by Maisie Allen (Zeke)
Feminist is a word that has a lot of stigma attached to it. With terms like “feminazi” and the media portrayal of feminists as man-hating hairy lesbians (not that there’s anything wrong with being a hairy lesbian *cough*), it’s too understandable why so many people consider themselves anti-feminism, but consider this: plain and simply, feminism is the idea that women should be equal to men. Not better than, not higher up than. Equal. It’s not a concept too radical to accept, that maybe human beings should probably be equal with each other – but why is it so hard for us? Why is it that, in this “modern” and “advanced” society (“but things aren’t the way they used to be! We’ve made a lot of progress!” Ok buddy,whatever gets you to sleep at night), I can go to a coffee shop with an old friend and the barista makes jokes about beating women like it’s nothing, like it’s commonplace, acceptable even, when that is absolutely not ok and should in no way be acceptable and yet to so many people, it is. My sister is an excellent example of both a victim of misogyny and also anti-feminism – to her, being a feminist is one of the least attractive ways she can think to live her life. She doesn’t realize why she needs it. She prefers to wear tank tops, short shorts, mini dresses, and skirts – purely because that’s what she feels comfortable wearing. That is her favorite version of herself, and yet when she walks out the door, down the hallway at school, down the block to pick up a slurpee, she has to deal with being harassed for being a “slut,” for “asking for it.” What is it exactly that she’s asking for? Why is it that the men (and sometimes even girls!) who are yelling these things at her feel they have a right to do so? What a misguided, backwards way to behave: you’re chastising a girl for doing what SHE wants to do, and then turning around and telling her that she’s obligated to have sex with you for the exact same reason. Where in the world does that make even an ounce of sense? It doesn’t, and that’s why it’s important to educate yourself and others about these things. I could write on and on about this, but i’m going to leave it with a real-world example that most people can understand.
I can hardly begin to express how important education is to me. And no, i’m not talking about “stay in school, kids!” I’m talking about real life issues. This, i think, is one of the reasons why the Riot Grrrl movement is so influential and inspiring. Here we have a national movement, started by people interested in the very same things that you and I might be. It starts at home. It starts with an idea, an art piece, a poem, a song, and a strong belief in something, and all it takes from there is somebody else to agree or to be inspired. From there, it entirely depends on who’s willing to listen and who’s willing to make a difference. While i may not have been around to experience the Riot Grrrl movement first-hand, i’ve certainly felt the reverberations from that movement, and i’d say that it is far from over. Let’s take girls to the front as an example. Many times at shows, it’s primarily a male crowd that dominates the front rows and the dancing pits, with girls in the back or along the sides, hiding from the elbows flying carelessly and the men literally pushing them around as some violent form of dancing. Don’t get me wrong. I love participating in that, but in that case, i’d be a minority. I have witnessed all too often and in many cases experienced the repercussions of being smaller and a girl in the middle of all the chaos. I’ve been concussed, dog piled, kicked in the head, trampled – and oftentimes, i’m the only one around to help myself. The men who are dominating the crowd are out to help each other, and to cop cheap feels on the other girls who dare to enter the pit, and i don’t happen to fall into either of the categories deemed fit for assistance. First of all, gross. Second of all, why do they think they have the right to dominate and run the place? Just for being bigger, just for being male. This is where the girls to the front idea comes in. Create a safe place for those same girls who want to participate and who want to actually see the band play. I say “right on!”, but let’s not stop there. I want to create a safe environment not only for girls, but for anyone who’s had to feel the trampling effects of those dominating the showspace. Girls, those who are smaller than average, members of the queer community, trans folk, younger people, older people – come to the front. Take up that space. Push back the people who are always in control, the oafish, the too-loud, the drunkards, the violent. You have just as much right to take up that space as they do, so why not? Do it.
This mindset brings me to my next series of questions: what’s up with the lack of girls in music in Reno? What’s up with the lack of queer persons in music in Reno? And seriously, what’s up with the lack of trans persons in music in Reno? We set out to put on a show that featured women in local rock music, and man what a difficult thing that actually turned out to be. As far as we are aware, we’re the only all-girl punk band (or band in general) in town. And i’m not even technically a girl (yep, that’s right, wrap your mind around that one. we’ll get more to it later). Bonus: Beef Pony is 75% queer. Not that everyone who identifies as queer necessarily needs to parade it around, but something i’ve noticed is that even larger than the lack of women in music here is the lack of queer folk. With so much media focus and “allies” parading about, you’d think there’d be a bit more representation from actual members of the queer community. So where is it? In addition to educating our audience a little more about feminism, we feel it’s important to provide this exposure as well.
And just as we’re not stopping at being girls, we’re not stopping at being queer, either. I’ve spent the better part of this past year in denial and hiding it from everyone around me, and don’t mistake this as a coming out speech (i’ve barely got the closet door open), or as an opportunity for me to make this all about myself: but for the record, i don’t identify as female. Or male. Keep in mind that throughout this essay, i’ve been using the term trans broadly. Most people associate being trans with either female-to-male or male-to-female, and fail to realize that there’s a lot more out there than those two genders. Gender is a tricky subject to navigate, and it’s difficult to put it into terms that are more simple and easier for people to understand. Exposure to this realm is another thing that is incredibly important to me, and to our band. Consider it this way: sex and gender are separate. Gender is emotional and psychological. Sex is anatomical. Someone can proclaim that they’re an artist, or a writer, or that they’re queer, and it is accepted that this is something they were born as. That is who they are, unchangeably. It is a trait engrained deep within them that is not erasable. So why not gender? Why can’t i say, matter-of-factly, that i don’t feel like a girl, i’ve never felt entirely comfortable as a girl, and so i simply am not a girl? Because really, that’s all it takes, that’s all there is to it. This is something just as important to me to proclaim out loud and to educate people about as being feminist, or queer, and that is what we have set out to do: we’re finally saying it out loud.
We’ve decided that nothing is going to stop us any longer from getting up on that stage and shouting these things out, and we’re not going to stop here. I can’t stress enough that education is really what it’s all about. We are trying to approach these subjects with a sense of humor and open mindedness, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t taking what we’re doing very seriously. We have a lot of things to be passionate about, and we want you to be passionate about them, too. We’re throwing it in your faces but we’re not shoving it down your throats. We want to inspire others to do the same, and Grrrl Noise will only be the beginning. Get ready, Reno.