A Network of Friends #82

    This column kind of sprung up after reading the “Punx vs. Sexism Primer" that appeared in PROFANE EXISTENCE No.43 last year. Reading that article and also listening to and reading the lyrics of the GARMONBOZIA LP left me with a lot of thoughts reeling around the inside of my head, some of which I hope I have managed to translate onto paper here. The article and the bands lyrics left me feeling angry and frustrated. This is not to say that the article or the bands LP were, or are, in any way negative. In fact quite the opposite. It just seemed to me that at times it appears as though not a lot has changed within this so-called punk scene and that kind of deflates me at times, especially when punk began as a threat, as a  challenge to the so-called norms and concepts that exist in our society and that many of us felt so much dissatisfaction and disassociation with that we drifted into or found the punk scene or created our own world depending on where we lived. I grew up with sexism all around me. It's still there. Not a lot has changed either over time yet early on, when I first found and grasped punk, the ideas and lyrics that I came into contact with offered another world that seemed more equal. And yet, as the article in PROFANE stated at the beginning, "the punk movement has not come much closer to creating true equality within its own circles, let alone brought mainstream society to a more egalitarian state" (p44, Dan & Maygun 2004). You may argue that the latter concept is a lofty ideal (but not unachievable) but the former is one that I think we can all be accountable for. To me, that "Punx vs. Sexism" article throws down the gauntlet of challenging punks to actually think some more about their own actions and words and re-evaluate whether or not you directly contribute to this continuing state of patriarchal sexism that envelopes our society, and 'punk world' too. Learning about ourselves and the world around us can be challenging and scary, especially when confronting those who impose themselves via their physical strength or their verbal windpower(!) yet to help begin to eradicate sexism within our scene to begin with, this is one of the strategies we need to employ. Too many people get away with using bullying behavior and sexist language and do not get pulled up on it at all. Isn't it up to all of us to participate in tackling this problem rather than leaving it to someone else all the time? Isn't taking responsibility for our actions part of the deal? Is it only up to bands to call people on their actions at gigs for instance? To not let things go? Yet they can help by explaining what their songs are about; by explaining what it is that they are thinking or feeling or by letting the audience know that sexist behavior and patriarchal attitudes aren't welcome! But isn't it also up to us to want to create change? To want enough to build a scene where both women and men can feel safe at being in a space where they can express themselves? Bringing a sense of equality to gigs, of tolerance for each other, of respecting each others gender, sex, and creating an openness where folk DO feel allowed to talk and be free to express themselves without infringing on others space is still something I think we are a long way from achieving. I remember at a gig in London that occurred after the Anarchist Bookfair a few years ago when HARUM SCARUM played. There were many women dancing at the front, as well as men, when some punks decided to throw their weight around. The band threatened to stop if this behavior did not calm down. All they received from these punks were insulting comments and derision. After the next song and yet more bullying from these punks the band stopped again. This time the band received support from many of the women at the front of the audience along with some men too and between us all we made the punks leave. Their behavior and actions weren't welcome. They left. However minutes later a brick came through the pub window narrowly missing the drummers head as she was sitting down playing. I don't know whether it was these punks who threw it but it seemed a strange coincidence? That this kind of attitude still exists in a supposedly 'enlightened' scene makes me feel angry and I wonder what the feelings of the women in the audience and the band themselves must have been thinking too.  It's not just about having the freedom to dance without being hit or overpowered but about respecting each other, our space, our opinions, thoughts and ability to be human. Something that many in society seem intent on taking away from us. So do we really need it in our scene too? I think especially that men need to make more of an effort to understand their own sexuality, how their words and actions impeach on not only women but other men too, that patriarchy runs both ways and affects us all. Space is so important because space is what we don't have. We have to fight for it and for punks to lose it because of fighting or sexist behavior destroys the ability for us to get together and learn, open up, discuss issues. If you haven't yet read or seen the PROFANE EXISTENCE article on sexism, check it out. If you want to write or correspond about anything that I have said here then please feel free to write to me at, STEVE HYLAND, ATTITUDE PROBLEM ZINE, PO BOX 326, LEEDS, LS7 3YR, ENGLAND. Thanks for your time.