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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Is the term 'babybat' offensive?

I use the term babybat. (You've probably noticed.) But it seems to divide a lot of opinion. A lot of people use it to describe themselves; some use it as an affectionate term for their former selves or for others going through a similar stage. You can even buy 'Babybat' T-shirts online. But many people hate it, finding it offensive or derogatory.

Source

A lot of people, myself included, have defended their usage of the term by saying it's cute. But, hold up. Do we find the term cute because babies are cute and bats are cute? OK, great. But isn't calling someone a 'baby' kind of, well, offensive?

Wonderful YouTuber TheAlternativeDrug says, "Puppies are cute, fluffy toys are cute. The term 'babybat' is NOT cute. It's belittling and condescending, causing those younger to feel intimidated within the subculture. And Eldergoth is just ridiculous. I don't call rappers who are older vintage MC'ers or senior Rap artists."

There are young people who are happy to use the term 'babybat' for themselves, but it has occured to me that perhaps this isn't ideal. I mean, if I'm learning about something new I don't hold up a sign saying, "Hey, I'm basically clueless." I'm not clueless, I'm learning. As such, self-termed babybats often seem to use the term because they don't feel 'worthy' of describing themselves as Goths. But... you're just new. You're not stupid. Or unworthy.

Somebody else calling you a patronising name is one thing, because you can tell them where to stick it. But feeling as though you should call yourself by the patronising name because you're not good enough, because you don't know enough, because you can't perfectly apply liquid eyeliner...? That IS unfair. (I see it all now... o.O)

In fairness, many who use the term don't mean it at all in a derogatory way. I certainly never have. But it's not so much the term itself as what it says about the subculture as a whole - you must have this many stamps on your Goth Card before you 'earn the right' to call yourself a Goth?!

If you use the term, why? If you like it and feel like it describes you because you like the term, not because you're waiting to upgrade to Proper Goth (TM) status, then fine, fair enough. But if you find yourself thinking that you apply the term to yourself because:
  1. You're not old enough/knowledgeable enough/stylish enough to be a Real Goff
  2. You saw it online/all the cool kids are doing it
then perhaps you should have a re-think. I, for one, am intending to stop using it. I am not a Goth-in-training or waiting for permission/my 21st birthday so that I can FINALLY call myself a TROO GOFF, I'm a person who includes 'Goth Things' as a few of my interests. I'm a complete person exactly as I am, and so are you. Don't ever feel you have to use a term because you feel that you're not good enough to call yourself what you REALLY want to call yourself. I think that makes sense...

As for 'eldergoth'. I'm not sure quite how many of us see the term as somehow a term of praise, as though being older should make someone 'better'. I've always seen it as two words smooshed together, like 'romantigoth': 'elder.' 'Goth.' A Goth who is older. NOT someone infinitely more knowledgeable and deserving of worshipful respect. If it's being read that way, I'd cheerfully discontinue using it.

I'm not sure if other subcultures have this pervasive kind of notion that 'some of us are sooo much better than others' (they probably do) and whether or not they have special words for it (again, they probably do), but since a lot of us around here aren't even comfortable using the 'Goth' label for ourselves, I'd suggest we also stop using tags which could essentially be used to mean 'Better Goth' and 'Worse Goth'. Why keep making things even more complicated?

(Hey! This is my 666th post! ;-D)

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, the BabyGoth webring / newsgroup was the place to be. All the cool kids hung out there (Narnia, Anna, Leonora...).

Alexandriaweb said...

Personally I don't find the word itself offensive, just the way some people use it.
Although if I found out someone found it offensive I wouldn't use it at all around them because I cannot control what people do and don't find offensive.

gin said...

I've wrote a blog about this terms as well. I think those who are offended need to realize it's not about saying you're young, it's about saying that the individual is learning and on the right path. And to me babybat doesn't just apply to young ones, it applies to anyone of any age that is new to the subculture.

AsylumAlice said...

I'm not really sure why I use the term. I guess it's because I find it cute, and no one has ever said it to me in a derogatory sense, come to think of it, I don't think anyone's every said it to me at all! ;D

Daniel_8964 said...

To me, I don't find it offensive because it is a nicer and a less degrading term than accusing or labelling someone a fake or poseur in a insulting way when they are just new to the scene.

Cherish said...

I personally am totally fine with the term *Ehee 'Babybat's Blog'*

But it's true that when I first started the blog I only called myself a babybat because other people were doing it and because I thought I didn't know much! (I really didn't know much back then though :D)

But now I guess I kind of like it. It suits me, and it's better than 'noob' or 'poser' or whatever other awful names I could be called.

I do understand how some could find it offensive though. Each to their own, I guess.

Darling Violetta said...

I feel the same way as you Amy. In the past I had used both terms in a way that wasn't meant to be condescending. But since it makes people upset I do planning on not using them anymore. It was theAlternativeDrug's video that made me see why. Now I feel a bit concerned that maybe I had unintentionally come off as snooty or mean. Totally not my intention! >_<;

Anonymous said...

I think the definition of the term varies, depending on where you live, and yes, which "generation" you belong too. In my circle(s), we use it in reference to the children of goth parents. My daughter is often called a "babybat", although she's not even old enough to make that decision for herself.

Anonymous said...

I think the term is adorable, and personally, I don't see anything offensive about it. I'm new to the subculture, so I consider myself a "babybat" because I don't know everything yet and I want to learn, not because I think I'm stupid of inferior. Just more naive (not the same thing as stupid, btw). Like others have stated, I like it more than I like "Poseur" or "noob". Also, I think it kind of helps me feel like I belong, in a really wierd way. Also, I do like the term "Elder Goth" just because it's... well, I don't know. But I do. But I wouldn't use it for anyone if they didn't like it.

Ria said...

I always thought it is cute and somewhat affectionate. (And that mallgoth and poseur are the degratory ones...)
If the people who were there when the scene first blossomed want their own name, why not.
But a Pokemon-style evolution system is kind of strange to me.

BellaDonna said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this! As someone who didn't "come out" as a goth (even to myself) until my 40s, I actually enjoy referring to myself as an "ElderGoth BabyBat", but that's just my personal little joke. I've never thought of either term as offensive; however, I CAN understand why some, especially younger people, might not appreciate being called a "baby" anything. Therefore, while I will continue to call myself whatever I please, I wouldn't use either term unless I knew the person in question didn't have a problem with it.

Trystan L. Bass said...

When a lot of us started turning 30, we began calling ourselves ElderGoth to denote that fact. At Convergence 4 (the original net.goth convention), I sponsored the first ElderGoth Cocktail Hour as a gathering for the 'older' folks where we could be crotchety & talk about the good old days before Hot Topic. It was as much a joke as anything, & it was great fun. After all these years (I'm now 43), I think I've definitely earned the label ;-)

Emporium Gothica said...

I was recently part of a conversation about "when does one cease to be a babybat." I'd always assumed the term was for really young goths (like 14 at the oldest) and so said that one would stop being a babybat around 15. Multiple people objected that most people are only becoming babybats at that point. So yeah, if you're like 18 and someone's calling you a babybat because of perceived newness I would think that to be annoying at the least.

Marmalade Marionette said...

I find the term "babybat" cute, and I don't see a problem with that. Love it, hate it, that's your decision. If it bothers people, then ignore it.
Well, ignoring it will be difficult because it will be used constantly in this subculture.
Don't you sometimes wish the word "babybat" didn't exist in the Gothic Dictionary?

Nightwind said...

I really don't find anything offensive about the term at all. It simply means that a person is new to the subculture and that they're learning; sort of like an apprentice. Babybat is just sweeter and more affectionate.

linnea-maria said...

I think it depends on how it is said and in what circumstance. Personally I don't use both of the words, except eldergoth when I describe myself (if I must label myself).

Ra said...

'Babybat' is a term I came across when browsing english sites about gothic subculture some years ago. I instantly noticed how this term is... cute and, let's say, 'fluffy'. Well, 'babybat' has only cute associations - there is a bat, and goths in general sympathise with these night creatures. A baby bat (when speaking about an animal) is just a small bat and its features are definitely like those of a fully grown one, it's just smaller and may be not fully developed. And about the 'baby' part... well, isn't it an affectionate word for those whom we love? So personally I'm perfectly okay with the term 'babybat', I find it nice.
And why it sounds nice to me. I'm from Poland and our gothic community broadly uses a term 'kindergoth' - and now THIS is something offensive. There is none other term - just 'kindergoth' and it is used EXCLUSIVELY with negative meaning (well, the other one is 'poseur', but its meaning is a little bit different). Being called a 'kindergoth' here - or 'kinderpunk' or 'kindermetalhead' for that matter - is a very, very harsh method of telling young goth 'learn your gothic alphabet and grow out from this poor poetry/music taste/clothes'. So in this case 'babybat'... dear Cthulhu, I'd love to be called like that.
(I'm pretty sure I made some funny/strange grammar mistakes, but I hope my message is understandable)

theEmocarebear said...

"Babybat" is a limiter and serious self-esteem crasher.

So many new goths and gothettes use the term to describe themselves, and they use it as though they aren't worthy of *actually* describing themselves as a full-fledged goth because, because - GASP - somebody might be offended. Somebody might say, "Hey, you're doing this wrong."

And I find it ridiculous that people would want to limit themselves. We're all human, we're all interested in a similar concept; and we all want to express ourselves uniquely.
So why the hell should we apologize for it by degrading ourselves, and our culture, with the term "babybat?"

Louhi said...

My feelings on "babybat" are similar to me feelings on reclaimed derogatory terms (like "dyke", "queer", or racial epithets). If someone wants to use it to identify themselves, that's fine with me (I was definitely a proud babybat in high school), but I'd be careful using it to refer to other people and I do my best to respect when other people aren't comfortable using it/hearing it used.

Anonymous said...

I like using 'babybat' when referring to myself because, even after a year, I'm still a newbie to the scene and still have lots to learn. It's like giving a new hire at a shop a 'trainee' badge: it lets people know that you might not have all the answers, and often prompts them to treat you with a little more kindness and patience than they might otherwise.

Anonymous said...

If I say someone is a "Baby Bat," then I'm saying that they have been in the subculture for a minimum of five years; if I say someone is an "Elder Goth," then I'm saying that someone has been in the subculture for a minimum of twenty.

Neither are offensive to me, but if some people are thinking of it in terms that they're not "good enough" to be a "real Goth," then I'm going to stop using the term "Baby Bat"--and, by association, "Elder Goth."

Audrey Scissorhands said...

I don't really find it offensive but I don't think its ever been applied to me in that way. I use the word "babybat" often but its usually an affectionate "pet name" that I give my boyfriend as well as my son. I love bats and I love them and they are my babies...it makes sense to me. But I guess I see how being called a newb could offend.

SaryWalrus said...

I, personally, dislike the term with a passion. I used to use it perfectly fine until I was referred to as a Babybat which - due to yet again the inability to properly define the word as it's different to everyone - I took offence to because personally I don't see myself as that.

I found it patronising in that context and very belittling, as the person probably didn't mean to, but used it in a context that was to make me feel less experienced than them.

As for ElderGoth. I prefer to term tradgoth - or trad to refer to the older Goth's that listened to Post-Punk bands. Maybe that's just as offensive?

The HouseCat said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with being new, and therefore a term meaning "new to Goth" isn't an insult because being new isn't a bad thing. The problem starts when it is used as an insult, as if someone is lesser because they are new. But they're not, they're just new, although they might not be as experienced. But everyone was new once, even the original goths of the '80s weren't born dressed in black with back-combed hair and winkle-pickers.

I think the term 'elder' in general has changed in meaning over time. To be an elder of any community meant using the wisdom you have accrued over time to help the rest of the community. I think this is where the use of the term as a compliment or term of respect came from. Some of the older Goths do this, but not all. I feel the term 'elder goth' just means a more experienced, older goth. You can theoretically be a 45yr old babybat if you join the subculture at that age!

Captain Luna Willow said...

Whilst "baby bat" doesn't bother me too much [[although i agree with the reasoning for why people don't like it]] i really dislike the term "elder goth". i think it is very elitist. i especially dislike people referring to themselves as "elder goth". Always sounds a bit arrogant to me.

Anonymous said...

From what I've read it seems like goths usually use those terms in a satirical way, but some other people seem to take it seriously.

Miss Miskatonic said...

I'm under the impression that you can be both Babybat and Goth at the same time. This isn't like Boy Scouts. There are no "levels" to Gothness. Patting yourself on the back or being condescending to someone else because you're the best at dressing like a weirdo is a little silly. Might we all be taking this a little bit too seriously?

Anonymous said...

I personally love the term BabyBat, in fact, i used to call myself "Queen BabyBat of Oberon Towne" as i was/am the only Goth Girl at school who had 'Come out of the Coffin' as my friends say. BabyBAt is a cute term that is used to reference persons new to the subculture that are on the right path.

Nenedhel said...

I think a lot of people may find it offensive as they don't realise it is just saying that you're on the right path and learning. Perhaps they are confusing it with 'fake', 'poseur' or 'wannabe'? I don't find the term offensive and I try not to offend anyone with it. I simply mean people new to the scene.

As to eldergoth I always thought it meant someone who had been part of the subculture for a long time. I certainly wouldn't call myself this.... maybe in another 15 or so years haha.

I don't try to offend or belittle anyone with either term

Anubis said...

I personally don't mind the term "babybat" or "eldergoth" (I don't know if I'm a babybat or not since, due to severe depression, I took breaks from the subculture to curl into a little ball in my room), but unfortunately both terms have been abused by others seeking to inflate their ego. I don't tend to use either term unless someone tells me it's okay, especially with babybat.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!!!!

I am soooo sick of real goths, or other people bitching about how Hot Topic sucks, and Marylin Manson is the worlds most 'un goth' singer. I'll admit it, I love Hot Topic and Marylin Manson. And I don't care about what anyone else says.

Goths are supposted to be there for other goths. Not pick on them.

I think I'm gonna make a Youtube video about this stuff.

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