Thursday, 27 January 2011

Enough with the patronising, already

Source: Google Images
Well, I know this is a pretty old topic, but I've been going back over it a lot recently, and I've realised that it really, really, REALLY annoys me. Many of you reading this probably remember the petition that was set up online to have attacks on people because of their subculture or because they looked 'alternative' legally recognised as a hate crime under UK law. The details of the petition, for those who don't know, are as follows:

"In remembering the case of a Lancashire couple, who recieved an horrific beating, for the way they were dressed and, in which an innocent young woman lost her life, the Alternative & Gothic community puts forward that the definition of hate crimes should expand to protect subcultural people where the law is concerned. Most gothic/subcultural people regularly complain of being harrassed, abused, spat on or attacked for the way they look, having done or said nothing to otherwise provoke this. People who prefer 'darker' fashions; who sport facial piercings, alternative makeup or dyed hair regularly experience being singled out on these grounds, by the less tolerant. When this escalates to physical attack and, in this instance, death of an innocent person, it is clearly unnacceptable. According to the home office, the definitions of 'Hate Crime' include race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. We feel this list should also include: "On the basis of personal appearance or subculture"."

The UK Government's response was:

"The Government's current definition of 'hate crime' is as follows: A 'hate incident' is any incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by hate or prejudice.

A 'hate crime' is any incident which contributes to a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.

Within this broad definition, legislation focuses on hate crimes on the basis of race, faith, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity - and it is these categories which are currently monitored. We do not plan to extend this to include hatred against people on the basis of their appearance or sub-cultural interests. These are not intrinsic characteristics of a person and could be potentially be very wide ranging, including for example allegiance to football teams - which makes this a very difficult category to legislate for. However, it is important to remember that this is within a legal framework that assumes that all violence is a very serious matter; and in addition, judges have discretion to look at a wide range of mitigating and aggravating factors when they are sentencing - and are likely to view attacks motivated by hatred of this kind as very serious indeed."

Personally, I strongly disagree with the notion that subcultural affiliation is as 'non-intrinsic' as allegiance to a football team. Have you ever tried getting a full sleeve of tattoos removed? Yes, for some people, Goth is a phase. For some, it is a passion. I think mostly it's the patronising attitude that irks me, as though the entire 'Alternative & Gothic' community are a bunch of pre-teens in Halloween make-up. Most of us do not change subcultural allegiance as easily as some people change allegiance between sports teams.

This attitude is reflected in so-called 'middle class media', for example, the Daily Mail. I read the Daily Mail, by the way, and I find it very irritating that, for example, not a single word was printed regarding the infamous emo protest march to, where was it now, ah yes, the Daily Mail offices. Apparently, emos object to having their subculture labelled as a 'cult', but unfortunately in Daily Mail-speak, everything subcultural is labelled a 'cult'.

Remember That Article (yes, That Article with capitals) by Sarah Sands? It was entitled 'Emo Cult Warning For Parents' and whined on about how us Goths and emos (for an article that was supposed to be about emos it certainly had a lot to say about Goths) are depressed and suicidal. As usual. Here are a few quotes for you to roll your eyes at:

"There is a also a term which is new to me and amounts to a much more dangerous teenage cult. The Emos - short for Emotional - regard themselves as a cool, young sub-set of the Goths." Er, they do? Damn, I missed that. And here I thought they were a whole separate subculture with some slight similarities. Shows how much I know. Good thing I don't write for the Daily Mail, eh?

"Many of the alluring women of our time - Nigella Lawson, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Lily Allen - have a touch of the Goth about them." Yes, Nigella Lawson, Lily Allen (the chav idol) and Sophie Ellis Bextor are soooooooo Goth. Somebody shoot me. (Hmm, now was that me showing my suicidal tendencies, or an attack of sarcastic nausea brought on by all this ignorance? Well, dear reader, I leave that for you to decide.)

"But compared to the music, the poetry is positively cheerful. The Gothic bands have names such as Bloody, Dead And Sexy or Colder Than Death." Talk about scaremongering! The band's name is actually Love Is Colder Than Death, which I think you'll agree is far less morbid.

"Although Goths are from the same family tree as punks, they are a lot less fun to be with. While I loved punk for its energy, Goths were too bloodless to lift a finger. One of the most annoying characteristics of teenagers is their refusal to open their curtains. Their world is dark and airless. If this environment is coupled with the psychological traits of self-pity, introspection, self-dramatisation and hormone imbalance, you have a fully-fledged Emo, even without the small T-shirt and black hair. The wondrous thing about being an adult is that you have so much more to worry about that you stop striking poses and get on with it." There is so much wrong with this paragraph that I'm not even sure where to begin. 'Too bloodless to lift a finger'?! Tell that to, for example, Adora BatBrat, or Rogue from the Cruxshadows, who can't seem to sit still.

And the whole 'curtains' thing? What on earth does that have to do with anything? Considering that earlier on in this same article, Ms. Sands was droning on about how Goth is 'depressingly retro' for those who lived through the 80s, surely she should have some small awareness that actually, not all Goths are fifteen years old. Also, where is the logic here? "I never open my curtains - dammit, I must be Goth."

HORMONE IMBALANCE? Oh, go away and worry about your own hormones. And that comment about adulthood? Madam Sands has clearly never been to the Whitby Gothic Weekend, or actually met any Goth who isn't a mallgoth.

"What worries me is that teenagers are less equipped to manage strong emotions and a cult of suicide could have real and horrible consequences. It is irresponsible for the fashion and music cultures to encourage it. If you want retro style, I recommend Ian Dury's song Reasons To Be Cheerful." One - THERE IS NO CULT OF SUICIDE. Two - fashion does not 'encourage' us. We are not sheep. Three - this bit of music recommendation here... see what I mean about patronising?

I can understand to a certain degree the level of misunderstanding in the response from the UK government - they are not journalists. Sarah Sands, on the other hand, should have had some sort of obligation to research both Goth AND emo before she sat down and wrote the above load of utter bollocks. How embarrassing that this ignorant, faintly ridiculous piece of nonsense was published in a national newspaper.

If you think you can bring yourself to read the whole article (which claims, by the way, that emo conversation consists of sighing, wailing and poetry... oh, dear) you can find it here.

Right, sorry about this very long rant about really outdated things. I'm now off to slit my wrists and listen to songs about murder and mutilation. While I'm at it I might write some depressing poetry.

Oh, hold on, I DO write depressing poetry... never mind.


Mark said...

Dear Ultimate Goth Guide. I deeply agree with you on this subject. The UK law should be changed, and the media should stop Scapegoating proper Goths. I was disgusted by the appalling treatment of Sophie Lancaster, by idiotic chavs. The UK Government should sit up and listen to Subcultures.

Nox Artemis said...

I saw the Love is Colder than Death switched to "Colder than Death" part of the article too. It made me so mad, not only because LCTD is one of my favorite goth bands, but clearly the author of the article never listen to them in order to hear what they really sound like. Everybody knows that you lose all of your credibility if you alter the appearance or name of something in order to make it more threatening, which is probably why they don't even allow comments on that article anymore.

And what's wrong with pre-Raphaelite art, especially the depiction of women in it? And Lord Byron? Geez. This lady just doesn't want to be pleased. Most adults go on and on about how teens aren't "cultured" and need to appreciate art, literature, and classical music more. But I guess when a certain type of person actually takes a liking to these things, THEN something is wrong.

I just don't get this article. It's not even superbly written: it's more like a pitiful rant.

Laurel said...

I'm not in the UK, so technically my opinion has no bearing--but if someone was assaulted on the grounds of their association with a particular sports team--hello, that's still a crime in my book. And a very stupid one, at that. It makes me mad that discrimination based on subulture isn't considered a crime--it is part of many people's identity, and as for gender , race, and disability, in some cases you can readily tell by looking at someone. Not always, of course. But in the US, the law extends to people who may not have a visible disability, for example. I really wish this could change--it'snot like we're all going to start saying "I can wear what I want, when I want, where I want, regardless of what others think because telling me not to is discrimination." No--we're talking about people often being attacked when they're not at work, school, or any other circumstance that "requires" a certain type of dress. It's almost like they're saying we deserve to be punished because we wear what we want in our free time--but it's okay for everyone else to wear what they want because they don't look drastically different. I think that needs to change--that is pure prejudice. Not to mention a gross double standard.

Emily Lynn G. said...

Awwww I remember that tragic attack on that poor couple, it's still a big hot topic for the subculture community. Miss Amy, I can see where the UK government is coming from, the proposed law would also extend to immature,ever-changing mall goths as well, and the argument over what is and isn't subculture would become legal, not just social. (is anybody with black hair and a piercing sub cultured? I'd be hard to determine the line. keep in mind how ignorant these people are of what you already know about subculture.) But I can see why the family of the victims (and you) would want a law like this. If anybody is being threatened stypesenselessly, the law will be on their side, regardless if it's a hate crime. The guys are spending their golden years in prison and no job is ever going to hire those thugs.
Most importantly, Sophie's death and the attack on her boyfriend has raised awareness that goths aren't "evil" or whatever, like that nut job lady said, but people with loved ones,contributions, and aspirations that now will go left behind and unfulfilled. We just have to keep supporting organizations like S.O.P.H.I.E, teaching people that anti-bulling rules aren't just something we should leave behind in high school. Wouldn't it be nice if the world practiced what they preached, whether the people in question are 15 or 50.

Angel of Darkness said...

Clearly the lady writing that article has something against teegagers, emo or not. By the way, I agree with what you said about the whole thing. I can see why the government there did say what they said though.

Anonymous said...

I noticed in the article she uses "The Emo Song"/"Dear Diary" to show what emo culture is actually like. Clearly, this person doesn't understand satire, irony, hyperbole, or parody, and thus should not be writing! (Especually for a newspaper, which should be a beacon of information and neutrality.) That article is fraught with error; I cannot blame you in the slightest for your rants about it.
As for the law, I can see how they would be against pressing hate crimes against people because of subculture or sports allegiance, since those are easily changed, but hate crimes based on appearance should definitely be on the radar. Like you said, it's kinda hard to get a full sleeve of tattoos removed.

sweetcyanide said...

I stay well away from the daily mail, it just makes me angry- nobody needs information centered on so much bigotry. It really is the worst kind on newspaper. And given how scared they are of anything outside the norm I'm not surprised they take this view towards goths at all.

The sad think is there are people who actually believe this crap :-(

Julietslace said...

LOL the Daily Fail, it appeared in my house the other day and I hadn't even half way through when it pissed me off. I told her to never bring it in again, sexist "Tory" bullshit :/

Laurel said...

Yes, the quality of the source must be called into question. On the other hand, let's ask ourselves one little question. What is the point of a newspaper? To sell it, not to inform the people reading it. By scaring parents that their children might be a part of a suicide cult than they will definitely move stock.

Although I get the feeling that they only sell to people who are already "impressionable". Mold might be making your family sick anyone? Or the germs that might be in your kitchen sink that could kill you? What about the drugs that your children might be ordering online? All future headlines too.

Where does everyone else get their news from anyway? I poke around some messageboards, but I was wondering if anyone could recomend a decent paper that covers world issues?

Laurel said...

I forgot to mention that the sarcastic comments crack me up!

Anonymous said...

OK, so I'm the only one in my workplace who wears black lipstick and big, stompy boots. I also get more hours than most of my co-workers because I work hard and my managers like me. I've made good grades all my life, and I generally try to be a polite, pleasent person. Strangely enough, I shave the sides of my head, wear white foundation, favor the color black, listen to disturbing music by the Banshees, Sisters, etc. and am extremely enthusiastic about the goth subculture. Well, I must be a rude, suicidal idiot who wants to kill people. Goths really ought to write to these collumnists and (politely) complain and try to correct their misconceptions. Unfortunately, there are some nincompoops out there that take themselves too seriously and do stupid things like sigh, wail, and cut themselves for the lolz of it, but they do not represent the majority.
That being said, the notion of a hate-crime is a bit silly and rather complicated. I agree with Laurel and Emily Lynn G.'s comments. Can't crimes just be crimes? People need to be punished for doing wrong to others, no matter the motivation. As long as the government puts us all into seperate little catagories, we'll never be treated as equals.

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

In saying that, I love Nigella Lawson, and Lily Allen is some kind of rockabilly-meets-chav. She's a chav in the same way as Rose and Jackie Tyler from Doctor Who are - manner of speaking, and probably poor-travelled, but genuine (if blunt) people and rather loveable. I think "she has black hair. must be a satanic goth" comes into play here.

HalloweenQueen said...

...I was discusding this very topic with a friend of mine the other day. I like the fact that ...religon..which is a CHOICE, oh im catholic, oh no im converting to islam...can be used as a category for hate crime, but something i...we ..are most without choice, like being gay something you cant make a choice of being is not a category for hate crime. Ive always compaired being goth to being either are or you arnt, its something inside you, the only choice you do have is wether you hide it and deny who you are for the comfort of others and have a so called easy life, or you can embrace who you are and live as what you are. If i could getup in the morning and pull on a pink t-shirt and stone wash jeans and brush my naturally brunnete hair and wear some glittery lip gloss and think i looked pretty life would be so much easier, if i could listen to beyonce and read romance novels and aspire to be a footaballers wife ( im not categorising im just using an extreame example), if i could not feel the need to fill my home with macabre trinkets, get rid ofof my tattoos, take my pericings out, not ththink corsets were comfy, if i could stop my self for geting excited at halloween, if i"normal", dont you think i would...doesnt everyone just want to live their lives without being stared at, without being ridiculed, without being afraid to walk certain places, to be free to go to buy milk without having people follow you. how i am and what i am didnt come about through a teen phase a marlyin manson cd, angst, and an eyeliner pencil, im not the music i listen to, or the clothes i wear, im a complex human made up of millions of parts which culminating in ME. the way the government seams to view us is an interest group, a social club, with common interests and a uniform. the quicker these idiots open their eyes and realise we're not supporting a football team, and this isnt in a lot of cases a choice then maybe the next one of us is chased down the street with the words "goth, freak,vampire,satanist,weirdo" screamed at us before we have our heads caved in, might get some sort of protection or recognition. sorry for the length of the comment, but i'll end on a personal note, after being pointed at and derogitory comments passed around me when i was heavily pregnant my then partner ( not goth) told me to tonne it down because the way i dressed attracted attention to me ( im a victoriana goth) and if anything happened to our baby it woukd be all my fault.ignorance and predjuduce is what it is, across the board and needs to be recognised as such.

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