I was at a show last night in Brooklyn when three guys in the audience started to mosh violently, shoving each other and falling into other people in the crowd. Everyone in the room, male and female, edged back and away from the instigators.
The more space we gave them, the more space they took. Even with half the room to themselves, they managed to bang into other people. One of the moshers collided violently with a pair of red-headed girls who had been watching the band with interest, and who then left the room. Shortly after that one of them bashed into my arm, andhard, and then he fell over. When he stood back up, he stayed near me. He started to drunkenly lean on me, and in an incidence of unmitigated show rage, I shoved his body away with all the strength I could muster. I wanted to say something to him, but I admit that I was afraid of how he would react, so I didn't.
It's not like this is the first time this has ever happened to me. Recently, at a show in a different area of Brooklyn, I was tolerating a set of lackluster pop punk by some generic dude band when the guys in the audience got predictable. They started hoisting each other up and launching each other onto the audience, in an attempt to crowd surf. I watched as the girls at the show, some of whom had been singing along and clearly enjoying the band's performance, retreated from the area, moving to the back to avoid being kicked in the face. Unwilling to put up with any more douchebaggery or bad music, I walked out.
I decided to go downstairs to hang out in front of the building, and in the stairwell I ran into a music blogger acquaintance. She asked me what was going on with the show, and when I told her about the ill-advised crowd surfing, she cut me off, and said "Oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?"
I don't remember how I responded to her, because all I remember from that moment is being nearly blind with rage.
In case you don't understand why I was enraged, allow me to interpret the subtext of her statement. Her statement, said in a flat, condescending monotone, makes me the subject through her use of "you", and if focuses on my feelings rather than the actions of the people in the room. Her use of the word 'feel' implies that my reaction was emotional, and therefore not rational, and therefore not legitimate. The word 'uncomfortable' trivializes my feelings, it reduces genuine fear for my safety to minor 'discomfort', which she apparently thought I should have just put up with.
In short, "oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?" translates to, "Oh, you were a stupid little girl who went to a show when you couldn't handle it, and it got you upset." The comment implies that my negative experience at the show was my fault, and it implies that I'm the one who's wrong here for expecting to not have to be afraid at a show, when the jerks who made it unsafe are the ones who are really responsible.
What I should have said to this person is, "No, it didn't make me uncomfortable, it made me angry." Yes, it makes me angry that I'm scared at shows. It makes me angry that I have to watch other girls leave, or move away from the front of the room, because they seem like they're scared, too.
It makes me angry that when guys act that way, I want to ask them to stop, and to be considerate, but that I don't because I'm scared of them hurting me, and I'm scared of all the other people at the show ganging up on me, and I worry that I'll ruin the show for everyone. It makes me angry because I don't want to be that girl who worries about ruining a show when she's knows rationally that none of this is her fault.
It makes me angry that at both of these shows, the bands didn't say anything to try and calm the crowd down. They didn't ask the audience to be considerate. They just let it happen.
It makes me angry that these guys feel entitled to take up all the space at a show; that I've been socialized, as a girl, to constantly think of everyone else's comfort and safety, and that I would thusly never dream of diving into an unsuspecting crowd of singing kids because I wouldn't want to hurt them, while these guys couldn't give less of a fuck.
And it makes me angry that sexists like this blogger don't want to do anything about violence at shows, that they think it's how shows are supposed to be. It makes me angry that that blogger basically said to me, "yes, they are entitled to that dangerous behavior, and you just have to put up with it or stop going to shows."
"Oh, and you got started to feel uncomfortable?" implies that the show, and what happened there, was normal, but I was not. It implies that men's violent behavior is 'natural' -- really, she might as well have shrugged and said "Boys will be boys" -- and that I shouldn't have expected anything different. To act as if such behavior is normal and acceptable is to buy into oppressive gender stereotypes, and perpetuate the sexism that tries to keep girls out of scenes and away from shows.
Violent moshing, crowd surfing and other poor behavior is not normal, 'natural', or acceptable; it's the result of a society telling its men that they are expected to do stupid, dangerous things and let other people worry about the consequences. And if it's not natural, that means that we can change it. We can have safer shows, we can hold people accountable, and we can have a space where we aren't scared. But if we want it, we have to demand it. We have to speak up, myself included -- but in order for that to happen, we have to feel safe enough to speak honestly about these issues.
How do we make that happen? No really, I'm asking all of you.