate your superior attitude?”
I couldn’t agree more. Encouraging debate and reflection in supposedly progressive music based communities was what this was all about from the off. That said, I don’t think we can equate rhetoric designed to illuminate oppressive structures, situations, and social norms, with bullying people into living the “right” way. Every one of the guest articles on this topic I’ve posted on I Live Sweat has pointed out where failings in a supposedly inclusive culture sit. Now, we can either declare all ideas fair game in an ideas marketplace and leave it at that, or accept that some ideas are fundamentally harmful and should be challenged wherever they appear.
This isn’t about censorship. Everybody has the right to express themselves in whatever way they choose. That said, we have a moral responsibility as individuals to try to minimise the harm we do to others, and tacit support through silence of a clearly patriarchal and frequently sexist movement, is still support for that system. Put simply, we should speak out. We owe it to ourselves, and to eachother.
“As I understand it, the essays people have contributed to Punknews.org on this topic have focused on the fact that sexism is prevalent in punk and hardcore music. Seems like a waste of bandwidth and time to me. We all know that. What I’m more curious about is why you expected anything other that what we currently have.”
Because this is a subculture that was founded, for the most part, on progressive ideas, and has maintained itself as broadly progressive in the majority of it’s many varied incarnations in various territories over the past four decades.
“Where in your punk manual did you read that this was a place free of ugly ideas? Is that next to the page about unity? Punk, historically and today, is a place for varied opinions. Sometimes those opinions are in line with yours; sometimes they are not. For a 19 through 30-year-old to believe that he or she has the right to delegate what “punk” is about to not only his/her contemporaries but also predecessors, is asinine.”
There’s a distinct difference between welcoming varied opinions, and welcoming the type of virulent and dehumanising sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that so frequently seep into discourse at some shows. As for me, or any of us, having the right to decide what punk is about, I’m going to cede command to the late, great D. Boon, who said, “Punk is whatever we made it to be.”
“If you really try you can make your little corner of punk -your scene- anything you want. Sadly, this exercise demonstrates just how “unpunk” everyone really is. It starts with someone considered “cool” asserting their views and leveraging their popularity to make others fall in line. Congrats, you’ve reached homogony. All the freethinking qualities that people praise when discussing punk as a subculture or counterculture are replaced with the same sort of mindlessness you’d find anywhere else. If you don’t think this happens, you haven’t been around very long.”
I can see the point Patrick tries to make here, but it’s bollocks. It is perfectly possible to be open to new ideas, and constantly reflecting on your own personal doctrines, and still be vehemently opposed to irrational and baseless prejudices like sexism. All ideas are not equal, and our movement is quite at liberty to reject them as and when we see fit. Nobody has been calling for a monolithic punk movement. All anyone has been advocating for is mutual respect, security, and a space within which to share ideas and create with one another.
“GG Allin and Crass both wore tight pants and made shitty music. Their similarities trail off after that. Their politics could not be any different. I’d love to hear the argument for either “having no place in punk.”
*scrolls up to the top of Patrick’s article*
“Threats are not protected by free speech laws or the law of common sense; violence, obviously, is not acceptable. Creating a menacing atmosphere makes you a scumbag. Duh.”
That’s GG Allin blown out of the water then.
I’d like to thank Patrick for adding his voice to the debate. It’s not easy to present an opinion you perceive to be dissenting. Although I disagree with much of his argument, his central thrust, that we must resist intellectual stagnation by stealth, as a result of blindly falling in line with a particular dogma without constantly assessing and reassessing those values we have chosen to support, has been a truth enormously pertinent throughout human history.
Andy Waterfield is a 24 year old punk and mutant rights advocate living in South Leicestershire, England. When he’s not running I Live Sweat, reading superhero comics and eating copious amounts of Marmite on toast, he collects social science degrees, in an effort to turn the letters behind his name into an incredibly egotistical game of ‘Hangman’. However, he is assured by Dr. Sheldon Cooper that “the social sciences are largely hokum,” so frequently cries himself to sleep, hugging books about nineteenth century beard cultivators from Germany.
26 Notes/ Hide
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- oofstar said: sexism isn’t an “ugly idea”. it’s part of a larger system of oppression. the idea that there is no place for sexism in punk isn’t about punk. it’s about there being no space for oppression anywhere. i see oppression, i’m gonna speak to it.
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- costak said: Personally? I really liked Patrick’s piece. However, I am super-stoked that you’re responding to it & refusing to bow to simple name-callling, which is what the majority of responses at Punknews.org have been. Stay wicked, Andy.
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