Sunday, June 7, 2009

Feminists at rock concerts

Rock concerts are one of my favorite ways to spend time and money. However, a lot of the bands I see are pretty damn patriarchal: Widespread Panic, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Metallica, etc.

Over at Female Impersonator, Amelia wrote about the discomfort she felt at rock shows:
At [rock concerts], I have felt very much like an outsider as a woman in a mostly-male space ... How can I be a good feminist while I'm cheering for a band that attracts the kind of crowd that yells, "Show your tits!" and cheers when women pull up their shirts?
I don't have a lot of problems consuming sexist, racist, or otherwise patriarchal media. Art is art, and it's not perfect. As long as I'm critical of it and recognize how it is wrong and why, I will enjoy and support bands who make music or art that I like. Liking these bands forces me to re-examine my commitments, and I'm not responsible for their fans.

And I've never felt particularly uncomfortable at rock shows. After several dozen shows over two years, it's a familiar atmosphere. But that comfort is due to my partnered privilege. I almost never go to shows without my partner, whose central passion is live music. As a single women, I would be vulnerable, a target. My unavailability signals to men that I am deserving of privacy.

I'm never hit on or made to feel uncomfortable - unless my partner is in the bathroom. This applies to no just drunken frat boys, but those lovely and benevolent authority figures.

At a Panic concert in Virginia Beach two summers ago, I held mine and J's beers in my hands while I waited for him to return. Four cops - not one, not two, not even three, but four full-grown men - surrounded me and began hassling me for my ID. I explained that J had my ID (I don't carry purses into shows), but that didn't satiate them. They continued to violate my personal space, until J returned with my ID. It was humiliating and infantilizing, and made me glad of J's presence for my very safety.

Many of the bands that I see regularly now I would be hesitant to see without J. The way I present myself makes me a target for unwanted attention. Without J, the fun of getting drunk and dancing at a rock concert would make me feel unsafe - a target for men who can do just that without shame or harm coming to them.

Look for more commentary on sexism at concerts this week, and for a review of No Doubt in Charlotte last night.


  1. hey- commented on your other post too but I had something to say about this- there is an importance of example. Going to a rock concert as a woman, and not allowing any sexist bs to get you shows an example not only to the men who think this is ok but also the women who go who buy into the bs. Also, we should help other women out. I've been to shows where a woman has gone crowd surfing and got her shirt stolen, etc. Pretty much everybody just laughed at her, I had to go shake down the guy who stole it. Anyway, I guess the point is to stick up for each other as women and as human beings. Maybe someday we can come close to eradicating sexist behavior.

  2. so i read this post after you said something after me in the music group on 20something (i was the one giving the no doubt shoutout and you gave a reply) and I thought I commented and/or clicked follow. But apparently I didn't. However, I come back to this post because I was thinking about it a recent concert I went to, as my female friend wasn't getting hit on, but she was getting flung all over the place.

    So now I realize the error of my ways and I am a follower and I invite you to check out my stuff as I should have a post about that particular concert soon

  3. Thanks for commenting, Valerie and Mr. O. How was your friend flung around, Mr. O?


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