Friday, 25 May 2012

Goth enough?

I've been guilty of writing more than a few posts on the subject of what, precisely, I feel a 'real Goth' might be, but recently I've been thinking - I can harp on as much as I like about what does and does not constitute 'real Gothdom', but it can never be any more than subjective because, no matter what I or anyone else says, there is no one true definition of Goth.

As an example, one of the strongest voices in the dark alternative community currently is the one insisting that Goth is all about the music, but I have seen arguments in forums and received messages stating that we shouldn't refer to Siouxsie, Joy Division or even Bauhaus as 'Goth bands', because 'actually they're more punk'.

Some of us spent our formative years 'in the scene' attempting to tick as many boxes as possible in order to feel that we were 'real Goths', only to be confused by all the conflicting statements and contradictions. You can check off every point on one person's list of what makes a true Goth, only to have the next person turn round and tell you that you're 'doing it wrong'. Nobody is 'the perfect Goth'; you don't have to prove yourself to anyone.

Source: Goth Confessions
I have received criticism for apparently spreading the message that 'everybody is Goth', but that's not my point. I don't go shoving my 'real Goth' criteria down other people's throats; I have my own, personal beliefs about what does and doesn't make a 'real' Goth (as I have previously listed: knowledge and enjoyment of Goth rock and other dark music; ditto Goth and/or alternative fashion; a tendency towards creative thought and expression) but I am quite aware that since this is my own subjective opinion it doesn't actually apply to anyone except myself.

I feel that it would be out of order for me to make judgements on others based on an entirely personal opinion, which is why I don't inflict it on others and go round telling people who listen to Madonna or wear blue jeans from time to time that they aren't 'real Goths'. My criteria of Goth is not everybody's criteria. My point is that I don't feel anyone except the individual has any right to tell somebody what he or she is or is not, when there is no actual One True Definition agreed on by everyone involved.

Hence, if people come to this blog and say (for example) "My favourite singer is Emilie Autumn; can I still be a Goth?" I would never tell them no - what's the point of considering yourself 'alternative' if you can't be accepting or think outside of the box? and why would I consider that I have the right to inflict my own limits on other people's beliefs, preferences or lifestyle?
Source: Goth Confessions
For this reason, if others feel the need to tell me that I'm not a 'real Goth', I choose not to pay any attention. I accept that they have their ideas about dark culture and I have mine, and yes, I might take notice of comments or opinions that I can learn something from, but otherwise I tend to ignore such remarks because, quite simply, only I will decide who and what I am or what I choose to call myself. As previously stated, since I like many, many things outside of the specifically-Goth definition (Emilie Autumn, for one) I'm not at all bothered if others choose not to consider me a Goth. Not being 'Goth' is not the end of the world - it doesn't affect what I like, what I don't, how I dress or what I do.
Source: Goth Confessions
This is not to say that I have never rolled my eyes at those who I don't feel fit my personal criteria of 'real Goth' - I'm not a saint! But I do try to be mature enough to accept that, again, they have their ideas on the subject just as I have mine, and until it can be conclusively proven which of us is right, until a formula for the definitive Goth is created and all the dark alternative subcultures have neatly drawn boundaries that we can all agree upon, my opinion on what they choose to call themselves is entirely irrelevant.

I do get irritated when people kick up a hue and cry about others 'ruining Goth' for them by listening to the wrong music, liking the wrong bands, writing the wrong sort of blog posts or having the wrong dress sense. I mean, really? Why would you ever need to be so concerned about the behaviour of others? Just get on with enjoying your own experience of the scene in your own way and stop worrying so much about what other people are doing. There is absolutely no need for anybody else's 'version' of Goth to affect yours.

As an example, I have a friend who listens to music more along the Industrial, metal and dark pop lines than Goth rock; wears blue jeans more often than not; but spends far more time at Goth clubs and events than I do. I may think about raising the occasional eyebrow at her approach to the subculture, and I don't necessarily agree with some of what she may consider Goth, but in no way do I let that affect me, my life, or my experience of the subculture. Nor do I argue with her about her point of view, because if she wants to consider herself a Goth and feels that she is one, why on earth would I think I have the right to tell her that she's wrong?
Source: Goth Confessions
Similarly, it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that not everyone in the assorted dark alternative scenes are nice people, or even the kind of person I can get on with. I assumed that sharing a few similar interests and aesthetics would be enough to create one big happy family - but whilst many of the Goths I have had the pleasure of meeting have been wonderful and lovely people, many have not. At first I found this shocking and even a bit off-putting, but after a few months it dawned on me that other people's attitudes, behaviours and opinions do not have to have any bearing on my own experiences unless I choose to let them. Associating myself with dark culture does not mean I am associating myself with the people that I find unpleasant; they are doing their thing, and I am doing mine.

You know from a while back that I was having trouble with the Goth label. This was partly due to personal reasons - I was having some body image issues and for a while didn't feel confident enough to dress in a way that draws attention - and partly because I was feeling unsure about whether or not I really was a 'real Goth'. I knew that in many people's eyes my music taste (varied), dress sense (hit and miss) and blogging persona (exaggerated) definitely excluded me from such a category. After some soul-searching I came to realise that frankly, I don't really care.
Source: Goth Confessions
Some seem to start out feeling like the label is like a badge that has to be earned. Some probably spend years trying to live up to generalised expectations of how a 'proper Goth' should be. For those of you who have been involved in the scene for years but still don't feel 'Goth enough' (and attend events half-expecting someone to point at you and shout "Impostor!"...) think about it. You don't have to be 'a Goth' to enjoy dark fashion, music or culture. There are plenty of people, like me, who are not specifically Goth but who enjoy large aspects of not only Goth culture but its related scenes and subgenres. You don't have to be 'Goth enough' - you don't even have to be Goth.

Let people nitpick on your music taste or outfits, and learn to ignore it, because you only get one definite, certain shot at life, and you really don't need to spend it worrying whether other people think you're worthy of describing yourself as part of a subculture. Enjoy it your own way; and if you're 'doing it wrong' in some people's eyes, at least you'll be having a damn good time.


gin said...

I wrote something about this not to long ago(my idea of what makes a goth). I've told you before, there is no true definition and there's nothing wrong with people who enjoy aspects of the subculture, but aren't into it 100%. Truthfully, what you identify with is of your own personal choice, and any one trying to argue whether or not you're goth or not without knowing you, is a bit ridiculous as well as them trying to prove to themselves that they are.

Jess said...

Hello Amy.

Thank you for sharing all of this. What your telling us is true.

Cupcake.on.Crack said...

you are so right. I really like that you bring up that you can like these things and Still not specifically be apart of the subculture, or any other subculture for that matter. There are times where I feel like I dress likes "these people" but I listen to "this music" but my personality and ethics fit in with "that". Dude I already have race issues, with being biracial and having always been labeled into one or the other, never both. I rarely come across people that can see the black, and latina side. So why does being goth or anything else have to be that way?

Alexandriaweb said...

I quite agree :)

Skarlett said...

Amen sister! You touched my heart with this one.

Shannon said...

LOVE this post. I am definitely one that goes back and forth feeling "not Goth enough" or questioning whether I really am. It's sad how much outside opinion can influence how we feel about ourselves and our interests.

VictorianKitty (Sophistique Noir) said...

I'm secure enough in my Gothiness to confess my undying love of Counting Crows and pastel pink. And to post photos of myself wearing glasses and a bun all over the Internet. ;) I love that you are supporting and encouraging people to just be themselves!!

I wouldn't say Goth is either about the music or the fashion. It's an all-around way of expressing yourself. Some people gravitate more toward the music, others more toward the fashion, and others might not care about either of those but just love horror movies and dark poetry. I'd hang out with all of the above, because we would have things in common. That's all that matters in terms of "fitting in" in a subculture: common interests. Not 100% conformity!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a goth, but I do enjoy aspects of dark culture. Some of the music, literature and fashion. The main reason I don't label myself as anything is *because* I don't feel 'label-enough' to truly belong to any subculture, which did, for a while, make me feel like some kind of impostor intruding on unwelcome territory. But I can't just stop liking what I do just because I'm not 'goth enough'. Now I just think, screw it, I like what I like, I'm gonna do what I want. Why should not being 'label-enough' stop me from being happy? :)

Josh said...

Very nicely written. If I'm understanding it correctly, it seems almost exactly the way i feel.

I'm a born and bred plague rat, i dress mostly in blue jeans and a black long sleeved shirt almost every day, and i occasionally play football... That being said, i love most of what many people consider "goth rock", i admire to death the style of most goths and the few goths i know, i love to be around and talk to.

Now I've never said, nor believe i ever will say that I'm a "Real Goth" because what is that? As you said, there is no real, clean cut definition. But the overall view of it, i would like to consider myself a part of because i believe i love it just as much as any other.

Btw Amy, seeing as you live in England, is it safe to say that you won't be attending Emilie Autumn's IMM this year?

Crimson Lace said...

Greetings. I have been reading your blog since its Piczo incarnation and finally decided to take the plunge and go on blogger. I enjoy reading your posts that center on identity politics in the Goth scene and firmly believe that there can never be too many articles on the subject. If you want to analyze identity politics further I highly recommend you read theorist Judith Butler’s 1997 piece Perfomative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Her work centers on deconstructing gender identity but it certainly applicable to Goth identity. It is a scholarly text I read in University (and not and for the faint of heart) and helped broaden my perspectives on the subject. Here is the link.

Elenor said...

Being goth (for me) is how this trait shows the real you and how you feel inside, without hiding or concealing the real aspects of yourself. You don't even have to ask yourself on how goth you are because you don't have to measure how you are as being one and get confused whenever you found yourself getting mushy over jolly songs. Just be yourself.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this. I've read a lot of articles, comments and blogs lately about what is goth and I'm quite taken aback by the aggressiveness, and it almost seems like a religion to some with prerequisites eg you MUST like the right music, wear the right clothes (solely) etc.

Goth Mary Poppins said...

Sort of "first world people problem" who is gother goth. Be happy that you can find someone who has the same interests as you,.

If someone is insecure about him/herself, he/she'll find a meant-to-be friendly smile offensive. So I stopped smiling and trying to keep eyecontact with goths I randomly run into. :(

When I go to some "mainstream" club with my friends in a simple (black) outfit, I don't feel that I'm the traitor of the subculture. Noone should.

Emm said...

I totally agree with you! For myself, I do not consider myself Goth, or any category or sub-category for that matter. I am too diverse in what I like to put a label on myself. I too enjoy Emilie Autumn, but I also adore Metallica, Nirvana, Evanescence, VNV Nation, The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails, and a few songs by The Cure. I enjoy clothes that are gothic, punk, rockstar-styled, Victorian, industrial, grunge, Lolita, and kawaii, and on most weekends I lounge about in one of my many tank tops and Hello Kitty pajama pants. I love dark and scary things, but I also love cute Japanese erasers and sparkles and I even like pink. I think if anyone tries to fit into a category strictly, they are wasting their lives and should just wear and read and listen to what they love best.

Le Professeur Gothique said...

Oh for cripes sake! Are people pulling their "gothier than thou" cards out yet again? I honestly thought that we old farts took care of this back in the freaking 90s. Goth, Punk Rock, etc ... these are all categories and titles based on multiple things: music, dress, mindset, etc. I know plenty of Goths who are so stealthy nowadays that you would be hard pressed to recognize them as "Goth." Then again, I know of plenty of "Goths" (especially DJs) who insist on playing non-Goth, non-Industrial or non-EBM at Goth club nights (like Trance of House music) just to get folks on the dance floor. Does this all matter? Perhaps to a few folks with nothing better to do. Seriously, if someone is ruining this "gothier than thou" person's time because they like the B-52s (like I do) or wears retro gingham sundresses to Coney Island then that "gothier than thou" person needs to do us all a freaking favor and get a life. sigh ...

Maybe we should all cut this crap out and just agree that we're all left-of-center, neo-Punks and get on with being creative, awesome folks. Real Goth, not Real Goth. Poseur, not poseur. Punk Rock, not Punk Rock. Come on, really? When Ed and I were kids (read 25 years ago .. shudder) all the left of center kids hung out together. We had a common "enemy" -- the norms and the jocks. We were all Punk Rockers of one stripe or another and we liked it that way. Some of us loved Bauhaus, others liked the Ramones, others The Smiths ... and we all hung out together. No one cared. We were weird and creepy and fun. Period.

I honestly feel that this "Gothier than thou" crap is perpetuated by folks who have nothing else in their miserable little, pathetic lives; who desperately need to lift themselves up by putting others down; who have absolutely no self-confidence and therefore Goth is the only thing that they do have that makes them feel powerful and important.

As Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."

Tenebris In Lux said...

Goth is something that doesn't need another person's approval. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy Bauhaus, yes, I wear black .. but I'm not the IDEAL Goth. And that's okay. That's the beautiful thing about being a young Goth like myself: there's still room to grow and explore and learn and create. Older Goths should at least understand that babybats won't know everything. If you want to educate them kindly, then go for it. When I look back at some of the things I did/listened to a few years ago when I started out, oh boy .. the horror! But it's exciting to see how much my tastes have matured (and to anticipate how much further it will go).

Other than my own two cents, I really enjoyed this article and can relate on a lot of levels.

Jess said...

This is not a competition; it's not about winning or losing. This is about people are living in a different life. So, I don't see any point for approval. Besides, I still enjoy a lot of stuff that is not gothic; I'm still into beautiful children's books.

Nightwind said...

I'll say one thing about the hippies: You'll be hard pressed to hear them arguing over who's a part of the subculture and who's not. They don't try to define what music is acceptable and what isn't.

Sure, Goth is a bit different because it sprang from certain musical and cultural genres and appeals to a darker mindset, but I think we're just beating one another to death over this what's acceptable and what's not debate.

When you pass someone on the street and they're a kindred spirit so to speak, you just sort of know; no close examination of his/her musical or literary taste is necessary.

It seems that this discussion takes place more online than in real life; at least where I live. When darkly inclined folks connect here, they're just glad to see one another and try to have a good time. It shouldn't be any more complicated than that.

I do want to say that you presented a well thought out post here Amy, and I enjoyed it.

Daniel_8964 said...

*clapping my hands* I highly agree with you on this, Amy! I also feel like that I may go through the same thing like you had. The worry and lack of confidence of what you love to wear and listen to, Having fun is indeed more important than worrying what others approve of your dress sense and music taste. I also consider myself as a part of the subculture regardless how goth I am. The spooky and creative mindset and music will live on even I don't have to look too goth most of time. Clothes don't define people and I don't see the point debating what is 'goth' and what is not 'goth'. Everyone has different opinions and there's no point fighting over it when we are supposed to have fun, chill out and to meet new people.

Ms. Lou said...

Great post Amy! As someone who's been involved in the subculture since the 90s, it seems to be an ongoing thing. People get all elitist as a way of projecting their own insecurities on others. Pay no attention and just Keep doing what your doing.

Loupie said...

"Some seem to start out feeling like the label is like a badge that has to be earned. Some probably spend years trying to live up to generalised expectations of how a 'proper Goth' should be."

Sounds a good deal like me in my baby bat years. If any asked I would say that I was a bit goth, but I didn't feel like I was goth enough to accept the labe properly. It was only when other goths satrted calling me that that I realised it didn't matter.

ThatShyGuy said...

i’ve developed a fun little slap-to-the-face for pretentious “real“ Goths who claim that Gothdom is all about the music. All you have to do is ask them which musicians are “real Goths. Then, point out to them that, without fail, online or elsewhere, you can find other pretentious Goths tearing apart one or more of said musicians for being “fake”, “poser”, or “non-Goth”! It clearly demonstrates that “Goth” is relative and open to interpretation (and *gasp* creativity). Plus, it’s fun to see such arrogant people get their feathers ruffled over a position which they really can’t defend…

Marcus said...

This is a very insightful post. You are on the right track. I think you're growing out of a narrow and defensive subculture into a broader alternative mindset.

Unknown said...

So, Amy, I've got a question for you. I realize you're only 20, but maybe you've got a opinion for me anyway. I'm 34, and up until 3 years ago, was childless. So I felt quite comfortable being 'myself' and expressing my love for anything dark and punky through my clothing. But... since I became a mom, suddenly I feel like I'm too old to go around in fishnets and dark makeup. Or more like other people will think I ought to act my age, or something. Do you have some ideas on how I can express myself AND act my age?

Darling Violetta said...

Great post Amy! As a baby bat I was "that goth kid" that was a pushy overbearing elitist about the subculture. Little did I know that was the biggest sign that I was new to it all (or for older folks who act this way it's just plain arrogance and bullheadedness). Since anyone who has been around for a while has more than likely heard the conflicting arguments on "what is and isn't goth". You've seen the contradictions and decide that spending so much time being an elitist isn't really worth it. Since Goth IS so hard to pin down it's best to just gracefully accept other folks opinions on Goth. Especially since their views don't effect your personal view in anyway and there really is no "goth checklist" as Jillian Venters says. Actually, the vague boundaries of the goth subculture is the entire point. The point is to have fun with the aesthetic in your own creative way. And, not conforming to a checklist of "the proper ways to be dark and spooky". The day Goth stops being about artistic expression in view of the gothic aesthetic is the day the subculture has officially died.

I must agree with Nightwind. Goth to me has always been nothing more than kindred spirits coming together to celebrate all things gothic and dark alternative. Even when I look at the old school scene I think that Goth has always been nothing more than a handy term for a conglomeration of all things "dark alternative". Even Carl McCoy from Fields of the Nephilim attests to this saying, "When we started out, there wasn't a goth scene as such, just this dark alternative underground scene of people. I think the name goth developed later on."

I think the problem came when some people made exclusivity more important than exploring new boundaries and celebrating creativity. The underlying root of elitism always is insecurity and exclusivity.

Phoenix said...

"I came to realise that frankly, I don't really care."

WORD. You rule, so who cares what assholes think?

Some people think they are so fucking awesome and love to remind others that they're doing it wrong, and make people second guess themselves. These people are tossers. Who needs 'em.

Amy Asphodel said...

Unknown - I was wondering if perhaps you had read a guest post on this blog by the very lovely Holly, who calls herself TropiGothMama? If not, here's the URL:

Perhaps other people will think you should 'act your age', but for most of us they've probably muttered such things since we were about fifteen anyway, right? As far as I can tell the majority of Goths are adults; many of us grow into this subculture rather than out of it.

As for how to return to fishnets and dark make-up as a grown-up and mother, I can think of some other wonderful ladies who could offer advice and inspiration for your situation:

Miles Riddick said...

So are we gonna give Dark indie a shot? The supposed "Nu Goth" or what some call "Hipster Goth" I feel that "Nu goth" should actually be called Dark indie.

I would consider myself Dark indie because I like post punk/goth rock bands like Siouxsee, The Cure, Skeletal Family, Sex gang children, Lestat, The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Joy division, along with most Dark indie/ indie rock including The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths, She Wants Revenge, and newer indie Goth bands like Soft Kill, Light Asylum, and O children.

I also like most Darkwave and 80's synth/wave music. There are a lot of new bands with these sounds and Dark indie kids like them as well as older bands. We all Love Robert Smith. Can we build a bridge? Or are we gothier than thou?

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