My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Goth, Hate and Ignorance

☠ WARNING: RANT AHEAD ☠

I am in foul mood, and a rant is ahead - you have been warned. 

Amongst the slurs aimed at Goths, I have noticed a trend - I think a lot of the people who hate us have only met those amongst Babybats who are perhaps the least representative of the subculture, not even representative of Babybats, and are more in it for the shock factor and to seek attention than Goth being a true representation of themselves.

The Negative Stereotype
Goths are sullen, moody teenagers. We're white, from a middle-class background, and complain without reason in the face of a privileged life, or are always depressed. We dress the way we do to "rebel", we think we are special snowflakes, unique and individual and soooo non-conformist. We listen to Marilyn Manson, Evanescence and My Chemical Romance. We self-harm, and self-harm for attention. We wear white-face makeup and lots of chains. All male goths are gay, or transvestites, and all female goths are lesbians. Goth girls are promiscuous and all goths are into fetishes. We live with our parents, will either grow into sad, unemployed adults or give up looking weird at college. We're rude, anti-social and cliquish, and we think we're a cut above the rest. Goths are either anorexic or morbidly obese. They're ugly, using their freakish style to try and hide behind, etc. Goths are Nazis, or shoot up schools. Etc. etc. 

This is the view I see come across in various goth-bashing post on the internet; on YouTube, on forums, in the comment sections of various pages. I'm pretty sure if you've seen a Goth video on YouTube you'll have come across some of this sort of nonsense in the comments section. It's also surfaced in real life situations where people have expressed their intolerance towards Goths. You might have noticed the latent homophobia and sexism, and also the fact that it is self-contradictory. The self-contradictory nature is probably because it is coalesced from a variety of hatred spewed forth on the internet and real life (although there are quite probably people who hold these self-contradictory views too). Anyone who has spent any time in the subculture or is friendly with actual Goths will see this as nonsense far removed from the actual nature of the subculture, but this is the stereotype that remains.

Mostly, it is ignorance, closed-mindedness and an intolerance for people who are different, but somewhere in there I think there's people who have had bad experiences with those they think are Goths. Now, I don't doubt that there are few adult Goths who are neither young nor Babybats who give the subculture a bad name and act deplorably - especially as I have met a few - but the majority of these stereotypes reflect the behaviour of the more obnoxious younger pseudo-Goths; not a reflection of Babybats as younger members of the subculture or as those just starting out in the subculture, or even as those meandering through subcultural identities in search of their own, but a reflection of those people who use the subculture as a means to play the rebel or seek attention or who seem so caught up in the false stereotypes of the subculture that they become living embodiments of them. 

Goths are not all depressed, but this is a common stereotype. There is this concept that we are indulging in melodramatic angst when there is nothing really wrong with our lives. Most Goths I know are actually relatively happy people, they have their ups and downs, and I think are more likely to be open about when they are down than those in the mainstream, but are not, on the whole, particularly miserable people. Maybe it exists because Goth music has been dark and a bit depressing since the days of Joy Division, and this has probably been around for as long as the subculture. In recent years this has been worsened by the conflation of Goth with Emo, and the negative portrayal of Emo being all about depression, or worse, affected depression for attention.

Goths and Emos are often conflated in hate comments, and there seems to be a genuine lack of distinction made between the two, although one would think that on looking at a Goth and an Emo that they even look vastly different. This conflation is really annoying me, especially when perpetuated by the media., and so do people conflating Goth and Punk. It's like not being able to tell the difference between deer, sheep and goats. Lots of people have already written about the differences between Goth and Emo and between Goth and Punk and suchlike, so there is no need for me to go into it here.

The stereotype of the sullen teenager writing angsty poetry, acting in a melodramatic manner exists for a reason. Teenage years are complicated, confusing times which make a lot of young people unhappy, especially in a modern world where so much pressure is put on young people to have flourishing social lives, be sexually active, and keep up to date with trends as well as deal with the sorts of issues that come with puberty and with secondary education and whatever may be happening in their family lives. A lot of teenagers seek release in various subcultures, and sometimes do so in less than advisable manners, but that is no fault of the subculture, and while the teenagers who do this do need to be held responsible, there should be full acknowledgement of how even with all modern technology and trained adults, that the teenage years will always include mistakes, mistakes we should learn from to become better adults. That is what being a teenager is about.

The part that does, however, get to me, is the part where people do things for attention. Self-harm is a serious issue, real mental illness is very serious too, but there are people who fein mental illness for attention, and will even go as far as to self-harm for attention, or to emotionally manipulate people, and this causes a lot of problems for people who do have self-harm problems and mental health issues. I had mental health issues as a teenager, and self-harmed, but it was often pushed aside with me merely being an 'attention-seeker' in the eyes of those I was trying to seek help from and my subcultural interests I think did not do anything to sway their opinions in my favour. This sort of behaviour causes real harm to people.

There are also those who use  Goth, among other subcultures as a method of getting attention - these are the people who wear all the "gothiest" things at once regardless of whether or not they clash, that claim that they really are vampires to everyone in their school, threaten to curse people, or even threaten to shoot their fellow pupils, say rude things about "preps" or "chavs", claim to be Satanists while ignorant of actual Satanism, graffiti things with scrawled pentagrams, think Marilyn Manson is shocking, and generally try and act like they are spookiest, most evil thing to ever go to secondary school/high school/college/etc. They want to shock, they want to get attention, and they don't necessarily realise that they are embarrassing themselves and making the subculture look bad, and if they receive negativity for their behaviour, claim it is discrimination on account of their subculture. Attention seekers often think of themselves as special snowflakes, too, and are people who try and gather to themselves labels that set them apart from the majority, to make themselves ever more esoteric, and Goth can be a convenient label.

If someone is seeking attention then they are making a determined effort to be noticed, and it is these attention seekers that are therefore more likely to stick in people's minds. Those who are particularly negative in one way or another are also more likely to be remembered than those who behave politely and decently.

I have explained before how Goth is not an act of rebellion, simply a set of differing tastes, a subculture rather than a counter-culture. We are not trying to be "nonconformist". 

The mental image that many have of a Goth, as someone with white-face makeup, badly done or over-done eye-makeup, lots of chains and the sorts of clothes and accessories that were available in Hot Topic in the early '90s or in Claire's Accessories now (although I admit I have bought gloves, socks and  earrings from Claire's, as there are some nice things in amongst the tat, but my experience has usually been of things of low quality and over-priced), trying very hard to act the spooky part, perhaps being sarcastic and cliquish, or acting with pretension and superiority (such as referring to non-Goths as "mundane mortals" in seriousness) is not a representative of Goths, it is representative of Babybats and Mallgoths, who either are just learning in their subcultural beginnings or are going through a phase. Most people do not think of the many talented artists and musicians in the scene, or the elaborate outfits of Whitby Gothic Weekend or Wave Gotik Treffen, or of anything representative of just how amazing, well-done and classy Goth can be.

The homophobia, sexism, heteronormative bias, and suchlike inherent in the sort of hatred that says "Goth guys are gay because they wear makeup" or "all goth girls are dykes because they wear combats and have piercings and listen to angry music" and similar is a representation of just how inculcated into mainstream Western culture these attitudes have become. I am not here to write about gender and sexuality and society; there are reams of articles already in existence on these topics, and I am not going to paraphrase people who are far more studied and eloquent on the topics than I am. 

A lot of people who have, for one reason or another, felt uncomfortable looking "normal" have found Goth and other alternative-looking subcultures helpful to them. There are certainly Goths with eating disorders of various sorts. There are also Goths who are not traditionally "pretty" or "handsome" and suchlike. Some people find being able to create their own appearance through creativity and artifice a whole new way to be beautiful when not happy with the way they naturally look, and that is a) not necessarily a bad thing and b) not unique to Goth. There are Goths of all shapes, sizes and Goths of all colours, from paler than pale to goths of colour who are more than just black in terms of their clothes. Goths are vastly variant in appearance and body-type. 

A lot of Goths remain so long into their adult years and have successful careers, often in careers that require a significant amount of education and are certainly respectable, and often well-paying. Just look at blogs such ::Siouxsie Law:: or ::Sophistique Noir:: or ::The Dancing Maenad::  (previously ran Le Professeur Gothique) for proof of well-educated and successful adult Goths (as well as really interesting blogs). 

The last three paragraphs are things that members of the subculture already know, but yet somehow elude those outside of it, as do many of the ways in which the stereotype differ wildly from the actuality of the Goth subculture. As to the BDSM community confusion, ::this article:: at The Everyday Goth should be helpful, and as to the "goths are Nazis that shoot up schools", most of the blame can be put on the shoulders of the media coverage of the Columbine massacre. 

I am not blaming Babybats or even Mallgoths for the discrimination Goths face - only the people who discriminate against us are to blame for their actions. Babybats are not bad people, they are not deliberately giving Goth a bad name, and a lot of them are simply new to the subculture and people judging Goth by the efforts of Babybats are as misguided as people judging the whole of archery by the people who do it for an afternoon on an adventure holiday. Even attention seeking pseudo-Goths are not to blame, however annoying they may be, for the actions of others. People are ultimately responsible for their own actions. 

The Babybats a person meets at secondary school, or the Mallgoths lurking in the local shopping-centre may be the only Goths and Goth-like people that a lot of people outside the subculture interact with, partly because they are the most numerous as those for whom Goth is a phase will often have it as a teenage phase, and partly because a lot of older Goths tend to keep their subcultural affiliation fairly quiet. 

I do think, though, that more needs to be done to show the positive side of Goth, to show what the subculture is really about. The resources are there, but somehow both the mainstream and younger Babybats are not getting them, because the stereotypes remain, and even people who are interested in Goth seem to be getting stuck at the level of these stereotypes. I think the answer is for ordinary Goths to stick their heads above the parapet a bit more, for all the beautiful, creative, and wonderful sides of the subculture to be allowed to outshine all of the flawed characters and fringe members and things that just go a bit wrong that come with it being a subculture made of real human people with all of their human strengths and weaknesses, and for the subculture to encourage the best in its members and make it clear what Goth is really about, so that however much the term is abused by people twisting it for their own ends, that such abuses are infinitely outweighed. 

10 comments:

  1. To sums things up, being in a Goth subculture is not about being sad neither seeking attentions. This is not about being different either. Being in a Goth subculture means to enjoy music, books, fashions, and being creative. Many people in the Goth scene are actually happy too; they are having fun. They are just everyone else including us in this world. I don't get what mainstream are thinking anymore. People should encourage Babybats or for those who doesn't know a thing about Goth; explain what it is.

    Not all Gothic stuff are really sad. The singer Voltaire comes up with funny songs. There is Gothic Lolita fashions when girls and young women can still be cute and also elegant. There are many lovely vintage dresses that doesn't show many skins; I'm not against for those who shows skins, but I'm just not comfortable with it.

    I'm sorry that you are not in a great mood about this. I know what you're getting. However, I'm sure you'll feel better soon enough. Well, thanks you for sharing all your opinions to us.

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    1. I do try to educate and explain to people who don't know what Goth is, and to encourage people just starting out. I'm hoping my blog will act like a resource and be helpful to people. I am hoping to try and showcase the creative stuff I enjoy, so it is all significantly biased to my personal taste, but hopefully it will be interesting for other people too. I am just about trying to summon the courage to e-mail some of my favourite creative types about interviewing them!

      I find Voltaire used to be really funny, but some of his newer songs don't quite have the same satirical bite as his older songs, but I still enjoy them. There's a lot of happy, cheerful, cute and suchlike Goth stuff

      Oh, I'm just not in a great mood in general, but it's nothing some ranting, some wine and some chocolate and a cuddle from Raven won't fix.

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  2. What I don't agree with in your post is the last part - that goths don't want to explore the subculture. Maybe you had experience with such people, I don't know - but for me it's just plain strange. It's a beautiul subculture and exploring its meanders is a pure pleasure for my senses. When I find something I definitely don't like, I just don't go into it deeper. It often happens I come back to it some time later, with fresh mind and start to enjoy it, whether be it pictures, clothes or music.

    I once encountered a situation, when a Babybat girl (well, a Babybat in terms of her behaviour, in my country Babybats hardly ever walk around with chalk-pale faces and black lipstick smeared all over them. She was just wearing plain black clothes.) came to me and said she wants to be a goth, too. I looked at her and said politely: 'Well, congratulations on your aims in life.' It was harsh, I know - but I'm just evil like that. I don't think she got my irony, but in my opinion one can't become a goth at will - it just comes naturally if one feels closeness to the aesthetics of this subculture. If one doesn't feel it - why try so hard to fit into this movement?

    I guess I AM a bit of attention seeker, posting my outfits and silently waiting for admiration, but... like many goths who are, let's call it, 'devoted to the subculture', I have a need to be creative, yet I can't draw, sing, write poetry or prose or have any other manual abilities - so I express myself through clothes. But for shock value? No, quite the contrary, I'm very shy and I don't like when passers-by look at me...

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    1. I'm not sure if they don't want to explore, or just don't know where they're supposed to look, but I've had arguments with people who insist that all the actually Goth music isn't Goth and that I'm not a Goth because I don't listen to mostly Manson and Rammstein (I do listen to them, but not /mostly/) and other such things. It was mostly when I was college age, and with people around my age, maybe a bit younger. I don't think it's typical of Goths, most of the Goths I've met aren't like that at all, just that there are people who really don't seem to have a clue about anything except the very newest (at the time) incarnations of Goth and don't seem too bothered about finding out more. Maybe they are the ones who will be into Goth for a couple of years at most and for whom it IS just a phase, I don't know. Maybe it was just the age we were all at. It was probably immature of me to argue the point with them.

      Babybats in Scotland tend to look a bit like Emos or Scene kids but with more black and more skulls, Babybats back nearer London where there's more access to shops selling purposely-Goth clothes and unusual cosmetics, etc.are more likely to look like a mismatch of every cliche at once.

      I have a theory that it's a case of low budget, high choice, lack of forwards planning - they can only afford a small handful of really nice things, so buy say, some really nice cyber-dreads, a Raven medieval style top, and some straps-and-tatters trousers, and New Rocks, because they've saved up for these things they really admire, or have been bought them as birthday presents or whatnot, but don't have a broad enough wardrobe yet to make a proper outfit for each, but really, really want to wear their new finery, so they wear it all at once and end up looking a bit silly. While the end result IS a bit silly, over time, when they learn how to assemble a wardrobe, how to shop with outfit-building as a consideration, etc and as they acquire a broader range of things, then they will rapidly look less silly. Enthusiasm takes over, I did it on occasion too, and would buy things because OMG PRETTY and then wonder what it would actually look nice with once I got home. (Especially when I had my first job and was like OMG PAY-CHEQUE! And then bought unnecessaries such as albums, clothes, trinkets, etc. and ended up eating lots of ramen until I learnt about budgeting.) I think a few Babybats also feel that if they're wearing an outfit of all thrift-shop/charity-shop clothes that they will be looked down on by the older Goths for not having the fancy clothes yet, which is silly. I admire a well-put-together outfit, not the brand or how much it cost, and I will probably admire it more if it's something bought in a charity shop and modified, because then it's something creative and unique.

      I know people who only dress Goth in their own homes, clubs and in the company of a small selection of friends because they can't stand the public attention. I've been looking one type of weird or another since I was 13, so I've got used to tuning it out, but if I actually notice it, it makes me uncomfortable.

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  3. Hi there. I have had a few nasty experiences with those, that probably aren't Goths. But they like to assume themselves part of a Gothic minority group, that are just out to give Goths a bad name. You know the kind I'm on about. They are into lots of binge drinking/drugs/alcohol abuse etc. Probably even into corrupt parties of illegal sex, and satanism. That is not what true Goth or Satanism is about. They are very different, and worlds apart. But the fake goths are the sort that, because their lives are dull and meaningless. So should the rest of our lives be exactly like theirs. That's not what true Goths and Satanists are about. WE ARE INDIVIDUALS! WE DO NOT NEED TO FOLLOW OR CONFORM TO THEIR NARROW-MINDED WORLD OF LIES/CHAVDOM AND SLAVERY. I've seen many females that have dark hair. But I'd never call them true Goths. Especially in a town as narrow-minded as Oswestry. They are into rubbish/crap mainstream shite. That isn't being Gothic or Satanic.

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    1. Are you in Oswestry, Shropshire? I drove through there recently, but it was quite late in the evening.

      I've not had any direct experience of those who mix Goth and self-destructive hedonism, but I've heard about those people. I've always thought it just more malignant rumour, but it wouldn't surprise me if those with a hole in their life that they try to fill with drugs, under-age sex, alcohol and suchlike wouldn't also be the sort to try and garner attention through shock value too.

      Actually, on thinking about it, I can think of a couple of internet personalities who fit that description...

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  4. Awww. Thanks for your kind words. I had a really crappy week, and this has made me smile.

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    1. I take it you're the Siouxsie Law lady! I had no idea you read my blog! Well, you're blog IS really interesting, and I share it with my adopted sister, who is a law student and occasionally gets her Goth on (but is more into Steampunk). She always thinks the unusual cases are really fascinating.

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  5. Aww, thank you for the kind words! :) I really enjoyed reading this post. I get SO tired of strangers at car shows making assumptions about me (yesterday I got "Hey, can I please take a photo of you standing in front of that hearse over there?" I was SO annoyed...) Also they seem to assume that I am "asking" for attention because I stand out in the crowd. NOPE. Standing out in the crowd is just an unfortunate side effect of wearing what I like to wear. It'll probably never change, but it is so comforting to know that amongst others of our own kind, in our little community, we are understood and respected.

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    1. My reaction to strangers stopping me for photographs really depends on my mood at the time and what I'm doing. If I am just milling around in town with little to do, probably taking photos (of the buildings) myself, or some such, unless they are obnoxious or I am feeling particularly scruffy, I'll acquiesce - clearly, to them, I am one of the more interesting things to have happened that day, even if they think it's something along the lines of a yeti being spotted in the city square. If they've taken the time to ask nicely and aren't wanting me to go particularly out of my way, then I don't mind.

      However, if I am doing something specific (shopping, going to council offices, travelling, etc.) and I have a task and time-frame to do it in, or am socialising with friends, then I tend to be a little snippier in tone and reply with something along the lines of "No, sorry, I'm busy, please leave me alone" because I am busy, I am not on a catwalk, I have stuff to do and people to see. I realise that I will get attention, and if I've spent time and effort on my outfit, modding my clothes, doing my hair/making or styling a wig, doing my makeup, etc. I see it as a compliment if people want to photograph that, but it has to be within reason, and people have to accept that I do this /because I think it's pretty/ not because I want attention or want to be photographed.

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