Elenor of the blog Live Life, Laugh and Live Longer recently invited several of us spooky types on the web to answer some questions she had about dark culture. Whilst I can't hope to provide any definitive answers I'm happy to share my opinions (and frankly, quite delighted to have been asked ;-D).
Elenor began her post, Goth Curiosity, with the following explanation: "I've been into the web for a little while (while for me means a year) browsing for cool stuffs and such when a picture of a lady in a Victorian
1. What does Goth culture and being a Goth mean to you?
Haha, I always ask this question in my interviews, but I've been dreading the day somebody would ask ME and I'd have to sit and think of how to put it into words. I will try not to make this too long-winded!
Assuming that we are using the term 'Goth' as a more concise way of summing up dark alternative culture, rather than specifically pertaining to Goth rock music and its followers, then the term to me means many things. Lately it has felt like a restricting label due to many people's distaste for the term being applied to anything other than than which is strictly Goth-rock-related, which is why I am currently more likely to describe myself as 'alternative' or 'into dark culture', but it is still a culture that I am very passionate about and have still been known to have rather heated arguments with slightly cluieless friends who insist on describing Marilyn Manson as Goth.
But, using the term loosely to cover 'dark culture', Goth to me is a huge part of my life and something I cannot imagine being without. Of course I have lazy days and off days where only the most sharp-eyed subcultural spotter would recognise a penchant for darker things under my mousy hair, minimal make-up, grey jeans and non-descript black cardie, and from time to time I like to experiment with other alternative fashions (although this has so far only ended badly). But fashion aside, dark music was the first kind of music that genuinely appealed to me, that actually spoke to me, and as such it always has and always will be a constant companion.
Being a 'Goth' - choosing to express and indulge in my tastes for things outside the mainstream - was a choice made when I had just left school and was severely lacking in confidence; through finding music I could understand and relate to, an online community that I could feel a part of and a never-ending wellspring of aesthetic inspiration I learned how to express myself which in turn made me more confident and did wonders for my self esteem. Being 'that Goth girl' became an intrinsic part of my identity and how I saw myself, and I was proud of it - still am.
To me, it means self-respect, confidence, community, self-expression, and celebrating rather than hiding qualities that the mainstream writes off as geeky such as creativity, a love of reading, not being afraid of one's own company, an interest in history, a DIY ethic and simply a firm and unshakeable belief that every day CAN be Halloween.
This lifestyle - some people may disagree with that term, but for me that's how it feels - has helped me become a more outgoing, confident person (whilst simultaneously helping me to accept, rather than feel held back by, my introverted tendencies - how's that for logic?). The amount of body positivity surrounding dark culture has also been a source of support for me.
I love that dark culture in general is seen as more accepting of different lifestyles, religions and preferences, and that it is a place where a bookish, shy person can feel special and appreciated rather than like an outsider.
My boyfriend has previously said that he doesn't mind that I'm into Goth, except he doesn't like 'the morbid side' of it. I hate to break it to him, but a) not all Goths have even the slightest interest in, say, cemeteries or funeral customs, and b) the 'morbid side' of me existed, and would exist, whether I was a Goth or not. People who are into 'dark and death' aren't necessarily Goths, and Goths don't always have an appreciation for such things.
3. What positive and good things does the Goth culture had brought to you that change you as a person?
It has made me more accepting of myself and of others - I've realised through involvement in the scene that many of my traits that in school were classed as 'weird' are actually not. Such as a love of writing. ;-)
As said before it has bolstered my confidence and given me an outlet for creativity and self-expression.
4. Why did you choose to be a Goth?
I was originally drawn to it by the fashion aesthetic (particularly romantigoth), but as I began to get more involved I felt more and more like rather than becoming 'a Goth' I was just expressing more of myself. I found much of the music beautiful and inspiring; I didn't enjoy most of the insipid pop music on the radio and had assumed that something was wrong with me because I didn't seem to enjoy the music that other people did!
I loved being part of a culture where reading was celebrated instead of looked down on like it had been by my peers in school; where writing poetry, however badly, was considered a normal thing to do. The more I learned about the culture, the more I realised that being part of it was barely even a choice, it was a constantly exciting and delightful necessity.
5. Does being a Goth is another way of self-expressionism?
Definitely. There are so many different ways to express yourself under the Goth label; through myriad genres of fashion, through art, or writing, or simply creating.
6. My parents said: "Goths are cool. But, please stop playing funeral songs." Do you agree in the first sentence?
Well, if I had a penny for every time somebody at work assumed I would know about rhe latest 'yoof fad' because I'm 'fashionable', I'd have... about £5. Does that make me cool? ;-)
If you mean cool as in "Oh, he/she's OK," then certainly not all Goths are cool. Goth is a big subculture and like any large group it has some unpleasant people in it. But at least on the whole we LOOK pretty cool, even those of us who are... not nice people. My friends are pretty cool, too.
7. My sister says: "Goths wears cross. But, they're into dark things and such... Do they believe in God?" Do you?
Not personally. I'm not religious, although I attended a Church of England school and am on friendly terms with my local vicar. I don't really know what I do believe in! I'd like to think there's something more after death but I'm really not sure, it would just be comforting to have that belief. I'm interested in various faiths and read up on everything from Buddhism to Satanism, although I don't profess to follow any religion myself.
That said, there are Goths from any and all faiths, that I know of, including Christian, Catholic and Muslim Goths. There is no group Goth religion and there are plenty who do believe in God.