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Thou Shalt Not Talk About The White Boys’ Club: Challenging The Unwritten Rules of Punk
Touted as being a home for society’s rejects, outcasts, and ‘alternative’ political stances, punk unfortunately often ends up reinforcing oppressive mindsets and ideals by setting up numerous unwritten rules for dress, behavior, personal choices, identifications, and so much more. This zine, written by sari of Hoax and You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania, aims to direct conscious attention to the nuances of being a marginalized person, namely a Gender and Sexuality Minority (GSM), in the punk community. Includes questions intended to incite dialogue among readers and their friends as well as a short list of recommended resources concerning marginalized experiences in punk. B&W, 34 pages, & text heavy. US$2.50.
THE 7 PUNK COMMANDMENTS (EXCERPTS)
I. Thou Shalt Not Get Dressed Without A Mirror
[gendered expectations for dress & behavior]
Even though many of us would like to think that punk is a place in which we can escape from the claws of dominant US culture for a period of time, mainstream beauty standards are still very much in place. Women and gender non-conforming individuals still face harsh judgments for our bodies and modes of dress while punk men’s fashion is of lesser importance and more open to interpretation.
II. Thou Shalt Fear The Feminine
[perpetuating misogyny & girl hate]
A general issue for punks is the level of commitment to it, in terms of appearance modifications in various situations, and the straight white punk boys who successfully embody punk masculinity are often free to sit back and let women subtly fight each other for their attention—proof positive that men are the only ones who benefit from this competition.
III. Thou Shalt Not Talk About The White Boys’ Club
[demographics & unwritten punk rules]
Punk feeds off of marginalized folks disassociating from our own experiences in favor of generalized perspectives of white/straight/male people. Punk, as a group or community, needs certain requirements met for inclusion and identification, and not discussing them or actively questioning them means we often fall prey to standards we don’t agree with or align ourselves with, thus continuing the cycle of alienation and disconnection.
IV. Thou Shalt Play In A Band (Or Try Like Hell To Do So)
[creative participation & going behind the music]
Along with having their gender consistently at the center of discussions about their ability to play instruments, women in bands are often, if not always, put on a pedestal. They are pressured to only write about issues that can somehow promote gender equality or ‘further the cause’, and any women just talking about partying or having fun (read: like dude punks do) risk being seen as somehow wasting the spotlight.
V. Thou Shalt Not Take Mercy Upon The Weak
[mosh pits, the cult of masculinity, & normalized assault]
…one of his female friends chastised me for pushing him and told me that if I didn’t want to get knocked into, I should have stood in the back of the room where she herself was perched the whole time. After a few choice words about what I thought of both her and her friend, I commented that if the boy didn’t want to get knocked on his ass, he should have stayed with her in the rear of the space.
VI. Thou Shalt Be Pure
[purity in politics, behaviors, & interests]
When it comes to music, punks get fucking defensive about their interests. I can’t count the amount of conversations I’ve heard centered around how long someone has been punk, how true they are to some abstract “punk lifestyle”, and, the annoying icing on the cake, which specific types of punk they’re into. The expression “Punk Points” sums up this mathematical game of macho posturing that aims to assess just how loyal to punk one really is, like some kind of fucked up nationalism.
VII. Thou Shalt Not Shake Shit Up
[trying to incite positive change in the scene]
Be aware of our inclusion of others. It’s probably safe to say that most, if not all, kids who turn to punk do so out of a desire to find a supportive place that aligns with their non-traditional politics, life decisions, home lives, and so on. Since so many of us were outcasts in other social scenes, finding a place to belong is a really reassuring and important experience. But unfortunately, our in-group feelings can quickly turn into cliques that further exclude others, and it’s not just white boys who are complicit in this.