On the night of October 18, 2008, I was feeling anxious. I was at the Stolen Sleeves Collective, waiting to see Carnal Knowledge's final performance, and I was feeling awkward at this place that I'd never been to, in a room full of people I didn't know very well. It was a cozy, inviting loft space, but still, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the entire experience.
The crowd was pleasingly diverse, as was the line-up of opening bands. But for all the punk girl power associated with Carnal Knowledge and its peers, I was feeling intimidated by the major dude presence at the show. I figured that Carnal Knowledge's male fan and friend base would be respectful and conscientious of the women in the audience. But I was still nervous.
Because I, like many women, have learned to fear first and ask questions later. I've been taught that men cannot be held responsible for their bodies, for the space they occupy, and the boundaries they might breach. I've learned that as a woman, a non-man, I have to be doubly responsible, that I have to maintain constant vigilance of my surroundings.
As Carnal Knowledge was starting its first song of that evening, I was doing just that: I was standing somewhere in the middle of the audience, arms crossed over my chest like armor, struggling to watch and listen to everything going on while not touching anyone around me, especially the very tall young men flanking me on both sides.
The band roared to life, a cacophony of crushing distorted guitars, ballistic drumming and ferocious feminist voices screaming about exactly what I was worried about at that moment -- my right to comfort and space unfettered by male control of influence.
A lot of enthusiastic dancing was starting to happening around me, but it wasn't violent or intrusive. I no longer felt suspicious of anyone in the audience with me; something about the music had temporarily equalized all of us and suspended some of our differences. Captivated by Carnal Knowledge's performance, and also by the heartfelt enthusiasm of the crowd, I thought to myself: Nothing is going to happen to me. And if something does, it won't be ignored or tolerated. I'm safe here.
Much of the credit goes to the bands that performed that evening; most of the people at the show that night were there to support them, and to pay their final respects to Carnal Knowledge, a tough quintet of unabashed hardcore punk fan feminists. These girls are seriously some of the nicest kids I've ever met -- and they're also exactly who I'd want on my side if I were to ever get jumped. In other words, their strength, and their ability to project their fearlessness from onstage, is a large part of what made me feel safe.
That night, I looked around, at the very same people that I'd worried earlier about not really knowing, and thought that I trusted them. I especially trusted the young women there.
Trust women: I know that Dr. Tiller's button wasn't talking about mosh pits or diy shows in Brooklyn lofts...but it sort of could have been. That night, and at every show I've been to since, I have trusted the women around me, with my life. If I can trust them to take a communal, supportive type of responsibility for me and the other people around us, I most certainly trust them with their own lives. Without question, I trust them to make the reproductive choices that are right for themselves, whatever the choice might be. I trust women's choices.
I realize that the girls I'm talking about, the women at these shows, are not like all women. Not all women are feminist punk artists, whose ideas are so like my own. But if I could learn to trust a roomful of women -- and even men -- whom I barely knew, during a single punk show, trusting women in general doesn't seem like that much of a stretch.