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..

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Well Done Manchester Police and S.O.P.H.I.E

If anyone needs to know the importance of this in the UK, just look up the tragic, horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster and the vicious, violent assault on her boyfriend. 

And all the other cases that have got nasty enough to hit the news. 

I was not originally going to explain the good sense of including Goths and other subcultures into this legislation. Subculture, as I have mentioned before, is a life-altering choice as great as the choice of religion, and subculture, for many, is a stronger influence on daily life than local or national culture, but having read through comments on various articles reporting this story, I will.

Now I don't think the "hate crime" legislation as it stands is right. It has this rather specific set of groups of victims, and defines the hate crime by its victim rather than the hatred within the perpetrator, and I think it could be better worded to include any baseless hatred towards a random stranger due to a difference rather than personal attack. The kind of savage thugs that attacked Sophie Lancaster are liable to target anybody isolated, different, or perceived to be weak. Yes, they are as likely to attack someone for looking foreign, non-stereotypically gendered, of an unusual religion or disabled. It is just as vile and prejudiced to attack someone on the grounds of being ginger, or looking 'geeky' or having any other visually apparent difference, or even for having the wrong accent.  These things are unlikely to ever be added to the legislation. I also think that legislation that goes to further mark the victims out as 'special' is in itself divisive. 

It is the perpetrator that is more evil for being judgemental and prejudiced as well as violent, not the victim more special because they belong to a minority. 

The idea that anyone who beats up someone for being Goth or Punk or Lolita or Metal in Manchester will hopefully get penalised for their motivation and vicious intolerance of difference in the same way as the hate crimes already recognised as well as their violence is at least one good thing. This world could do with vast decrease in vicious intolerance, and the message that acting on it is wrong should go out.

I know that the hate crime legislation is partly there to promote a sense of safety amongst communities that have been traditionally the victims of institutionalised prejudice. I think the creative, self-expressive types who have formed the backbone of various subcultures (and proto-subcultures since at least the people inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and Arts & Crafts movements) HAVE faced a certain amount of institutionalised prejudice that can best be summarised by when, at one of the primary schools I attended and before I was even vaguely Goth, I was fed up with being bullied and ostracised by my peers and got the response "well, they wouldn't pick on you if you weren't so different' as if I could suddenly change my IQ (high enough to have meant I was into secondary school things by the time I was half-way through primary), my personality (far more imaginative, I would say, than many of my peers) and my personal circumstances (terrible, and I am not explaining on the public internet). I am who I am, and I have tried being more "normal" - I couldn't deal with the stress of having to permanently act, to permanently maintain an elaborate charade of normality and the cost to my then quite fragile mental health was huge. 

Even with that, I don't think the Goth community has faced, in the UK at least, anything quite as bad as the legislated prejudices that have historically caused vast and terrible harm to people of different races and nationalities, gays, bisexuals and lesbians, transgendered people and those of non-traditional gender and gender expression, the disabled, and women. 

But that does not mean to say that we have not faced problems. 

People think I am brave because I go out of the house looking visibly Goth, as if this is some act of deliberate defiance. It isn't; I just do what everybody else does and go about my life wearing my ordinary clothes. I know my clothes look different, but that is it. I know people who adore their Gothic finery, their Lolita dresses, their cybergoth creativity, but only wear it to clubs and events and go there by car or hide under long coats. Some even only wear it at home. It's not just those who are afraid of being beaten up, or having insults yelled at them by strangers, it is those who find the stares and whispered comments, the being treated with suspicion and alarm, or as some strange curiosity rather than as a curious human. If this addition goes some way to make people feel more comfortable in public as themselves, then that at least is a good thing. 

14 comments:

  1. Well put well balanced aas always and if this change helps reduce the amount of hate crimes in one area, and prevents another Sophie Lancaster it can only be good. I do think you have a very valid point and hate laws should focus on the hate felt by the offender is a good one.

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    1. Sometimes people commit acts of violence for financial motives (e.g muggings, or armed burglaries/robberies) or out of personal vendetta (people assaulting whomever their partner is cheating on them with, people assaulting others as acts of revenge, or even over a parking space or boundary dispute etc.) but there seems something particularly awful about assaulting a random stranger because you hate what they symbolise to you, be they punk, of a different ethnicity, supporting the 'wrong' football team, disabled, outside traditional gender roles, etc. or whatever.

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  2. This is an absolutely excellent post. I agree with everything stated here. I don't entirely agree with hate-crime laws myself but it IS nice to see the establishment acknowledging that yes, this is a thing that does indeed happen and needs to be stopped.

    The attitude towards it being "okay" to assault, harass or degrade those who belong to an alternative subculture is frighteningly like the attitude that it's "okay" to rape/sexually assault women based up on the amount of skin shown...

    Neither of these things are okay and as I said, it's really nice to see people in power finally acknowledging just how bad this sort of discrimination can be.

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    1. There is SO MUCH victim blaming towards people who stand out, one way or another. It often seems that certain sections of society associate difference (chosen or otherwise) with personal immorality, and thus sees violent acts of prejudice as "getting what's coming to you".

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  3. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about hate-crime legislation or whatever because, I've never heard of a vicious attack that was perpetrated as an act of love. That said, I totally agree that violent, hateful people need to understand that there will be a price to pay whenever they harm anyone for whatever reason.

    Subculture may be a choice and sexuality may not be, but no one in either category should be harmed because of who he or she is.

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    1. I think the idea behind hate crime legislation is to differentiate between attacks carried out for personal or profit reasons - those where there is some logic and rationale behind the attack, however twisted - and those where the perpetrator or perpetrators have attacked a stranger over some perceived difference. Yes, nobody carries out a vicious attack out of love (even if deluded folk think they are, e.g stalkers) but I think there is something even worse in attacking a stranger for no reason beyond hatred of a group.

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  4. Agreed and in my opinion, I do think no one should have a right to treat them like dirt and the legistation is helping to spread the word of diminishing prejudice and intolerance to send the message of lecturing about alternative lifestyles. As a pupil at school, I had bullying because I had the 'different' quality of me and my social skills related to autism, I never was 'normal' inside and I am proud of it.

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    1. Even if I hadn't been Goth or Pagan, I would have still been bi, and I have my own neurological and mental health issues that preclude me from being socially "normal", and was never going to be "normal" on the inside - as long as it is not harming yourself or others, I think being different is something to be celebrated, not something to be pushed away, eliminated, berated, or subjugated over.

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  5. The importance of this initiative of the Greater Manchester Police is that it sends a signal to the wider society (including the media, which often stereotypes) that discrimination and violence against Goths, Emos, Punks, and other people involved in subcultures, is not acceptable.

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  6. That was a horrible tragedy that Hurts me deeply. I send out wishes to Robert and Sophie's family. I heard descriptions from witnesses, and I wonder why they didn't run in to help. Sophie was entirely innocent and did not deserve death.

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    1. What happened to her was truly awful. I did not know her personally, nor her family or friends. When I heard that someone was murdered for being Goth, it suddenly made me so much more afraid. I had been treated badly quite a bit already, and had minor violence and threats made, but it suddenly made it very clear to me how out-of-hand and dire those situations could get. I am now a lot more confident out and about in general, but the threat gangs of violent delinquent youths with prejudices against those who are different pose still unnerves me.

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  7. Although this horrible tragedy has happened, hopefully something good can come out of it.

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    1. Apparently Sophie Lancaster wanted to start something like this before her death, but at least her terrible murder has made people realised just how horrible the prejudice against subcultures can be.

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