Thursday, June 23, 2011

Out come the wolves.

A few days ago I was dutifully skimming through my Facebook feed when I came across what might be the most important thing I've ever seen on the site. It was a post from the much beloved Slingshot Dakota, which is easily one of my favorite bands of all time, and whose LP I listen to regularly.

Slingshot Dakota at a recent show. Sweet photo jacked from Lauren Matulis

Slingshot Dakota's music is beautifully written, and they and their work are, in my humble estimation, radically positive. That's probably why their post shocked and even momentarily confused me: it was about a guy who's been accused of attacking women at shows on multiple occasions.


I couldn't believe what I was looking at when I first saw it. I had to read the post several times before it sank in -- that this guy has hurt people, that he might be a danger, and that this band is doing their part to warn people about him -- and even then, I didn't believe it. For a second, I wondered if it might be some sort of prank, but I'm pretty sure that the members of Slingshot Dakota wouldn't joke about something like this. They've talked about sexual assault and supporting survivors before; I've even written about it.

And yet, I still found myself kind of questioning the post, if not the band. I found myself having all sorts of messed up, Stockholm Syndrome, rape culture reactions. I thought how scary and dangerous it seems to call a guy out like that, especially in such a public forum. I thought how even if Slingshot Dakota meant well, maybe the original poster was misinformed, or lying, and that maybe I shouldn't judge this guy because I don't really know him myself, or anything like that. Unbelievably enough, I found myself worrying about his privacy.

Since I sort of started to go there myself, despite being a sex positive and radical postcolonial queer feminist, I'm sure that some people would see this as 'unfairly targeting' a guy. But if you think about it, you know what seems way more unfair? When rape survivors are called sluts, whores, liars and much worse after they come forward, and then have to put up with people questioning and judging their sexual histories, wardrobes, drinking habits, and other personal choices.

Because they were brave enough to make that post, Slingshot Dakota really got me thinking about assault, rape culture, and how it affects us all, and I feel like I owe them for it. It got me to thinking that I trust them, and that it's actually kind of really important to make sure you know something about a band's politics if you're going to support their work. I can say unequivocally that I trust them, and take their effort to warn their community about a potential danger seriously.

I've trusted them and taken them seriously since that first time I saw them, that first time that I heard drummer Tom Patterson speak at length about the impact that sexual assault has on both individuals and communities. I don't think I'll ever forget hearing him say, "…there are a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing" in our local scene, because when he said it I knew that he was right.

A video of the song SD usually introduces by talking about assault, from the very show where Tom used the expression "wolves in sheeps' clothing"!!! No introduction on this video, but I still can't believe I found this! Huzzah!

When he talked about how there are tons of punk guys parroting progressive beliefs and using them to find and close in on victims (I'm paraphrasing here), it validated a lot of unarticulated and sometimes subconscious fears and discomforts that I've felt at shows. Tom Patterson validated a lot of 'bad vibes' I've gotten from various guys over the years, and made me feel like maybe I wasn't just being a judgmental jerk. So I owe Tom for that too, then.

Slingshot Dakota's post reminded me that I was totally entitled to all those bad vibes I got, both the ones that I forced myself forget about, and also the ones that I've written about on this blog. We are all entitled, if not obligated, to recognize potential or actual wolves in sheep's clothing. We have the power to call them out -- and to protect each other and demand accountability, safety, and better treatment for everyone in our scenes.

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