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Saturday, 11 February 2012

On self-identifying as a Goth (and blog title changes)

Hey! You changed your blog name...

I have indeed! I've changed the title from 'The Ultimate Goth Guide' to 'Stripy Tights and Dark Delights' (although this may be subject to change in the near future, I have changed it three times today already), because after giving it some thought over the last couple of weeks I've concluded that this is not, strictly speaking, a 'Goth blog'.

Voltaire says, "Goth is what you make it." Jillian Venters says that her usual answer to the question 'is music or fashion more important when it comes to being a Goth?' is "fashion [...] it takes dedication to bring your closet over to the dark side." But assorted folks have argued that Goth is ultimately a music-driven subculture, a view that on the whole I tend to agree with.

Unfortunately, the debate does not end there. What is Goth music? The obvious answers - The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure - have been denied over and over by the musicians themselves. 'Goth music' is often used as an umbrella term for other genres including Industrial, synthpop, darkwave, deathrock and post-punk, and people will, and do, spend hours arguing (usually on the internet) about whether or not this is accurate. Add Gothic metal into the debate and things get even worse. So even when we manage to agree that it's a music-based subculture, we can't agree precisely what that music is.

If the term 'Goth music', when used properly, refers to trad Goth and Gothic rock alone, is knowledge and appreciation of some of this music enough? You might think so, but there are some who firmly feel that 'you must listen to THIS MUCH Bauhaus to be a 'real goth'.' Or that owning a My Chemical Romance album automatically cancels out the rest of your Goth cred, despite the fact that nowadays you can often hear the strains of My Chem, Evanescence or even, yes, Marilyn Manson in Goth clubs up and down the UK alone.

For every group of people who look at their subculture of choice as versatile, dependent on their own tastes, preferences and opinions, and that the 'rules' of said subculture are (like the Pirate Code) more guidelines than rules, there are those who hold that being part of a subculture means fulfilling a certain criteria (dressing a certain way, listening to certain music) and then sticking more-or-less rigidly to those boundaries.

By which criteria, this is not a Goth blog, because it covers cyber, Industrial, steampunk, some metal and Lolita, as well as a wide range of things that would come under the vague, far-reaching label of 'dark alternative'. I previously referred to this in the header of the blog, "Everything about Goth and dark culture," and have simply made it a bit more obvious that this blog covers more subjects than those which can be considered arguably, even undeniably, Goth.

There is another, slightly more petty reason why after using the Ultimate Goth Guide moniker since the age of sixteen, I felt I wanted to change it. When people offline ask, "What's your blog called?" I have started to feel a bit of a twonk saying, "Um... the Ultimate Goth Guide." I have learned that blog titles that are thought up as a sixteen-year-old pretentious young Gothling on Piczo are perhaps not as appropriate for a supposedly-more-experienced twenty-something, no matter how tongue-in-cheek and ironic you think you are being!

I have not changed my URL or e-mail address because frankly I think it's somewhat discourteous when people are linking to you.

So are you a Goth or not then?

That depends very much on your perspective! I had been thinking lately about whether or not to continue self-identifying as a Goth since by some people's criteria the label might not be strictly accurate. This dilemma was summed up very nicely by a couple of comments on my recent post, The Gothic Metal Debate.

Cassandra said, "After much soul-searching, it is debates like this that have made me decide not to self-identify as goth. That actually won't change much of anything for me. I'll continue wearing my black-lace-coated outfits, wearing theatrical makeup any hour of the day I please, listening to whatever music I please, reading delightful goth blogs like this one [thank you!], signing my e-mails "sanguis fluit," and generally indulging my penchant for "The Dark Side."

"I just feel like if I start calling myself goth, I'm going to get into a senseless argument with someone (probably multiple people) eventually, and it's just not worth it to me. If someone else identifies me as goth, I probably won't argue with them. If someone else tries to tell me I'm not goth, I don't feel the need to defend anything I'm doing aesthetically to anyone. Now that I think about it, this is kind of a liberating decision. I was kind of sad about it up until now."

Darling Violetta responded, "I agree with this 100%! People want to classify something that, as far as I can tell, was very much an organic thing. From what I can tell there weren't any rules on what is and isn't goth back then. Actually (from what I read and have heard from people who where there) people back then didn't call themselves goth. Someone else (i.e. the media) did and many back then rejected the term because it was the media's attempt at confining a very much amorphic movement.

Where I live people aren't concerned about what is or isn't goth. You do what you like and happen to find others who share your interests. It just happens that what we all have in common is a common draw to a particular aesthetic that shows up in many of our interests (i.e. fashion, literature, music, movies). Sure, we may like similar bands. But, the only thing connecting these bands would be the aesthetic not the genre classification. Honestly, as much as we argue online about what is or isn't goth it doesn't change anything in real life. People will still dress in their black clad finery, listen to bands like Mandragora Scream, Blutengel, and Deathstars regardless if someone thinks they're goth or not, and hang out with others who do the same. To all of you out there who don't fit the traditional more narrow defintion of Goth there's a whole group of wonderfully dark and whimsical people who couldn't care less. Where do you think the Schwarze Szene came from? ;)

Cassandra, you're not alone in your decision. Really, most people I know don't consider themselves Goths. Yet, are the delightful ookie spooky people I know them to be. I feel that's the point of it all, really. Defining Goth isn't as important as it is to define yourself. :)"

Unlike Cassandra, I have decided to continue referring to myself as a Goth, as a useful way of describing a large proportion of my interests and the like-minded community that I am a part of both on and offline. Ultimately my interests and passions are more important to me than what label people choose to put on them. At the end of the day, the fashion and music that I love, Goth and otherwise, give me pleasure and I have no intention to put limits on what I will and won't enjoy in order to fit someone else's Goth policies. If that makes me 'not a Goth' in some people's eyes then so be it.

Very special thanks to Darling Violetta for summing this up so beautifully.

What does this mean for the future of this blog?

Um... not very much, really. These small changes are simply so that I can continue writing what I enjoy without having to quibble over whether it's 'Goth' or not. The content will stay pretty much the same; I can't think of any radical changes that will be occuring, although I intend to edit my 'What is Goth?' and 'Site Policies' pages to avoid causing any confusion.

I'm really very excited about the new title, because I now feel I can continue to cover a broad range of topics without making anyone uncomfortable. :-)

Same stuff, more accurate title, really. Worry not. ;-)

42 comments:

Miss Eva Morgan Reeve said...

As long as you're happy with the name change darling. :)

Amy Asphodel said...

I wanted 'Dark Culture' but apparently there is already a webzine with that name! >.<

Platinum Dragon said...

IMHO: I think the original name was much catchier and stood out better. The new one may be more "accurate," but reads so watered-down. I subscribed to the blog because it is well-written, but the title is what initially peaked my curiosity.

Amy Asphodel said...

Fair enough, thanks. It was definitely catchier, and if I think of something better I will probably change it again. You may be aware I have been dealing with a lot of fallout over the former title and I felt I'd rather have something more accurate that would cause less problems and allow me to explore more diverse topics.

(If anyone can come up with a better title that's not already in use that would be helpful!)

xToxicTears said...

I recently answered a question along these lines on my tumblr, from an anon that actually found me via this very blog.:) The question and reply can be found here:

http://xtoxictears.tumblr.com/post/17370359956/i-find-it-interesting-that-you-dont-consider-yourself

Amy Asphodel said...

Exactly. EXACTLY. ^ That is what I'm saying. Thank you, Toxic, for being awesome as usual. :-)

xToxicTears said...

>w< <3

I'll admit when I first got that question my brain was like "...Yeah no, cannot figure out where to begin..x_x" haha, so I'm glad it made some sense in the end.:D

Abilene said...

'Stripy Tights and Dark Delights'

All I'm saying is...most adorable name ever. <3

Cali said...

*sees the picture on the top of your blog*
Oh my god you own rocking horse boots? That's awesome.

That is all.

Jo said...

As cute as your new title is, I also have to agree with a previous commenter. The old title was catchier. I felt it really summed up your blog in a clear, concise manner without having readers wonder, "So, what is the focus of this blog?"

TheAspiringGoth said...

I like the new name and picture; I'm in love with your tights.
It will still be a great blog as always!

Chloris said...

Three cheers for personal evolution! My blog is ten seconds old and it's already taking on a life of its own beyond what I originally designed it for. I think these things are just meant to happen. Our blogs change because we change!

I love the new name and I'm excited to continue reading about your gothtastic adventures.

Anonymous said...

What?!

That was what first ran through my head when I saw the name change. That's awesome! And if you are still thinking of title names for future in case you change it :)

" Attack! of the Darkly Infused"

And a little motto: We're coming for you...

Lol, dear oh, i am horrible with title names. :)

kakuidori said...

:-) i dont care what it is called but i like your blog and you should be happy so even if you'd call it 'pink elephantes with baby blue socks' i would still follow because youre awesome! <3

Traicetrak said...

I don't care what you call it.. your blog/your title, but like the others, I think the old title sparked my interest in exploring the blog thoroughly. It may have sparked the same interest in others with more malicious motives, however. But anyone who is going to get overly invested in how a stranger defines herself is a person without a life of his own. I've always appreciated that you give attention to areas of the subculture with which you don't personally identify. It's made this a very well-balanced resource. That's the reason I've stuck around this long, even with my short attention span. ^_^ But in the end, the only person you have to please in this little venture is yourself.

Amy Asphodel said...

You guys are great! :3

Thanks for all the kind comments and especially your honesty. :-)

linnea-maria said...

Oh, the name is lovely, but I miss the old one as well. Althought this is your blog, your thoughts and your writing, your descision. As Chloris said, people changes and so do their blogs. It is a little bit sad that some people have influenced you so much that you definitely can't call yourself goth. Do I have to act, live, listen to music and dress in that complete perspective to be called a goth? Well, then not many could be label themselves that. I hope that you won't quit posting your great articles about different kinds of dark genres, they are always well written and interesting. Keep on doing what whant and follow your heart. Hugs!

Darling Violetta said...

I'm honored that you quoted me! I'm so glad I could be of help to you. In my younger years this ideal took me a while to sort out. People online lied to me when I was young saying things like "goths won't want to talk to you if you don't do [insert thing here]". When that is only true for a certain group of people. People who I wouldn't want to be associated with anyhow. So actually it isn't that much of a loss. I finally stopped worrying when it dawned on me that the word "goth" doesn't define me. The acceptance or non-acceptance by people who call themselves "goth" doesn't define me either. I define me. These days, I'm not big on trying to define goth for a whole group of people. I can tell people who I am and what I like. And, also talk about my friends and what they like. Beyond that I personally don't feel equiped.

I think the reason many people have feel hurt when someone says they're "not goth" is because they put so much power in being accepted. However, a group of people who consider themselves Goth ultimately can't define you. They can exclude you from their social circle. But, that doesn't change who you are.

So, I am the same with you on this. I do use the word goth on and off at times. If someone says I'm not goth it won't bother me. If someone calles me a goth, while I may wince a bit, I will accept that many things I like are goth in nature (as in the aesthetic).

@Toxic Tears: I can SO relate. Well said! <3

Silver Snow said...

The new name is very cute and I do love it but I also like the old one. I also understand the reason for the name change. :) As others have said, whatever will make you happiest. And as for the whole "Goth or not debate" I have been thinking about that a lot lately. People say I'm not, people say I am... stupid to have such rules. -___-

P.S. ADORABLE PICTURE!!! ;D

Under_The_Stairs said...

First of all,I love the name change,dear.In fact,I might even like it better than the last one.I would also imagine it will enrage far less people.
I agree with your decision to keep calling yourself goth.(Mainly because its for pretty much the same reason I call myself "goth")though the people who do not chose to label make a valid point.

Kaitlyn said...

I understand what you mean about the title, I took a while to figure out my own title because I started as just a lolita blog. When I had just gotten into lolita. Sooner or later I ended up getting back into goth, and then into mori girl. I guess it's just better to have an alternatively ambiguous title, so you can mix everything up. xD

Bane said...

Maybe it's a product of my age, but I don't care much about labels. Much of what I find appealing leans to the goth side. Does that mean I am a goth? In my mind, I am not "a" anything - I am me. I self-identify as myself. Certainly I use "goth" as a convenient shorthand when talking about myself or my interests, but it's not a definition of me.

You mention here in the comments that you "have been dealing with a lot of fallout over the former title." I hope you're not referring to one hate site. It would be very unfortunate if one stranger's opinion caused you to question your own validity. Amy, if you want to write about steampunk or lolita in addition to goth, by all means do it. And do it proudly, not apologetically. :-) To me, you have always seemed a person of broad interests who would not confine herself to goth for long. And, hey, if you like "Dark Culture" but it's taken, you could always go with a creative spelling like "Kulture Darque"... because what's more goth than an exotic name featuring under-represented letters of the alphabet, particularly if it sounds French or German? ;-)

Minakitty (Mary) said...

As long as you're happy with the name change, that's what's most important. I suppose anything else I write would just be echoing others' sentiments. The debate over what is or isn't goth will likely continue until the end of time, so ultimately we all have to do what makes us happy without hurting others (being insulted by a differing opinion does NOT count in this regard!).

Boots said...

Beautifully said Amy :) You've really thought about this and I'm glad you can do what you're happy with now. Needless to say, I'm behind you %100. Keeep up your "Amy-ness".
xox.
-Boots

VictorianAndroid said...

I didn't think there was anything wrong about the title. You've had it for so long that I think it would be just fine to leave it. But changing it is okay too. It's your blog, you can call it what you want and as it seems that the content isn't going to change then I'm still going to read it and it's all good! <3

akumaxkami said...

I quite like the new name of your blog. It's whimsical and fun. ^_^

Nightwind said...

For what it's worth, I liked the old title. It was catchy; and although labels cannot tell the whole story about any one person, I believe the word Goth signifies something; a subculture that enjoys dark music, literature and esthetic. Without that label, I think we lose a certain amount of cohesion as well as a certain idea around which we can rally.

That said, I'll respect whatever you decide to do.

Orlando said...

Although my policy is to not acknowledge the existence of trolls and trouble-makers, I will have to make an exception to say that I hope you are not still troubled by thoughts of that individual and his hate site, and that this has had no lasting effect. I fear he'll probably move on to his next target before long. What a poor way to live one's life. Perhaps he is motivated by some desire to have an influence on the world. I hope sincerely that he may find something more fulfilling to do that does not hurt others, and that he may feel remorse for his behaviour.

I think the real value of questions such as 'What is Goth?', 'Goth or not?' and 'Goth: music or fashion?' is not to come to some consensus, but rather to hear the diversity of opinion that may be expressed in the discussion. Goth has no manifesto and is not a religion although for some it has an equivalent significance in their life. If one explores that idea further, just saying Goth/religion is merely a belief in the greatness of Robert Smith / a divine being / some other criterion, is laughably simplistic. Like a religious belief, Goth is about many things: ritual, tradition, history, community spirit etc.

I don't think you should consider the blog's original title as a constraint on the type of content the blog can contain, and The Ultimate Goth Guide is too good a title to change despite it perhaps occasionally seeming inappropriate for the subject you wish to write about. I have a Goth internet friend who lived in Japan for a couple of years and became very interested in kimono and playing the koto (Japanese floor harp). Blog posts about these and other subjects were well received by members of the Goth social networking site which is my home on the web.

Whether a person self-identifies as a Goth is not very important to me. As an example, take a look at this:
Audio Slide Show at the New York Times
The full story in text
I doubt the guy thinks of himself as a Goth although I would think many Goths will recognise him as one of their own.

I only recently started reading your blog and am enjoying it very much. You put a great deal of effort into it and I really appreciate it.

Orlando.

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

I'm pretty much with everyone else here. If you like it, power to you, but I did like the old name. It was very much an ultimate goth guide, you helped a lot of the younger ones, and myself included, get through the awkward babybat period. I've considered changing mine, but, the title says it all. :P Don't expect the new name to get rid of harassment, though. They're like all bullies - it's not anything in particular, because even if you changed everything about yourself to suit them, they'll find something else.

zePencil Pirate said...

Aww, it's the end of an era. D:
I totally get your reasoning, though. I recently started clearing out a bunch of old stuff I have floating around the internet that I found too teenagery...*barf*

I happily classify myself as a goth, because it gives a name to whatever it is when people ask me. Plus, it gives me something to identify with other battybats. If another goth doesn't think I'm goth, that's their problem. I simply use the label for convenience's sake. I is what I is.
I love the new blog picture. Those are some adorable boots. ^^

Anonymous said...

I love your blog.No matter what you decide the title to be,it will always be an amazing source of help and inspiration.Cassandra's words in this post describe my feelings 100%-i simply enjoy being myself and indulging in the ''dark side'' that i love so much..even if Jillian Venters herself gives me my ''goth card'' fully stamped (that would be fun though,hehe),I don't really care to call myself a goth.I am me.

Amy Asphodel said...

I'd been thinking about changing the title long before the other site came into existence. Hopefully my next post will clear up a few more of my reasons for this change.

Thanks again everyone. :-)

Daniel_8964 said...

I like your new blog's name change. Its your choice, your own whimsy idea and is a darkly cute name. And for identifying myself as a 'Goth'. I do, even I have interests like your boyfriend has such as gaming. I tend to know I'm Goth, so why should I really mentioning myself most of time? The debate about What is or isn't Goth is always debatable and I agree that Voltaire states "Goth is what you make it" It makes it a very diverse subculture like most alternative cultures and more interests to each individual. If there were limits and rules within the scene, then it wouldn't be any point at all and would cause more pressure and resentment on yourself. Excellent post and keep the well presented work up, Amy ^,..,^ xx

V said...

I like your new change Amy,(and I LOVE those rocking horse boots!) although I think that you'll always be The Ultimate Goth Guide to me! Xxxxx

Dark Fantomzy said...

I loved the Ultimate Goth Guide but I do love the new title, and I totally understand your reasoning, Amy. Honestly, when I think about Goth as strictly conforming to someone's idea of a "true Goth" and nothing else, "Jumping Someone Else's Train" comes to mind. Shouldn't we be encouraging new creative endeavors instead of stifling them due to a bad case of nostalgia?

I love exploring the Goth subculture, listening to different bands, looking at fashions, reading various books, and looking at the world in a different way. However, I also love a variety of things, and Goth is not all I am. If I'm "not Goth" to someone, oh well.

Excellent post as always and I support you 100% <3

siouxsiel said...

Whatever the title, I'm happy to be included on your blogroll. Stay spooky and keep up the good work. In the meantime, you should hold an auction or competition to win your old domain and blog title. (^_-)

Amy Asphodel said...

I'm still using the domain >.< haven't changed my URL at all...

nightmares and fairy tales said...

Love your new title
it makes me think of somyjing rebecca from the b.e goth comics would have

InfiltratorN7 said...

So am I right in understanding that this is a kind of ‘holdover’ name for the blog? Temporary until you think of something more catchy and eye-grabbing but which also gives a good indication of the nature of the blog?

I can understand the need to evolve. Change can be good if it’s part of a natural process but not if it’s forced change for the sake of it (here I’m referring to the government’s obsession with constant change, the last one was particularly bad for changing policies every two minutes before anyone could get used to the previous one). I can especially see why you made the decision to change in terms of showing you’ve grown up a bit since you were a teenager and want the blog to reflect that. I also like how your blog covers a wide range of related and goth-friendly areas like steampunk, Lolita etc. I’ve found out about some things I’ve never heard of before like the mori girls and hipster/nu goth. I like that you’re looking at the full spectrum of goth styles and not just the ones that you like and/or relate to so we see everything from Victoriangoth to cybergoth, from deathrocker to ethergoth and more inbetween.

Anonymous said...

I definitely understand. I've stopped using the label a long time ago, as well. It just seemed so limiting to me, and like many others have stated, it is a label that the media came up with to try and pigeon-hole a bunch of people who share similar interests. That label is pretty loaded and comes with a whole crapload of stereotypes and misconceptions attached to it. I stopped self identifying as a goth because I grew tired of all of the crap that came along with it. I'm just an average, everyday person who has darker tastes in art, literature, and music (and an extreme love for all things paranormal). I've been called goth many times by others, and it's a given that it will happen in the future. That's *their* definition, not *mine*. I just regular olde me, lol.

Mistress Arachnea said...

You shouldn't feel that way. Goth is a label meaning it is just a word that describes something or someone. It doesn't mean it is all of who you are. You shouldn't feel as if you are restricted, sweetie. Goths have outside interests. Just because some days you are listening to Britney Spears, it doesn't mean you have lost your goth card. We have outside interests. It's okay if you don't want to be identified as so, but just remember that goth isn't some you know.. um.. what's the word.... it isn't like goth is something that you have to completely be. If you are a goth, it doesn't mean you have to limit yourself. No one should ever feel that way if they belong to a subculture, honey, don't ever feel you have to let go of a label you love because of what others think. Be proud wearing whatever labels you are. I am a romantigoth, an anime lover, a reader, a writer, an artist, a perk, and a debater. I am many things, and so are you. However, back to the point, don't let others make you feel crappy. Be happy. (Wait that just rhymed) P.S. I wuvs your blog. smart girl.

GothBarbie said...

I also liked your old name - and it made me happy to think confused "normal" people all over the world might find YOUR blog when trying to find out more about what goth is. Your posts are thoughtful and fun and informative and you're the kind of goth I'd like people to identify with the word "Goth" !

The only time I get really cranky over the misuse of the word "goth" OR "industrial" is when i get tricked into going to a club that has crappy music b/c they CLAIMED they'd be playing GOTH or INDUSTRIAL music! GRRRRR!

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