Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Discrimination against Goths

Discrimination against Goths and other alternative subcultures is nothing new. Even back in Ye Olde Days, way before Goth, before punk, it was the mods and the rockers that society regarded with suspicion and prejudice. You would think after all these decades that people would have begun to accept that just because something is new or different does not mean that it's going to harm them.

Originally punk and Goth were considered shocking and possibly dangerous, a rebellion against societal norms, and, in the case of punk, a cry for anarchy. Whilst punk still holds to its strong views, it is far from being as widespread as it once was - whilst punk isn't dead, it has more or less been relegated to slouching through the alleyways of London Town wishing for the good old days. (Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne, by the way, are NOT punk. I'm actually offended at the very thought.) The punk spirit lives on, where it hasn't been subsumed by ready-made punk clothing and so-called pop-punk bands.

Goth, too, has in some ways become a shadow of its former self. DIY clothing is seen less and less, the 'true' Goth music has been buried under a mass of commercial, mainstream-friendly rock and metal music, and most people are no longer shocked at the sight of a person dressed all in black wearing heavy make-up and a pair of DMs. Goths are now seen on popular TV programmes; bands which may not be Goth, but which have a distinctly Goth aesthetic, are now appearing regularly on MTV. Cartoons such as Invader Zim (written by Gothy favourite Jhonen Vasquez), Grim and Evil, Ruby Gloom and Beetlejuice are more popular than ever. The rise of Twilight has propelled the popularity of books about brooding, mysterious, HOT eyeliner-clad vampires and pale, dark-haired girls into the stratosphere.

Goth is everywhere.

Why, then, is the subculture still regarded as something fearful, something alien? Fear is what fuels prejudice and discrimination - way, way back in the Dark Ages, if something or someone different came to your village, it was likely to be carrying strange foreign diseases, or looking for a way to steal your food. We may no longer be living in the Dark Ages, but people are still afraid.

Discrimination against Goths abounds in modern society, and takes many forms. Goths may not be able to get jobs, even when their appearance is toned down to fit with a uniform or dress code. In schools, young alternatives are persecuted - verbally abused, physically attacked, and often these assaults are allowed to continue by teachers, either out of fear of the bullies or because they, too, still secretly hold this belief that being different is 'wrong'. There are Bebo and Facebook pages set up specifically to target Goths, some threatening sickening violence.

Worse. Sophie Lancaster, a 20-year-old Goth girl, was murdered defending her also-alternative boyfriend from a savage attack by a gang of thugs. The motive for the attack was simply the way the couple chose to dress. A Goth woman was thrown down a flight of steps on her wedding day because of the way she looked. In Leeds, a trio of men assaulted and robbed a group of Goths, cutting the ear (!) off one of them. In America a twelve-year-old girl was stoned by the congregation of a baptist church because she was wearing black clothing and carrying a Stephen King book. A woman from Germany visiting the country was gang-raped and left on the street because of the clothes she was wearing.

These are extreme cases. Most often, the discrimination is slight - the occasional name-calling, sometimes a push or a shove, a nasty online message. Sometimes it comes from one's own family - 'for your own good', of course.

Do we really deserve this? Do we deserve to be hated, just for choosing to look different, to walk down the street looking the way we choose, in the clothes we want to wear? What is so threatening about someone dressing differently that means they should be abused, attacked, or beaten? It makes us happy, it's not hurting anyone else - we should be left in peace.


Morcega said...

I've heard about all cases, but not the last two. Where did you read them? I've search and I didn't find anything...

Amy Asphodel said...

The one about the German woman was in a video by Laureli Slaughter as spokesperson for the Gothic Liberaion Front. I can't remember where I read the article about the twelve-year-old, it was some time ago now. I will see if I can dig it up.

Morcega said...

Thank you, I really want to read them =) I run a blog more or less like yours, but in portuguese, and I normally write about attacks of this kind (be them old or recent).

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