Saturday, 5 November 2011

Goth issues: readers' thoughts.

I have noticed lately that Goths (or at least those reading this blog) seem to divide sharply on some of the issues brought up for discussion. Some of the comments have been really thought-provoking and it was interesting to see the opposite trains of thought running through such a close-knit subculture.

Saphire Rainforest
(Source: Saphire's Facebook, with permission)
Photo credit: Random.Eye.Candy.
My post about Goth Halloween costumes and whether or not they are offensive incited comments falling into two main schools of thought:

1) Leave 'em be, they're having fun! Why shouldn't they experiment with our aesthetic from time to time?

Anonymous said: "Generally I don't think the most of people who dress goth for halloween mean any offense, but the ones who dress to perpetuate negative stereotypes (violence, self-harm (yes, I've once seen an 'emo' costume complete with penned on 'cuts'), promiscuity etc) really piss me off. So long as they're doing it respectfully and with an open mind then I don't have a problem with it. I've actually found that some of the people I know who've done the goth/vampire thing for halloween really love the look, but just don't have the courage to wear it all year round."

Traicetrak said: "Depends on why the person is dressing in goth costume. I understand there are those who feel mimicked by it, but I'm sure there are individuals out there who admire the style, but feel too timid to indulge in it until Halloween comes along. I know Halloween was a sort of launching pad for me when I dressed as Amy Lee one Halloween. I had so much fun with it because I realized this was how I wished to dress pretty much all the time. Of course, I did my research and didn't buy off the rack.

"I'm with Toxic Tears and Mira on putting it in perspective with other costumes. I walked into Party City this weekend for a pair of gloves and fake blood, and felt a surge of pity for all the folks gathered in front of the picture wall trying to figure out what was available. They miss out on all the creative fun and pay too much money for it! Even the ones putting some effort into it are pretty much flying blind (like I was several years ago) and bound to make some faux pas, so I think they should be indulged. If their effort is sincere, then they'd probably appreciate some advice."

Bane said: "In general, goth costumes don't offend me. I think most people who dress up as a goth for Halloween are not doing it to make fun. Do they really understand what goth is? No. They're not trying to BE goth, they're trying to LOOK goth. They don't understand enough about the culture to make the connection between the two. They might be ignorant, but usually they're not trying to be malicious. I think intentions matter."

2) It's embarrassing for us and for them, Goth shouldn't be associated with poor quality costumes.

Le Professeur Gothique said, "I would go farther with this and say that what these "normal" people are doing by being "Goth" for Halloween is far more offensive than the quality of the clothes and makeup. In my obnoxious phase I actually went to a Halloween party dressed up like a everyday person. Folks told me time and time again that I wasn't in costume. I pointed out that in comparison to my everyday Goth dress this costume of normal girl clothing IS a costume. Quite a few people were offended by the idea that I thought their normal dress was a "costume," that it didn't have value, depth, etc. When I pointed out that some of them were dressed like I do everyday, they scoffed. The point was made.

"I get offended because how we dress everyday ISN'T a costume. As people we deeply associate ourselves with the things we choose to wear. Clothing says something about who we are and how we want the world to perceive us. It's a very powerful social statement; so dressing up as a "Goth" for Halloween in crappy store bought costumes and horrible Crow-esque makeup is about making fun and satire, not a deep respect for the people in the subculture. Think about it this way: when people dress up as Snookie from Jersey Shore is it to make fun of her or to emulate her?"
The other subject that threw up a rather heated debate was my most recent post, on people who associate with Goth subculture but choose not to dress in Goth fashions. Again, there were two strongly-held trains of thought:

1) You don't have to dress ALL GOTH ALL THE TIME, but if you have no interest in alternative fashion at all - sorry, you're not a Goth.

Toxic Tears said, "Well I don't think fashion is the be all and end all of goth, BUT if someone has no interest in dressing even remotely alternative, there is no way I would consider them goth. I'd consider them someone who appreciates goth music.

"All outfits, beach, office, casual, can be done in a way thats at least a little alternative. Even when I was in school and always had my uniform perfect it was painfully obvious to everyone I was "A weirdo".

"So really, to be a goth, I think you need to have at least SOME of the fashion in there somewhere. Especially if you're not wearing it because you don't like it rather than not being able to because of work."

Chloris said, "I think that most Goths prefer to have some sort of visual "clue" as to whether or not someone will be receptive to them. Something that says "Hey look, I get you, don't worry, I'm safe". It makes things much simpler for a subculture that tends to attract abuse from "outsiders". Maybe that's why fashion sometimes seems so much more than music - like in your example. It's easy to pop in a CD, but publically marking yourself as "something not like most people" takes dedication to the cause."

Anonymous said, "I have nothing but respect for someone who enjoys goth music, and does not dress in what is considered goth clothing. That said, I would still view them as a person with really good taste in music, not as a goth.

"Also, goth or at least "alternative" clothing of some kind is an easy nonverbal way to let other like-minded people know that you might have shared interests. That is important in some ways, because a lot of things that goths like may be considered weird or even offensive to a lot of people and thus we may be hesitant to bring those topics up with people if we can't tell that they will receive it well."

Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said, "Part of the Goth mind set is the over the top fashion statement. You may have money but you are not considered a fine lady if you dress like trailer trash every day. If you don't have the love of the fashion, no matter the style of Goth, you just don't make the grade. You may be a 'Goth lover' but not a Goth yourself."
2) People should be able to express themselves as Goth in more ways than just the fashion, so it doesn't matter how you dress.

Traicetrak said, "As you seem to suggest, I think people who delve into goth fashion are suspicious of those who don't. There is so much nuance within it, there's a lot of wiggle room, so it's hard to imagine someone considering themselves goth without having some form of the aesthetic. However, goth fashion can be a lot of work, and I think there are those who, while appreciating the style, don't like the work. They may be eyed suspiciously, but are they less goth?"

MissVermilion said, "I think that dress as Goth for being one is just completely unnecessary. I have so many goth friends around 35-40 years old who spent their whole life dressing with gothic attires,but now they stop doing it. Actually they are the most learned people (specially in music) I've ever known in Gothic circles and they organize such fantastic gothic events and parties in my area. They're still in Goth scene, but they don't wear any gothic clothing anymore."

(Regina Zee also made a very good point when she added, "When it comes to attending a goth-specific event or a goth club, I think it is courteous to wear appropriate clothing. This goes to non-goths, as well."

I'm certainly not going to hazard a guess at any 'right' or 'wrong' answers for these topics because there probably aren't any, but I find it interesting that a subcultural community made up of people with such closely shared values and interests can approach these issues in such different ways. I think it shows that being Goth doesn't mean being part of a hivemind, and illustrates how Goth means different things to different people whilst still being the same dark scene we all love.


SkeleDuck said...

I like your wording - not being part of a hivemind; goths still being seen as cultists by certain people.

You see more 'experienced' pagans saying the same kind of thing with regards to group attitudes and perpendicular approaches to 'big issues'. 'We're not all the same, and we don't have to all agree. Pagans are not nice, hug-the-world people; we're individuals.' Pagans often being thought of as strictly cultists too, by certain people.

I've often ranted to myself, quietly, that Goth is a matter of common ground rather than an exclusive island mindset: the continent that is Goth is vast, with many mingling people, landscapes, weather systems, flora and fauna, rather than an isolated Galapagos with limited and unique facets.

The thought of sharing your patch of the Goth continent with 'Undesirables' (emo culture, transient lookalikes, even well-meaning newbies) leads to the discriminations we make as Goths, that marking yourself out with Gothic fashion is a true test of loyalty to the culture, that imitations ought to be vilified as tragic seconds to our original efforts, and that one's I-thingy should store only pure 80s Gothic Rock. To us they aren't necessarily 'elitist' but in the eyes of the other residents of the big Goth Continent it feels like internal bullying.

No wonder feelings run high.

Nightwind said...

If all Goths thought exactly the same I don't know whether it would be a subculture that I would want to consider myself a part of. All in all, we're a pretty creative lot and I think it's okay to bring a bit of individuality into our fashion and personal outlooks. Still, do we not identify one another as Goths even at first meeting?

Under_The_Stairs said...

Its nice to see that some people other than me think that goth Halloween costumes are offensive.

Anonymous said...

I like that you said Goth is not a hivemind and different things to different people. I know Goth is a diverse dark scene that we all love, despite the stereotypes of what close minded people use and are uneducated about the culture. Also the costumes are offensive if its mocking the culture in a stereotypical way of sending its message as "scary and shocking" Goth is actually sending a message of beauty in horror in the clothing, NOT for shock value like some of the teenyboppers do.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you put more focus on BOTH sides of these debates with this post Amy. I've been having real issues with the scene lately because of being offended by people saying "you cant look normal, like Bauahus and be goth" as I was always taught music came before anything (yes even fashion- as amazing as it is) and I spent the first 3 years of my Gothdom looking/dressing normal. I feel like these people are discrediting my (and other peoples) places in the subculture by saying ridiculous things like "it HAS to be fashion too" which is RUBBISH. Because I eventually did start dressing it. When *I* wanted too and when *I* was ready.

Your post highlighted that this isnt the common held view of everyone so its basically stopped me from walking away from the scene. I'm just tired of being judged on only my appearance by the people in my community. It would have been the final straw. I love gothic fashion but when people refuse to talk to you because you arent in cyberlox or demonia footwear then thats a problem.


It's great to see lots of Afro/Black/Asian/Jamacian and Caribbean Gothic females around today. It makes me so positively happy and thrilled. I'd worship these beautiful Angels anyday. Any Afro Mistress wants me, she knows where to find me. They are so gorgeous and diverse too.

Siren Red said...

I don't really mind it, I mean Halloween costumes are cheesy anyway (at lest the store bought ones). I've seen some pretty awful genre costumes as well, Punk-Rocker, Metal-Head.. All horrible but purely for fun. Besides I'd rather see someone in a "Gothic Costume" then the slutty mc'slutterson costumes everyone seems to be raving about year after year.

Sexy Big bird seriously?

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