Thursday, January 17, 2013

A line in the sand.

CONTENT NOTE: Sexual assault and rape culture

So I really wanted my first blog post of this new year to be hopeful and uplifting and positive about the possibilities for 2013, right?  I wanted to write a sort of statement of purpose, about my 'goals' or whatever.  About what I, what we can accomplish this year if we can learn to truly respect each other and work together.  I wanted to talk about what we can build.

But instead I'm starting this year by talking about how some douchebags think it's cool to use the word 'rape' in the name of their upcoming tour.  I'm starting this year by talking about how a dudebro 'punk' band is willfully perpetuating rape culture, and  refusing to take responsibility for the implications of their actions.


[Image: a screenshot of the band in question's blog.]  Directly from this band's blog, a post on the tour dates, along with a video to promote it.

For anyone who hasn't heard about this, here's what happened: as shown in the screencaps posted above, a 'punk' band featuring members of another prominent 'punk' band has named their tour the "Raping the East Tour 2013".  For some reason, they were surprised that not everyone was okay with this name -- I guess they didn't consider that some of us actually have been raped or assaulted, that some of us have been assaulted at shows or by dudes who claim to be 'punk', or that some of us are more than capable of telling them that we're not comfortable with dudes using the word 'rape' so casually?  Whatever, the point is, there was some push back.  Some people have publicly criticized this band, and some bookers have canceled some of the band's shows after learning about the tour's name.

So of course, now this band is complaining that they're being persecuted, that they're being 'attacked' when all they've done is exercise their right to free speech, and how the original meaning of the word 'rape' isn't about forcing someone to have sex, so they haven't done anything wrong.  They literally said this in the statement they posted to their blog, which is of course called "No Apologies, No Compromise" -- it literally says, in all-caps, "We have done nothing wrong." 


[Image: another screenshot from the band in question's blog, of their response to the criticism of their tour's name.]  Another screen shot directly from the band's blog.  If you look at the bottom, you can see where they say they haven't done anything wrong.

I chose to write my first blog post of the year about this incident, but it doesn't really feel like a 'choice' when rape culture is literally inescapable.  It's not so much that I chose to write about this as I decided that I couldn't not address it.  Because I wanted and needed to do something that felt like me drawing a line with this bullshit.  This post isn't just about this one particular incident, or one stupid band that apparently doesn't have anything real or worthwhile to say, or about being let down by 'punk'.  This post is me setting a boundary.  

This post is me stating clearly and directly that I will not, under any circumstances, support rape culture, sexual assault, or its minimization.  This is me stating clearly and directly that I will not work with anyone who thinks it's okay to minimize rape culture or sexual violence. 

If you think it's okay to minimize rape culture -- or even if you just feel like you're 'on the fence' about it, or like you 'can't judge' or can't stop people from doing things like naming their tour 'raping the east' -- then I won't support you or your work, and I don't want to be friends with you, either.  There is no 'fence', there is no gray area.  You either understand that both sexual assault and making jokes about it are always wrong, no matter what, or you don't.  If you don't understand that perpetrating and allowing sexual assault and that perpetuating rape culture are damaging to both people and communities, I don't want anything to do with you. 

Because seriously?  If you don't understand that rape culture and sexual assault are wrong, I can't trust you.  I won't trust you to not hurt me, and I won't trust you to stick up for me if, god forbid, someone else hurts me or tries to.  I won't trust you to stick up for or believe or support my friends if anything happens to any of them.  And I don't have room in my life or in my community for people I can't trust.  Trust is crucial.  As MAXIMUMROCKNROLL columnist Jes explains in the latest installment of Modernist Witch (which everyone should read in its entirety ASAP), "…the strength of [the punk] community rests on the strength of our relationships.  As I wrote in my last column, we need to be able to trust one another for any DIY scene to work."

We need for our communities -- punk or otherwise -- to be safe.  To make and keep them safe, or as safe as possible, we all need to be clear about what that means.  We need to all agree to give no quarter to anyone who can't or won't consider our safety, not only from sexual assault but from all forms of violence, coercion, and oppression. 

No quarter for unsafe individuals means more than not supporting, booking, or working with people who won't prioritize personal and community safety.  No quarter means not getting sucked into discussions of whether or not we're allowed to set such boundaries.  We need to stop having what Jes rightfully calls The World's Most Frustrating Conversation.  We -- not we as in punks or women or survivors, but we as in all of us who are truly invested in creating both art and communities -- need to cease all engagement with all 'devil's advocates', 'fence sitters', and collaborators. 

We need to curb whatever tendencies we have to dialogue, and we need to stop allowing other people to debate our boundaries.  That's not why we came to 'punk'.  The people who I trust, my artist, activist, feminist friends and allies who are in bands and collectives -- we didn't come here to negotiate, or to ask people to treat us like human beings.   

We came here, and we are here, to do something constructive.  We're here to do something positive, something fulfilling, something that makes use of both our prodigious technical skills and our combined sense of social responsibility.  We're here to build something, to contribute something, something way beyond a line in the sand.  So either work with us, and stand on our side, or GTFO. 

*Special thanks to the modernist witch herself, Jes Skolnik, and to everyone else who has spoken about this, and also to my dearest RSL, for her peer/less reviewing skills.  Couldn't have done this without all of you.