"I don’t need to defend my credentials."
April 28, 2015 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Imagining a Safer Space: Building Community & Ending Harassment in Punk
I recently got harassed in a pretty terrifying way at a punk venue in Austin, Texas. I used my experience as inspiration for a piece that examines why and how harassers are allowed to continue operating within the punk community, as well as how to establish community norms that holds them accountable for their actions.
[via mefi projects]
posted by griphus (35 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
"The heart of this article isn’t one incident, with one guy, at one time and place. This one story only serves as an illustration of how a lack of anti-harassment policy in a space, and a community that doesn’t provide consequences for those that violate community norms, can allow harassment to happen."
posted by Fizz at 10:40 AM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh man.

I hadn't heard the term "missing stair" before, and it's gold.

In 2012, blogger Cliff Pervocracy coined the term “missing stair” to describe individuals who pose a danger to others, but are tolerated within a community because everyone is aware of their issues. If you know about a missing stair in an unlit stairwell, you can work around it and avoid it. No one bothers to fix the missing stair because jumping over it works just fine.

But if no one told you that there was a missing stair, and it’s just assumed that you’re aware, it’s all too easy to be hurt.

We don't need to change it - it doesn't bother us. I've seen that attitude all over the place, not just about dangerous people, but about other things that are too onerous to deal with head-on.
posted by entropone at 10:43 AM on April 28, 2015 [19 favorites]

Agreed. "Missing stair" makes so much sense!

I'm so sorry that happened to you, Juliet Banana. What a wonderful list of resources you've given us to hopefully reduce the chances of it happening again!
posted by jillithd at 10:47 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is terrifically useful and I'm forwarding it wide.

It's exhausting to be repeatedly told you don't belong somewhere you enjoy, and it's destabilizing to have it done so publicly, especially when it's just shrugged off by the people that should be stepping in. This type of behavior is a large part of why I stopped going to see live music a couple of years ago.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:51 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I play in about a half-dozen local bands, mostly moving in punk scenes, and am super glad of the queer/feminist punk scene here in the UK. A whole network of bands, venues, events, and promoters who take the idea of inclusiveness seriously (which means not being inclusive of intolerance or assholes). I have played gigs outside of this scene where the other bands have literally been sniggering to themselves all evening trying to covertly take photos of one of my bandmates and I (I guess they'd never seen a trans woman before, nevermind one playing a damn sight more aggressively than any of them), where I've been assaulted, followed around to be aggressively misgendered, the lot. I've also very much seen the missing stair in action in response to these incidents (when people even think them a problem to the extent of feeling the need to acknowledge it as a known problem). Whenever I've played gigs in the queer/feminist punk scene, people have been fucking awesome, and the few times there have been incidents, they have been dealt with admirably (mostly individuals having their actions and implications explained to them, and then being ejected).

I doubt I wouldn't be playing if it weren't for an awesome network of effectively safe spaces, but I sure as shit wouldn't be having anywhere near as much fun doing so. This network and scene weren't always there - it's a product of the last decade or two, mostly. I hope a similar sort of thing gets established elsewhere as well.
posted by Dysk at 11:15 AM on April 28, 2015 [12 favorites]

Nazi Rapey Punks Fuck Off!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2015 [7 favorites]

Ugh. What an awful thing to have happen to you. I'm glad you're turning it into a thoughtful call for action. The links and resources you've put at the bottom of the post, including Langelan's Back Off! book (which if anyone hasn't read it is excellent, BTW) should prove very helpful to quite a few people.

I first came across the missing stair analogy through a comment by Deoridhe here on MeFi. It's a great way of conceptualizing the way we navigate difficult people and abusive/difficult social situations/interactions.
posted by zarq at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2015

I think broadly any male dominated sub-culture is likely to have this problem. I know I've seen it with Comics fans, and scifi fans, and wrestling fans. Us dudes need to get our shit together, and work to convince our peers to get their shit together, or stop showing up.
posted by garlic at 11:44 AM on April 28, 2015 [12 favorites]

I'm not surprised but am disappointed that Shaun didn't receive an immediate, blanket ban, and that the venue didn't contact her to say that the bartender was talked to, new rules were implemented, and this will not happen again.

I don't care if the drummer was blackout drunk or not. That behavior earns a lifetime ban, and until bars take that sort of action, they are effectively telling half the population that they are not really welcome at the bar unless they are okay with being relentlessly hit on and if they reject the advances they can expect to be tapped in the bar by a man who is repeatedly insulting and threatening them.

It's self evident to me that this sort of behavior is intolerable. What the fuck is wrong with the bar?
posted by maxsparber at 11:53 AM on April 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

It makes me sad that she felt the need to throw in the bit about "airing dirty laundry" to cut off that inevitable response at the pass. I hate how this kind of thing is somehow supposed to be private, and is "no ones business" even when it happens in public.

I've written before on here about missing stairs and my experiences therein, and on the ridiculous levels of bad behavior it took for shitty people to be run out of local scenes. Mostly though, this kind of thing is why i never really engaged with the local punk scene and found it really uninteresting.

There's more than a couple gross ass dudes. Pretty much everyone knows who they are. And yet, they're for the most part still around. The one guy i know of who was actually run out of the scene(and eventually out of town, although he left in a cloud of "silenced all my life") literally had over 10 women come forward and say "yea, he straight up raped me and i'm not just some scornful ex" before anyone would really go "ohhhhk, fine, we'll get rid of him"(and as this implies, there had previously been plenty of "oh but there's this one detail that makes you an unreliable narrator so meh"). EVERYONE knew and no one wanted to actually take the awkward step of excluding him, so they said.

For the longest time i thought this was a passive aggressive seattle thing. No one wants to ever tell anyone they don't want them around. They just want to not invite them to anything and hope they get the message. If they keep showing up they'll just quietly talk shit.

It took me a while to realize it's that a lot of people just don't give a shit about women. It's not so much that they don't want to exclude people, people get excluded and told they aren't welcome all the time for... just being annoying, or being "posers", or whatever. It's just that treating women like shit and even being a predator isn't an offense that registers.

I think what makes this worse than say, creepy guys at an anime convention, is that punks and the punk/anarchist scene espouse anti oppression and being against all this kind of shit on paper. It's all the intellectual dishonestly that really gets to me. That's why the "yea well guys get away with this shit everywhere" stuff cheeses me off. It's WAY worse when you have a space that says it's against this but then just isn't.

I mean, every scene has a bunch of bullshit people in it. But there's something way grosser about rapists who wear kill your local rapist shirts.
posted by emptythought at 11:54 AM on April 28, 2015 [19 favorites]

I've relocated to San Jose recently, and there's a guy in the music scene here who has harassed and abused women - and underage girls - consistently, going back to the 90s. The stories are awful, and there are many testimonials. He also apparently creeps on girls at shows and isn't secretive about it in the least, to the point where it's well known. How on earth is this allowed to happen, why is he still welcome in such spaces? It turns out the music scene here is small, all ages venues are few and far between, and he's the one who books/promotes those shows. Yep, the guy who puts on the shows. Apparently no one called him out for decades because none of the bands wanted to cross the guy who booked their gigs, and he's accrued some level of power and influence (relatively speaking: there's not much of a "scene" here at all).

There's a boycott campaign against him, a Facebook group, and word has spread. He's still booking shows and doing his thing.

There's a missing stair in every scene.
posted by naju at 12:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

Sorry you keep having these shitty experiences, Juliet Banana. You did the right thing outing the asshole. Keep being awesome and living life, you're my hero (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Every time you allow someone with a known history of harassment to drum for your band, or play at your venue, or come to your party, you’re saying that their presence matters more than other people at the event feeling safe.

This is incredibly well-stated and organizers, employers, etc in every fucking community need to hear it. I have nothing whatsoever to do with the punk scene but this story reads as exactly the same as what I've seen go down in gaming, in atheism, in fandom, etc. in response to harassment, rape and assault.

I also get why it's strategically probably better to characterize this, on the whole, as harassment and not sexual assault, but that non-consentual touching is a form of assault. I can imagine the kind of response this would've gotten if she'd used that phrasing instead of "harassment", because I've seen women who use that kind of language dismissed and belittled as "hysterical".

The whole thing makes my fucking blood boil. Thanks for talking about it and writing about it; this shit needs sunlight.
posted by NoraReed at 12:09 PM on April 28, 2015 [15 favorites]

That sounds like a relentlessly shitty experience and where the bar management should have stepped up and handled things appropriately from the beginning. I started seeing live music in the mid/late 1980s and even then some places were great at evicting assholes but most weren't.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2015

Oh, for fuck's sake, Beerland. You have good karaoke on Monday nights but I might just have to find another place to mumble into a microphone twice a year.

Leaving aside for a moment any expectations I would have of Beerland management to understand this from Juliet's point of view, I don't understand why a bar of any sort would let someone yell abuse at a patron of theirs for even five minutes before intervening.

Of course, I hope that Beerland would intervene because nobody deserves to be abused like that, but empathy is such a high bar that the pessimist in me is not suprised when someone fails to clear it. It's when these entities refuse to act even in their obvious self-interest that I'm mind-boggled.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:34 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Man, what a great read. Thanks for sharing! I've already shared the link with my fellow board members at the music festival who board..um, I sit, upon. Sorry grammar.

It really made me wonder about the missing stairs I may know. I applaud the speaking up, and firmly believe that we all have to do our part. The more we speak up, the less successful the shitbags will be in hiding.
posted by Richat at 12:38 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great piece.

(Kinda sad that from the opening I thought I was also gonna get to learn about a new psych punk band, since I love those. I'm not quite willing to divest myself of all the music I love made by assholes, but I am at the point where I probably don't need to add any new assholes to the collection.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on April 28, 2015

Well this is especially shitty since the one thing pretty much everyone in the punk scene had in common was that the whole world went out of its way to harass us, and the punk space was our place where that shit wasn't welcome. But it's hardly surprising. Bars are shitty places. I remember going to my local punk club in like 79 and they were frisking people at the door. I figured they'd turn away the guy in front of me in line, a redneck with a 5 inch bowie knife on his belt. I figured that was the reason they were frisking people. But no, they waved him right in. But I got frisked, and told the doorman, hey didn't you see that guy walking right in with the fucking huge knife on his belt? Why would someone bring a fucking huge knife to a punk club? Why would you let him in the club? I was not too surprised when the doorman wouldn't let me in. And I never went there again.

But that was the 70s, before punk died. This is why it died. There's an old Sham 69 punk song with the lyrics, "we're the people you don't want to know, we come from places you don't want to go." So we went to the nowhere places, because that's where we were and they weren't. And then suddenly people knew where our nowhere places were, and they started going there just to fuck with us. There's nowhere safe except the grave.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:20 PM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I will be raising awareness about this here in Austin. I know people, this will be discussed.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

The owner of Beerland has commented on the article, as well as sharing it and their response on Facebook. I'm incredibly heartened to hear them responding with empathy instead of defensiveness. More importantly: SHAUN IS BANNED FROM BEERLAND!!!!!!!
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [37 favorites]

any idea why Shaun posted that "I'm quitting alcohol for a while" facebook update? was that posted after his banning, or was it a spontaneous display of remorse?
posted by jayder at 2:09 PM on April 28, 2015

Yay, the (often incredibly broken until kick-ass people step up with courage) works!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2015

I'm incredibly heartened to hear them responding with empathy instead of defensiveness.

They managed to be defensive too, and absolve themselves of any blame:

Shaun is sometimes loud and brash (hence the “Yeah, he’s like that”) but he has never been threatening and confrontational like that before. We don’t always know who knows whom and we can’t always tell when loud or foul language is in jest or threatening.

Yeah they didn't know her, maybe Shaun knew her and it was all a big joke.

More importantly: SHAUN IS BANNED FROM BEERLAND!!!!!!!

That's not really what he said:

He is not currently welcome at Beerland and neither is his band, the Injuries, for the time being. Hopefully, he can get himself under control and learn from this situation.

And then they'll let him back in the club.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

yeah, I thought the owner's response was weak sauce too. It had a sort of avuncular tone unbefitting the gravity of Shaun's offense. I felt the "Sean can be.loud and brash" thing seemed enabling and justifying .... and unnecessary and offensive in this context.

and it sounds like just a brief time-out rather than a ban. dude must be in very tight with the owner or employees ...?
posted by jayder at 2:36 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think I found his FB just before it went into lockdown ... "Schools attended: Fuck that." Dumbass? Confirmed, and proud of it.
posted by jayder at 4:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't think descending to personal insults directed at a single person, instead of addressing the way in which harassment and abuse is tolerated in communities (including on MetaFilter, where people might go to someone's Facebook page to find ways to insult them) really helps.

To make an institutional change we have to make a commitment to speak up and to enact social penalties for people being insulting or abusive in public, even if we don't know the person they are targeting; even if we don't like the person they are targeting. This only works if we are part of the community cleaning up our own communities, and it works best when influential or well-spoken people come out clearly against abuse and harassment.

I think the greater point that public abuse of women is seen as a private matter and others won't intervene is clearly part of the problem. So is excusing people who are abusive when the targets of said abuse are women. It will take a very long time to change this.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:08 PM on April 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

"I'm sorry if I offended you" isn't really an apology. Jerk.
posted by ostranenie at 5:10 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that is kind of weaksauce. The response should be "we realize he is a problem and are banning him; we also are working with the community to figure out better ways to make Beerland a safe space from harassment and sexual assault and are working with our staff to make sure that if that happens again, it is handled swiftly and effectively." Then they work with some local feminist organization(s) to come up with a good way to do that, publicize the policy, train their staff, and turn their reputation around to be a good place where you don't have to deal with the shit you get elsewhere. That's how they could've learned from this, turned it around and actually done something really valuable and proved themselves role models.
posted by NoraReed at 5:22 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

As much as the punk scene tries to endose equality, feminism, and just doing what's right I have been forever disappointed in it as it often just boils down to getting fucked up.

I've had similar experiences. I have just stopped going to shows without a man to stand next to. It doesn't matter that I've been to the venue 30 zillion times, that I know the owner, the bartender, and the band.

I actually make sure my male companion will arrive earlier than I will. I won't go just with women friends anymore either.

The last time I got there earlier I got groped (in a friendly get to know you way!) and knew that my only real ally there as I was getting new-friend-groped was the lead singer who was currently singing. This groper wasn't even drunk.

I've been groped while sitting between 3 male friends. I've been seriously hit on by men literally half my age. I've been played for sport by the jocks there for fun. I've gone toe to toe with raged men wanting to fight anyone and anything.

I already know the really terrible men from the local scene. I hear them talk about women, and they aren't afraid to say horrible things women while I am listening. Making those particular guys go away might mean fighting them to make them go away. Just hope the chair next to you doesn't open and you get a earful of their bullshit all night.

It's simply not safe for me to go to many of the venues without a man, the use of alcohol and drugs just makes it impossible. And sorry to say I would never go to a punk show outside of my current town without a man. I am in no way saying this is Juliet Banana's fault, but it's the only way I can feel safe.

I don't know how to change it. Terrible people that just want to get fucked up will always be attracted to the music, and it's hard to get rid of them.
posted by littlewater at 5:32 PM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

and it sounds like just a brief time-out rather than a ban. dude must be in very tight with the owner or employees ...?

You obviously haven't ridden this carousel before. No, that's just how it goes. The owner just doesn't see it as that terrible of an offense. They register it as bad enough to have poor optics, so they have to do something, but deep down they just think some kind of boys-will-be-boys and/or two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle bullshit. Deep down they think that you can't have a fight without two fighters, or whatever, and that this must have been some personal spat between them and yea he maybe overreacted a bit but...

Guys like this are NEVER 86'd or truly kicked out of really... much of anything. Fuck, guys who do WORSE shit than this aren't. They always show back up, and they're always allowed back in again because "really? that was like 3 years ago. can't you just let it go?" and they're right back to their old bullshit.

This behavior just isn't serious enough to merit a lifetime ban, apparently. I've seen guys like this walk on more and worse.

I bet he'd get 86'd forever if he punched a guy in the face, or got in a fight with a guy though. But somehow when it's a man treating a woman like shit it's drama, not violence.
posted by emptythought at 6:43 PM on April 28, 2015 [16 favorites]

Yeah, men pretty much get away with all sorts of violence against women both in and out of public on a regular basis and never get socially ostracized for it. It's super rare that even a known rapist will get kicked out of anything.
posted by NoraReed at 6:47 PM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

And let's not forget the story about the guy from the Casualties (being a rapist). Lot of missing stairs in this kind of scene for sure.
posted by atoxyl at 7:08 PM on April 28, 2015

Yeah, men pretty much get away with all sorts of violence against women both in and out of public on a regular basis and never get socially ostracized for it. It's super rare that even a known rapist will get kicked out of anything.

Yea i mean, it's not punk exactly, but look up something like this.

That dude is still touring, is generally accepted at venues, and somehow isn't in jail. Pretty much rest my case.

He's still out there doing exactly that same shit. Any time he gets called out it almost always gets shrugged off, and if not then he just goes somewhere else.
posted by emptythought at 7:20 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry about your experience, and you are so powerful to write about this. One of my professors, Clarissa Rojas, and a co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence wrote this wonderful article on community accountability. Hopefully it'll be of help for your future work <3 [Link]
posted by yueliang at 10:52 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just saw this article shared on the Lindy Hoppers Against Rape Culture facebook group, which sprang up after the lindy hop community finally realized that they were supporting prominent men who were raping and sexually assaulting women in the community by remaining quiet and relying on the network of women to quietly warn eachother.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:23 AM on April 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

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