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, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. 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.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 21 October 2013

Goth Hallowe'en Costumes

We are a subculture, not a costume.
It is not acceptable to dress up as a terrorist Muslim, it is not acceptable to dress up as a 'Squaw' (that word, by the way, is an insult to Native North American women) and it is not acceptable to dress up as a Chinese person with taped eyes and a coolie hat because these are all reducing groups of people to flat and sexualised or negative stereotypes and perpetuating those stereotypes. 

It's not acceptable to dress up in a skimpy 'Goth' costume with a bad wig, white face-paint and cheap plastic 'collar'. 

'Goth' costumes often present a sexualised (sexy-fied) stereotype of Goth, and one that errs on the 'Goths are people who think they are vampires' and 'Goths are slutty and into kinky sex' stereotypes a bit too much for comfort. There are also those who, like those who wear the racial stereotype costumes, wear them to mock those stereotypes, people who wear Goth costumes in a way that deliberately mock what they think Goths are. THAT really annoys me. 

I live the Goth subculture 24 hours a day; even my dreams run to the same aesthetic as everything else I do, even my work clothes err on the Gothic. I have Joy Division and Dead Can Dance on my headphones when I sit on the bus. I have spider-web loo-roll and black plates. To say I am passionate about my subculture is a bit of an understatement, and to know people use Hallowe'en as an excuse to mock us is... well irritating to say the least. Especially when Hallowe'en is often quite dear to Goths. 

Now, wearing a Goth outfit at Halloween isn't inherently inappropriate. I've actually helped a friend put together a proper Goth outfit at Halloween, but it consisted of clothes that would actually be considered Goth (from her wardrobe and mine) rather than a tacky and cheaply-made, store-bought costume, and she wore Goth makeup rather than white and black face-paint. Her intention was not to mock Goths, her outfit was based on what is authentically Goth in consultation with a Goth, and she wore her outfit as an opportunity to explore a different way of looking for a night. Yes, the idea that it can still be considered a 'costume' could still be grating to some, as to her it was something different to wear for a night and not a form of expressing her permanent inner self and subcultural affiliation, but I don't think that this was not done in any  malevolence and what she wore was actually Goth and not a tawdry parody of Goth.

I know we are not actually 'scary', but a lot of Halloween costumes these days are not based around spooks and ghouls - yes vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies are always popular, but I see people dressed up as nurses, ladybugs, bananas, super-heroes, etc. A costume that is trying portray Goths as a scary entity alongside the zombies, vampires, serial killers and monsters is not appropriate and perpetuates negative stereotypes, whereas a costume that portrays Goth as just a different look is not a problem. Goths often find inspiration in the stories of ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural horrors, but it does not mean we believe ourselves to be like them, or that we ourselves are dangerous. Our aesthetic often draws from the artwork and cinema surrounding such mythology, and our tendency to seek beauty in dark places does mean many of us particularly enjoy Hallowe'en as a festival of spooks, death, monsters, etc. 

Some of us may celebrate Samhain on the same day, a Pagan holy day, not because it is the Goth thing to do, but because there is significant overlap between the Pagan and Goth communities. 

Note for non-Goths: It is not funny, cute, or amusing to ask, and even ruder to shout, "It's not Hallowe'en yet!" at a Goth, or  "Hallowe'en was last week/month" at them. We know,  this is who we are every day, and you are mocking us. Even the politest Goths get tetchy when they field this supposed 'joke' endlessly.You look like a rude and unimaginative idiot, and not even the slightest bit funny when you crack these 'jokes'. 

I am aware that a lot of this is literally cut and paste from an earlier post I made on subcultural appropriation back in March, but I felt that this point would need repeating nearer Halloween itself, when those searching 'Goth Halloween Costume' may come across it. I did elaborate on it, too, so for those who read the previous version of this post, there are new bits to stop you getting too bored! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Spirit Day 2013

It's that time of the year again - no, not Halloween (that's not for another 12 days!), but Spirit Day.

Spirit Day was started in 2010 by a Canadian teenager, Brittany McMillan, in response a spate of suicides related to people being bullied over being LGBTQ. Spirit Day is a day to show solidarity, by wearing purple, with people who are bullied, especially those who are bullied for being, or being assumed to be, LGBTQ. For those who don't know what LGBTQ stand for, it means 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer' and encompasses a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions. 

Of course, bullying anyone for ANY reason is wrong in so many, many ways. As I said last year at ::this post::, as a teenager I was bullied, and one of the things the other girls picked up on to bully me over was their assumption of me being a lesbian because I did not adhere to traditional 'teenage girl' behaviour (and still don't!). This had a negative impact on my own discovery of my sexual orientation. As such, Spirit Day is certainly a cause that is close to my heart. 

As I did last year, I will not preach about the evils of bullying - that's like pointing out that wars are violent or that murder is bad; it is pretty much stating something that should be obvious to anyone with any morality. 

Do your best to help those who are hurting, listen to them, give them a safe space to vent and release. Stand up against those who use hurtful words, point out that it is wrong and unacceptable to bully people and make assumptions.  Look out for people in your life who might be suffering and be there for them. 

if you yourself are bullied, first of all find someone to talk to, someone who will listen. I know, both from experience and from countless personal accounts that educational establishments often don't do enough. I also know that some parents are hardly sympathetic, especially when it comes to their children being LGBTQ. Remember that your parents and school staff aren't the only people in the world - talk to a friend, a relative, or even an internet friend. When it comes to looking for help on the internet, I do stress being careful on the internet, as there are people who take advantage, and sadly I have to note that the proliferation of internet attention seekers crying wolf does mean that more public pleas for help and rants/venting are often met with derision, suspicion and a lack of sympathy. Don't keep it to yourself, that only makes it worse. Do try and sort things via the proper channels, and do try and explain to your parents if at all possible. In the UK there are advice and listening telephone numbers, with people at the other end to help. 

If you are in immediate physical danger, defend yourself (within the law, obviously). 

Purple is my favourite colour, so it isn't too hard for me to find something purple in my almost all-black wardrobe. I suggest you do something, even if it's just some purple ribbon, or a purple tie, just do something to show your solidarity. 

::Spirit Day at GLAAD:: - the official website for Spirit Day.
::Samaritans::, for the despairing and suicidal - they have a letter, telephone and e-mail service.
::ChildLine:: helpline for children facing a variety of issues, including bullying. 
::Lesbian & Gay Switchboard:: UK advice for LGBT people.