Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Is it 'Goth' to say you're Goth?

Well, there's something that I've been coming across a lot on the internet, and it's people who insist that, if you're Goth, you're not allowed to say that you are - otherwise you're a poseur. According to quite a lot of people on sites such as Urban Dictionary and Wikihow, calling yourself a Goth makes you 'less Goth'. This, apparently, is because you are labelling youself, and therefore not a 'true individual'.

This is where I get a little antsy. Y'see, in my personal and honest opinion, there is nothing wrong with labels. People put little shorthand tags on things and people because it helps them define the world around them. I label myself. I label others. Having a 'label' doesn't make you less of an individual, because the label does not define the person.

The Goth label, for example, does not mean that Goth is the be-all and end-all of a person's life. For example, you could label me an urban fantasy geek, a lover of Celtic, Medieval and World music, a badminton player, an animal lover, or a diva just as easily as you could label me a Goth. There are many more facets to you and to your personality than could ever be covered by a simple piece of social shorthand - which is why I believe that labels shouldn't matter.

Things get even weirder when people start setting time limits on things. On Wikihow, for example, there's an article that says something along the lines of, "If you've been Goth for at least seven years, then it's OK to start saying you're Goth." Really? Does this mean that people who only discovered Goth three or four years ago are 'less Goth' than someone who's been aware of the scene for years? What if you've had the mindset all your life, started listening to the music eight years ago, and started dressing Goth a year ago? This is just silly.

The only time that labelling becomes a problem is when people use these labels to pass judgement on others - to stereotype you and discriminate against you because of the label they've applied to you. For example, "Tattooed people are trouble;" "Blondes are stupid;" "Loners are dangerous."

Basically, "That person is a Goth," is fine. "That person is a Goth, therefore they eat babies and want to kill everyone," is not. "That person is a Goth, therefore they eat babies and want to kill everyone, so we should beat them up," is definitely not.

All those people who start having hissy fits when labels are applied to them are fighting a losing battle. How will their friends and family describe them to others without applying some sort of tag? "He's an art student with brown hair." That's two labels, right there. At the very least, people who go about shouting, "Don't label me!" are going to be labelled, 'people who don't want to be labelled'.

And why does it really matter? If you're proclaiming your absolute individuality, then you clearly aren't bothered much about what people think of you. So who cares if they think you're punk, Goth, emo, chav... whatever? Having a label does not mean that you have to be stereotyped. I'm a Goth and a fan of Linkin Park (I saw you wince there...) and t.A.T.u, for example. Belonging to the Goth subculture defines some of my tastes - but not all.

It's fine to think of yourself as a Goth, a gamer, a fan of Tim Burton - anything! But don't let yourself feel trapped by those definitions, because there is always more to a person than a single label can encompass.

Amelia Dolore
Source: Photobucket
So what it comes down to is, calling yourself Goth does not mean you're a poseur. It means you know and understand what you like, are comfortable with a part (however large or small) of who you are, and have a strong sense of self so you don't get boxed in by definitions - whether they're other people's or your own. Plus, it means you've got the balls to say it.

Now, I don't think I've posted a free download in a while, so I'll just squeeze one in here. This song is called Crystal Castle (click title for link) and it's by a gorgeous Russian darkwave band called Purple Fog Side. The video is quite stunning too.

Listening to: Top of the City - Kate Bush


kimet said...

for me,be a goth,and be all the rest of things,is to be a poseur,and i think is imposible don`t be something,only when you are dead,you are not a poseur.


Laurence 'The Beard' Williams said...

This is something a lot of people new to the genre will be concerned with, and I'd like to offer my gratitude for covering this. It concerned me for while when I first came into the genre, but personally I feel its fine to refer to yourself as a 'goth' when describing your tastes, particularly to an outsider. There's no real shame in it, it just depends who you you're talking to.

Of course many people are still offended with labels, but I've developed my own means of defense in this respect. When someone asks me if I'm goth or not, I generally like to respond with 'I dress in my own way, any resemblence to the gothic subculture should be seen as sheer coincidence'. Seems to work.

MissGracie said...

When I was younger I used to be really self-concious about using the word 'goth' to describe myself because I was worried about all the connotations that the word came with. Now that I am older I use it with out hesitation! It's a huge part of who I am and I am not embarassed to use the word, even when some people say I'm "not really a goth".

ultimategothguide said...

Thanks guys; I wasn't sure if this was a bit of a 'silly' topic to post on, so it's great to get your feedback! =D

Anonymous said...

This was a pretty enlightening article, it cleared up a couple of doubts/questions I had in my mind.

I totally agree that we should feel 'confined' or 'obliged to stick to' a single label or what not. My interests are all over the place, and while I am commonly regarded as Goth by people I know, I am also a gamer, I play in a progressive hardcore band, I write deathcore music, and all sorts of stuff 'outside of the Goth label'.

Anyway, awesome article!

Anonymous said...

Ahem, that was meant to say "shouldn't be". Sorry for the typo!

cytenga said...

This point has been elaborated to the high aenchylus of Corvar Morack's inner lugubrium. The google groups reference is:

I quote the mask I wear when being serious:

"here's what happens:
bunches of random things
have irregular blobs drawn around them
then those blobs are given names
those names become systems, become a canon.
some staunchly defend nascent canons.
others keep seeing the blob stage
The Defenders of Nascent Canons (now
I draw my little circle for a self
referential joke) impart thermodynamics
to these blobs. They become like cells,
or systems. Subject to the second
law, without aggregation or inflow,
they stagnate and die. So don't draw
the circle, and live.
The funny thing here is that without
really trying the Defenders of Nascent
Canons manage to be contradictory:
there will always be people who
start, in any century and in any time.
So there's always an inflow, and
there system remains stable.
Oonh "

(in this thread: bored with goth...(pointless, rambling))

I ask of you, not as my eigenidentity Oonh, but my developed persona, to please return to alt.gothic. We're not web2.0 people. Come back! The dark harshness of our inner whorling heart demands your attention, you beautiful erudite juggernauts.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Amy, will you regard to me how you can even say this?

You said in an earlier article that emo kids make you roll your eyes, and then listed I beleive
"music that isn't goth". YOU criticise people, yet regard that its not okay to be hypocrytical.
Please Write back.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Anon - stereotypical 'I'm sooo creepy and depressed' emo kid behaviour makes me roll my eyes.

There are different genres of music... some music comes into the category of Goth rock. Pop, metal, emo and country, for example, don't, hence the list of non-Goth music. It's OK to LIKE non-Goth music if you are a Goth, and I have never said otherwise.

Criticising something is different than being a hypocrite. Saying that something 'isn't Goth' is not a criticism. And people who base their behaviour on silly stereotypes DO make me roll my eyes, which is a criticism but is not hypocrisy.

Does that clear everything up?

InfiltratorN7 said...

I've always said labels are only bad if they are used to discriminate against people or shun them. Labels in themselves aren't really bad. People who obsess other avoiding being labelled and insist they hate labels are kidding themselves. Everyone uses labels. Like the examples you pointed out labels can cover a wider range of things than just subcultural affiliation. It can cover things like your occupation, your sexuality, your political beliefs, religious beliefs and more. You could be labelled as: a student, unemployed, a doctor, a daughter, a son, a mother, a brother, a husband, as single. A label could indicate your interests: a football fan, a Trekkie, a Whovian, a comic book geek, a tennis player, a hiker, a lover of animals, a horse rider, a swimmer, a LARPer. There's a lot of labels!

If you ever study sociology it's inevitable you're going to get a lesson where you're asked to write a list of all the labels which apply to you. I've had to do this a few times. A label only represents one facet of you, your personality, your lifestyle. It shouldn't be used to limit who you are. Like you said in another post, you don't need to run round loudly proclaiming you're goth to everyone you meet but you don't have to deny it if you're asked and you don't want to. I always thought the denying you're a goth thing was just a joke relating to the likes of Andrew Eldritch who vehemently denies they're goth. Labels are just handy tags so people can get an idea about a person, who they are, what they do, what they are passionate about, what they believe. We're not blank slates.

Anonymous said...

I'm still afraid to call myself a goth because I'm not sure if I'm goth enough.

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