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..

Friday, 4 July 2014

Stereotyping From Within The Subculture And Inclusivity: Part 1 - Financial Snobbery.

Firstly, happy Independence Day to my American readership. Have fun, enjoy barbecues and pyrotechnics if you are into that sort of thing!

I was reading ::this:: post by Fee over at 'An Honest Drug' and the posts she linked to - Nicolette Mason writing on IFB ::here:: it got me thinking about inclusivity in the Goth subculture in general, and about how I think certain stereotypes are being perpetuated within the online Gothic community. I think how Goth represents itself online is very important as a lot of Goths, especially younger Goths who don't have access to the clubs and gigs of the adult Goth scene, rely on the internet for a connection to the broader Goth scene.

I am going to try and avoid simply repeating what has already been said about those who blog commercially having various pressures around them to adopt mainstream values and deviate from their image (basically, a pressure to 'sell out' to some degree, like with any creative industry) partly because it is too general for the audience of this blog and my interests, and partly because I simply don't like repeating what others can say better.  

I have tried to debunk mostly stereotypes imposed on Goth from the outside, such as Goths not being a subculture of depression (to be found at ::this:: post) and Goth not being an inherently middle-class subculture (to be found at  ::this:: post) to my being an example of the fact that Goths are not all teenagers and we do grow up and get proper jobs while remaining alternative. What I have not spent much attention to, though, are the stereotypes perpetuated within the subculture.

The first one I would like to debunk is that you have to spend lots of money on clothes, trinkets and generally applying the Goth aesthetic to your entire lifestyle, and that the flashier, more ornate clothes you have and the amount of times you can go to Gothic festivals (especially if you're travelling across Europe and America to go to them) can somehow dictate how Goth you are. I have mentioned this tangentially in various past posts about being a Goth on a budget. (::Here::, ::here:: and ::here::, for example) but you do not need to be rich to be Goth any more than you need to come from a middle-class background or be middle-class (as these are all tied to socio-economic status).  This is basic snobbery, and Goth is not run by the Goth oligarchy, because Goth has no leaders.

I am tackling this first, because as followers of my blog may well know, I am not very well off - my job is part-time and barely covers the rent, and to contribute towards utilities, taxes and bills I have to busk in my local city (followers of the Domesticated Goth page on FaceBook will know I do this). Currently money is very tight, and as I have mentioned before, I may well have some big life changes ahead, and I am not feeling that financially secure at the moment. I certainly feel a little left out when I see the beautiful gowns from WGT showcased on Viona Art, for example, or when I get the newsletters and FaceBook updates from my favourite alternative craftspeople and sellers and would like to purchase their wares and know that I can't even afford the sale items right now.

Nobody has been obviously and outwardly snobbish towards me, but I can't help but feel that I and my Gothy endeavours get more than slightly less attention than that of some of my wealthier comrades in Goth who get photographed seemingly endlessly in their finery at festivals, seem to be constantly updating their blogs and FB feeds with haul posts and product reviews and always seem to be slightly better dressed and slightly fancier than I can be. I cannot be honest without saying that I am a tad jealous, and I don't like being a jealous person, or feeling like there's a climate within the community that is contributing towards that jealousy.

I think it is important for me, and for other Goths not to get too caught up in this sort of materialism and commercialisation of the subculture. Independent craftspeople are certainly the lifeblood of the subculture, and buying their wares is certainly far better than buying mass-market stuff aimed at our demographic by large businesses who are not part of the subculture and don't care about it, but we shouldn't judge each other or ourselves on how much we buy, regardless of where those things come from. Your spending power is not a mark of dedication to the subculture. In some ways, I guess the percentage of one's income spent on the subculture could be seen as mark of dedication, as it shows the level of investment of one's resources, but compared to the time spent on and within the subculture, and one's contribution to it, even that sort of monetary marker is largely irrelevant.

Another factor is that having more money allows for a more polished internet presence - better quality photographs taken on cameras rather than poor-resolution phone cams (like on my old smart-phone), a larger wardrobe of more expensive and fancy clothes, and often less pressures on time for those who earn enough from one job to not be running about between various sources of income, etc. Some have even paid graphic designers and professional photographers, etc.

If you have money it is easier to produce higher quality content, but it is not the only way. I am lucky in that I can get Raven to photograph me sometimes, and the difference between his work, even on an off day, and my best selfies is staggering.  I know a little about web-design, and sometimes have days where I can spend days tweaking the Domesticated page, so I hope that my blog here is good from a design perspective (although comments and critique on this are always appreciated, and I know I need to update both the photo gallery and the site map) so while I don't have money to spend on high-end cameras, and while I'm not paid to model, I still have a few good images here and a relatively aesthetically pleasing blog.

Yes, this might attract readers, but it is the product of handwork, careful investment and a lot of hours, and not of a large budget, and as I have mentioned in my various posts on being Goth on a budget, there are plenty of ways to apply "time and effort" as a way to get a polished Gothic lifestyle in real life, and not just the internet, and as I would like to re-iterate, I think it is time and effort that prove real dedication the subculture, not how much one spends on it. There are many teens who have gone through a Goth phase that has not lasted who amassed lovely collections of Goth things because their parents bought them these things - and while there is nothing wrong with Goth being a transient phase for some, and I am not bitter towards those whose parents could buy them such things, to them Goth was not going to be a factor in the rest of their lives. I am quite grateful for the existence of these people, for when they leave Goth often they sell their things cheaply on eBay or donate them to charity, and I then end up with them at a price I can afford!

As Goth is a subculture with many of its own values being outside of the parent cultures, yet being influenced by them, we should try and be self-aware of how much we adopt the more negative values of the parent cultures when, in having our own subculture, we have greater freedom to adopt our own. Any kind of materialistic snobbery is something I think we should avoid, especially when younger Goths feel like they cannot participate because they cannot buy or have bought for them elaborate clothes and masses of black candles.

Yes, the dark and macabre have become more commercial and mainstream, and in some ways this is a sign that we are gradually becoming more acceptable to the mainstream (that itself is another topic for debate) but just because these things are available does not mean we have to buy them, and it does not mean that our subculture should stray too far from its Punk, working-class roots, and from the DIY attitude that spawned a lot of it. Early Goths may have had to be resourceful and thrift-shopping DIY-ers out of necessity, but even if we have everything from Hot Topic to Lip Service and Hell Bunny via Hysteria Machine, ::Kambriel:: and ::Merimask:: but that does not mean that the resourcefulness and craft skills of early Goths are not things to embrace and inherently worthwhile and valuable. I admire a Goth (or Lolita, or whatever) who can sew their own finery more than one who can simply buy it.  

I have noticed that DIY and crafting blogs tend to be especially popular if they have budget projects, and many of those are written by people who DIY due to financial constraints, so while the bloggers must have at least access to the internet (although that could be a friend's internet or library/municipal internet access), there is a space for poorer bloggers in the Goth blogosphere and I am glad when people are reasonably open about being on a budget, because I think it makes other poorer Goths feel like they are still part of the subculture and they're not alone or shameful because of this. Class and wealth is a HUGE divide in the wider world, and an insidious part of many other prejudices, and I feel like it is the sort of insidious thing I do NOT want to see take hold within our subculture.

An aside: I tend to avoid discussing politics and on my blog because it is off-topic and could easily derail what I am trying to do here, but the financial and resource inequality of our world is something that makes me vastly angry, and how all sorts of other prejudices are spread by those who wish to perpetuate that inequality for their own gain. I see too much "divide and conquer" perpetrated by those that see it as a means to profit and power, and too much advertising fosters a sense of self loathing to create a market for products that remedy made-up flaws.

We should be proud of our own creations, show-case them on our blogs, and when we see other Goths online and in real life, use their resourcefulness, ingenuity and creative skills to be fabulous and interesting, mention that - not in a patronising way, of course - because it is the sort of positive thing that ought to be reinforced and often the sort of thing that is quite admirable in many ways. I know I do my best to be a resourceful and creative Goth and to help others with that, but there are many who out-do me by far. Remember that Goth came from Punk, and that poverty is not shameful for the poor  -especially in a world where many countries have gone into recession in the last 5 years and where so many people have fallen beneath the poverty line. The only people who should be ashamed of poverty are those in power, both financial and governmental, that have allowed and encouraged such a world of inequity. 

You do not need a huge wardrobe of the fanciest anachronistic Goth clothes, three pairs of New Rock boots for every season, every Goth album ever on MP3, CD and vinyl, and to go to every club night and festival in a thousand mile radius to be a 'proper Goth'. You just need to love what is macabre, dress spooky, love some music from a more sombre sort of rock and see the beauty in darkness - spending power is irrelevant. 

16 comments:

  1. I like this article. For what it's worth I think you look fantastic regardless of how much your outfit cost because you style so well. Even my mum agreed when she saw you in the street :)

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    1. I am an eBay fiend and spend too many hours trawling charity shops for bargains. Anything really fancy/nice will be an actual new, fancy Goth shop piece (probably from Kate's Clothing or FarFetched in Inverness) that I saved up ages and ages and ages for.

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  2. I read the Honest Drug post a few days ago, too. It's hard not to feel inadequate when you're looking at makeup and fashion blogs that have some six thousand followers. It *seems* that if you don't have money to blow on five hundred shades of eye shadow or a stellar wardrobe your blog just isn't worth looking at. However, I think the blogs that are super popular have two kinds of followers: those that follow out of genuine interest and those with a passing interest. I know some popular blogs that have thousands of followers but only one or two people comment on their posts regularly. It makes you wonder just how many people are actually following them rather than just networking.

    Outside of the blogging realm, I have to say financial inequality in the fashion world as a whole has been around for ages. It doesn't matter if it's goth, country or whatever, if you have more clothing and buy into brand names you look "better". Sure we'd all look better if we could afford perfectly constructed corsets and enough makeup to frost thirteen cakes, but it's just not possible (especially given our crappy economy). It is laughable that something like Punk, known for second hand and DIY fashion, is becoming equally competitive in the financial sense. People don't make clothes any more they go out and buy it. The art of the subculture is dying.

    I'm poor and I feel guilty about not having more product reviews on my blog. I'm not interested in competing for the best dressed alternative girl award (if there is such a thing) but since I put forth that my blog would have product reviews I kind of feel like I lied. I just can't afford to do millions of make up and clothes reviews. What I can focus on is DIY and sewing because that is actually what's taking place in my life, I have to make all my own crap. I don't feel ashamed of that, mind you, I love it because I'm talented and it's a hobby. If I was rich I would very likely still make my own stuff because I'm passionate about it.

    When I go out, wherever it may be, I might not be dressed to the nines like some people but I try to look my best. As long as you take good care of yourself you'll shine no matter what you wear. It's important to surround yourself with positive people. I mean, who really wants to hang out with the attention whore who spends all her time posting selfies of her wardrobe and talking about herself? I'd rather the down-to-earth folk who just want to have a good time! The simple solution: just don't hang out with people who make you feel badly or inadequate.

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    1. If you want to remain true to your blogs initial intentions, but craft/DIY rather than buy, you could write reviews of crafting products. I know I always appreciate knowing where to source materials, and where not to, because there's nothing worse in crafting than spending hours making something only for it to break not because of your lack of skill, but because you didn't use good materials, or to get half-way through a project and suddenly find your glue-gun has died or the sewing machine is on the fritz.

      One thing I've noticed in Lolita is that with brand clothes being so expensive, quite a few Lolitas sew their own, and they're often as well dressed as those that wear brand. Partly because in Japan there are several magazines like Gosurori and Gothic And Lolita Bible that come with sewing patterns specifically for Lolita. It is possible to get Goth sewing patterns (I've seen a set that look like they're specifically Goth! Can't remember who by, though) but Romantic Goths either end up adapting historical or costume patterns or even 'normal'-clothes patterns it's not quite the same. Those with a lot of skill can do it, or even completely imagine up their own pattern and draft it, but it's a bit beyond me!

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    2. I've considered doing a few craft product reviews, especially because I've been finding some difficulties using certain products and I just need to vent about them lol.

      Yes Lolita girls get off far easier because of their magazines. It seems there are a lot of those patterns circulating the internet. The nice thing about Lolita dresses is that they're very basic in design, it's the bows and trimmings that make them look sophisticated. There are a few Goth patterns but not many, I think you're referring to the Arkivestry patterns by Simplicity. I'll be reviewing one of them in the near future. I wish there were more Goth patterns out there but I'm learning to make due with what I have access to.
      : )

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    3. When I got my pointy claws on a copy of Gosurori I was giddy with the possibilities of things I could make from it. From one magazine and a bit of imagination I could, if I have time, sew an entire wardrobe of Lolita clothes. For the girls who collect these magazines and have several back-issues, there are a LOT of possibilities.

      I did indeed mean the Arkivestry patterns! I'd forgotten what they were called. I was going to order some of them on eBay but never got around to it. I'd be interested to hear how well yours worked out before getting some myself. I have a couple of Butterick's 'Making History' patterns. One of them is for a VERY special project indeed.

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  3. I am a poor goth, coming from a working class family, living in an Eastern European country, for two years working for a minimal wage, which in my country is roughly 1,5 pound per hour. So... buying one item from a gothic brand would be months of saving money for me - this of course is manageable, but I would need something to pair this one piece of clothing with, and that would mean another months of saving and in more than a year I would have ONE outfit, complete with boots. It's not a problem if you plan dressing as a goth only for concerts or parties, but I considered it to be a bit... unsincere and my long time dream was to wear gothic clothes everyday. While I don't do it now because of physical work, I had been an everyday goth for some years, with a wardrobe so giant the doors don't even want to close - and 97% of it comes from thrift stores. I am not ashamed to admit this, because why would I? It just allows me to look more original than the rest of goths dressed from their heads to toes in Restyle - and I was able wear gothic fashion every day without looking neither too fancy and neither too casual.
    I run a blog partially because I want to show other goths you don't have to buy half of the offer of gothic shops to look good and undoubtely gothic. I always write where I bought my clothes and they are mostly mainstream brands like Atmosphere or H&M found in thrift stores or handmade. I know my look is less polished than this of popular alternative models - but I am a oldschool goth at heart and I love a bit crude look.

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    1. A surprisingly large quantity of my best thrift-shop finds are from mainstream stores, and my best bargain new buys have been from Tesco and Primark (cheapest tights that don't ladder at the wrong moment). A huge chunk of my wardrobe is thrifted Marks & Spencers stuff, from their more elegant collections as they tend to cater to a more conservative and traditional set of tastes - plenty of black velvet jackets and long black skirts with nice detailing!

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  4. Once again you've created a thoughtful and pertinent post.

    I can relate to your concerns; not because there has been any snobbery toward me, but because I sometimes find myself wishing that I could afford certain items that I'd like to have. A certain Van Helsing hat comes to mind. Still, I'm not overly materialistic by nature, so I find myself being thankful for the items that I now have as well as mindful that I need to stay within budget.

    From time to time, I find some great items at the local second-hand shop and I especially enjoy wearing these at special events. Patience is key and looking back, I can see that I've been able to acquire quite a few interesting items over time.

    As you said though, being Goth is about loving the macabre, dressing spooky, and enjoying dark music. I'm with you and figure that I must be doing something right because tight budget or not, no one is questioning my Goth credentials. As for the styles and look you've created for yourself, I think you're doing just fine.

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    1. The only person I have heard question your Goth-ness was that jerk who was being very rude to Amy and her circle of friends (somehow I managed to escape that, and I'm pretty thankful) and he is clearly the sort of person that enjoys creating drama by being rude to people so he doesn't count.

      I think there is a flip side to snobbery, or a more subtle version, where people look up to money and ignore everything else, and that's nearly as bad as looking down on poverty.

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  5. I came across you blog a couple of days ago, and read every entry that seemed interesting to me. They were a lot. xD I really like your blog.

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    1. Thank-you :) And I hope you keep reading and I hope you find my future articles interesting. Don't feel afraid to comment on older posts - I get all comments e-mailed to me, so I won't miss them.

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  6. Totally agree!
    I think what interested me about the goth subculture in the first place (apart from the music) was all the creativity!

    I currently have an irregular income (as I work as a freelance photographer whenever I have free-time from college)...

    Sometimes I can only afford food and rent. So planning a trip is actually impossible sometimes. However whilst my roots might be showing, there's always a priceless activity to fill in the void (like a nice book, tune or movie) or just modifying a black dress. Even local goth-oriented shows are awesome (and totally worth supporting $5-$10) here in the the Caribbean.

    Always a pleasure to read your blog.

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    1. I can't really plan ahead very regularly either - my part-time job cover my rent and some of my bills, but for the rest of the bills I busk, and if there's any spare only THEN can I spend on anything for myself, and that's a rarity. Sometimes I sell a painting or two and that brings in enough to do something fun.

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  7. I was my best and gothiest as a teenager, poor and creative. Now as a 42 year old with more money my creativity is less and I look far more unimpressive. Give me the charity shop look over big name goth brands anytime. Love your writing.

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    1. Thank-you :) Most of my shopping is done in charity shops because I simply can't afford the Goth brand stuff - at least not new, because every now and again something from one of those brands appears in a charity shop (I got purple lightning bolt Iron Fist shoes for really cheap in a charity shop recently)! My long leather coats have come from charity shops, a huge chunk of my clothes are secondhand Marks & Spencers, and even some of my buttons and sewing patterns have come from charity shops!

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