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..

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Why I Still Dress Goth Despite Harassment

As I have chronicled here before, I, like many Goths get street harassment for my being visibly Goth. This ranges from the mild and annoying (I made a rare foray into the mall today to get a 'new baby' gift for a relative, and in the mall some teenagers decided to make "wooo-oooo" noises at me while waving their hands 'mystically' and then shouting "YER A WIZARD 'ARRY!" at me.) to the terrifying (a gang of thugs threatening to kick my head in and then chasing me down a street), and I've had several close friends violently attacked for being Goth. In the light of the news recently about a young man having his jaw shattered by a gang of thugs in Huthwaite (that is now being treated as an anti-Goth hate crime) as can be read about in this article in the Gainsborough Standard ::here::, several people have asked me this - why do I still dress Goth despite the negative attention I get for it, and despite my dislike of being the centre of attention. You called me 'brave' for doing so, but I don't feel brave; I do what I do because I perceive the alternative as worse, so that to me is not really bravery. It is a trade-off; I deal with the negativity and the attention I unfortunately get because it is less bad than the alternative, and there are far more benefits this way. 

First of all, I think they look beautiful, and that mainstream clothes (and some variations of Goth clothes) are too plain for my tastes. I like details, textures, patterns - hence all the damask pattern jacquards and intricate lace, all the layers of ruffles and frills. Perhaps if I was living 200 or so years ago and had either the skills or the money to wear the more elaborate outfits, I would have worn the mainstream or fashionable clothes of the period, but most mainstream clothes are a lot less fancy - I do sometimes find things I like in mainstream shops (recently, devore velvet tasseled shawls seemed to be a 'thing' so I bought several in the sales at mainstream shops like Blue Inc. and H&M), but for the most part, they're either too plain, or just not my style (or have details, but in poor quality; I saw so many things about 2 years ago that involved black lace that I would have bought if the lace had not been cheap and scratchy). 

Secondly my clothes are sort of a worn extension of my comfort zone; I wear the clothes I do because they make me feel comfortable, make me feel like myself. They remind me of who I really am in the face of everything that has tried to quash that over the years, and also of all the things I love. I dress very much as a stylistic manifestation of my interests and passions, and having those positive reminders worn feels almost talismanic; I do wear a few literal protection charms, but there's something reassuring about wearing my Goth clothes, to have that reminder of all the things that make me happy with me at all times. 

Thirdly, and I feel weird writing this out, as it seems slightly pretentious, but I hope that by being visible, I will give some of the younger and more Goths a little more courage. I'm not the only Goth that walks around where I live, and I'm not the only one that dresses very visibly Gothic - I'm probably the most elaborately Romantic variation of Goth, but I'm not the only one to go out very distinctly Goth and very fully dressed non-mainstream, there are several Goths who do that in my area. I hope that every visible Goth, out in public and proud to be themselves, is an encouragement to other Goths. Also, hopefully by both being Goth and trying to always be polite and friendly to the outside world, I serve as an example of a Goth that isn't all the negative stereotypes. 

Fourthly, there's that dressing Goth immediately filters the people who aren't comfortable with talking to Goths, and wearing a pentacle around my neck filters out people who aren't comfortable talking to Neo-Pagans/witches, and those two things also attract like-minded individuals. Yes, it also means I get hassle from those who wish to add aggression and rudeness to their prejudice, but for the most part, I am quietly left alone by those who presume things. On the other hand, those who have common interests feel a lot more comfortable talking to me because they know I'm another of their kind, and I'm much more comfortable talking to other visibly alternative people for the same reason. I get people who like bats asking me about my bat jewellery, loads of inquiries about how I dye my hair the colours I choose, and plenty of other Goths (quite a few of whom are now my friends) have come up to me because I'm Goth, and I feel more comfortable talking to other Goths I don't know when I'm dressed Goth because I'm less worried that they will think I am a judgemental non-Goth (as I know all too well the sarcastic 'compliments' and inquiries that start polite, but soon turn to mockery). 

Lastly, I am really, really uncomfortable in mainstream clothes. I feel like a fraud, an imposter, a fake - someone pretending to be normal when they're not. I feel like I have to live up to the normal exterior, to the expectations that come with it, plus I feel ugly on top of that. I'm an eccentric by nature, and I couldn't fake normality, even if I wanted to (and believe me, I've tried). If I look strange, a little bit of strangeness is expected. Mainstream people aren't expected to wax lyrical about cemeteries, Goths who look like they're from the graveyard end up giving impromptu cemetery tours to random tourists (this happened a couple of days ago, and then I ran into some history-loving American tourists who got directions to the abbey ruins, plus some free tips for other historical sites in the area...), and I am much happier with the freedom to be myself that comes with looking like myself. Those who judge me for being Goth are usually full of inaccurate assumptions of what Goth is; their judgements don't really touch me because they are not about me; they are founded on errors and presumptions - those who judge me for not being "normal" are judging who I am as a person.

So that is why I make the trade-off, and put up with the stares, the jeers and the aggression, and why I put up with the attention that ends up focused on me. Sure, I would certainly blend in better dressed in the 'costume' of the mainstream, but I would be a lot more miserable, and even more uncomfortable and nervy if I did so. 

It's not brave, it's just taking what seems like the easier option. 

The only thing that really scares me is the increased risk of violence; I keep vigilant for those who might be violent trouble (and have got pretty good at spotting trouble coming; I don't know if it is instinct or perception, but I know when someone gives me a bad feeling, and I vanish, and usually soon after they do something to display that my instinct was right), and I keep to either shops that simply won't attract trouble much, or in open areas of central parts of town - away from the dodgy areas of towns and cities where even a normal person stands a higher risk of violent crime, and where my clothes would mark me out for at least a beating. I do martial arts, and train for self-defence rather than just sport. I know when to run. Several of my friends locally have been violently attacked, and I have been curbing my travels since them. I don't stay in town after dark very often, as that's when the drunks are out and about, and I take the bus to places I would have once walked, and tend to go places in groups or meet up with someone. I can minimise the risks.

14 comments:

  1. Couldn't have worded it better myself, to be quite honest. My fashion, my clothes, my appearance, it's all way of making armor and being comfortable, and attracting the kind of people (for the most part) that I'd like to hang with

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    1. One day I am going to save up for actual armour from Arm Street, or get Raven to make me some. Not for walking around in, but for HEMA stuff.

      Looking Goth as well as being Goth certainly does work as a good filter, and as a little green-haired beacon to other Goth types; I'm pretty sure that is how I met most of my mutual friends.

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  2. Thank you for this beautifully put entry, I've been thinking about doing the same thing lately. I would add being visibly gothic not only can encourage younger goths, but can also help mainstream people to get accustomed to sight of 'weirdos', in turn making our lives in the society easier.
    It surprises me a lot to read about attacks on goths in the UK, because in Poland we believe it's some kind of mystical tolerance paradise where you can wear whatever you want and noone will even look at you. I've never heard about anti-goth hate here, although maybe that's because there aren't too many visible goths in this country...

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    1. In the UK, I think it really depends on where you are as to how tolerant people are, and there's not always a logic to where is more tolerant. I've noticed that I get disapproval and judgement from the snobby "better than you" types, and verbal abuse and harassment from delinquent youths. I know things have generally improved in many areas over the last 10+ years I have been a Goth, but where I used to live in the Highlands was hit by a lot of socio-economic decline after the recession, and I think some people just take out their frustrations and issues in life on a convenient scapegoat; that often being just some random person that appears 'different' somehow.

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  3. Like you, I don't feel at home unless I'm in my style of clothing, whether it's my Goth or Faery clothes. I definitely feel weird in normal looking clothes, like I'm in a costume!

    I feel that people who pick on others for what they wear are very sad and empty.

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    1. A lot of people seem to assume that the 'weird' clothes are some sort of pretence or costume, but it's often 'normal' clothes that feel like a costume to us!

      I would imagine that if you have to prop up your own identity by denigrating someone else's, then you're probably quite insecure.

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  4. Is there no police presence in your town? It is so awful that you have to go through this kind of abuse. It's very interesting to read all your reasons for dressing goth, and is probably more helpful than just saying "be true to who you are". I had never questioned why you would stay goth, as I couldn't imagine you just wearing jeans and t shirt for example, but if I hear anyone ask "why don't people just change the way they look", I'll show them your article.

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    1. The police tend to patrol the city centre, the market, etc. and they do a good job there, and they have actually been helpful when I've reported people. (Someone made a sexual comment at me when I was working helping some children from the school cross the road, from their car. I wouldn't have reported it if it wasn't for how lewd it was, and that it was said at me in front of young children, and my boss told me to). I tend to report people harassing me to things like shop security, mall security, the bus driver, etc. Some are more helpful than others. There's plenty of crime in the area for the police to deal with, I don't see the point of using up their valuable time on people saying rude things, but if someone actually does anything threatening or aggressive, that I would report to the police. I also encourage my friends to report things. There is such a problem with drink and drugs here, that the police have plenty to deal with as it is.

      It is usually non-Goth people who ask me why I don't just dress normally to avoid being harassed. I'm glad my article is useful :)

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  5. A wonderful post, as always. <3 Like Madeleine above, I wouldn't have questioned anyone's choice to dress the way that they do. It strikes me as a slightly ignorant stance (sorry!) - 'hey, stop doing that thing you like because some other people don't like it!', but when I was very, very Goth-inclined a few years back and there was a lot of well-publicised violence against alt subcultures, my family did express their own concerns, so I suppose it's natural for people to be worried or protective. Best wishes to you, I hope the insecure idiots don't have too much effect on your peace of mind.

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    1. I think a lot of it is simply a case of "but people are being really mean to you! if you didn't do this thing, then people wouldn't be being mean - why don't you not do the thing, especially when it's just a simple thing like clothes!" because they don't quite understand how important the clothes are to people who are really into their alternative fashion, they don't understand how much of a confidence boost and passion it is. You're probably right that some of those asking the questions are doing it out of worry and concern.

      Insecure idiots don't have too much of a dent on my peace of mind - and I get at least as many compliments as I get insults and harassment!

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  6. Thank you for this well stated post. I continue dressing goth for many of the same reasons as you. I admire your steadfastness, creativity, and your intelligent approach to this topic. Do continue listening to your instincts and using good judgement in potentially dangerous situations.

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    1. I do my best to keep an eye out - maybe to the point of hyper-vigilance sometimes (my therapist called it that. I think in colloquial terms that would be "too nervy and always on alert".) but a lot of that is from having had not the best childhood... another topic entirely. Since things have got worse in my area, I've been taking more precautions, and I have been a lot more careful about pre-planning my travels, making sure I meet up with people, check in with folks to say where I am going and when I'm to be expected back, etc. I've been trying to help my friends too, especially the ones that have been attacked, to make sure they've got safe ways to travel and avoid trouble, etc.

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  7. Beautifully written. I'm so sorry that hate crimes like this are still occurring. In the part of the US where I live, the worst that might happen is that some people avoid me because they feel uncomfortable with what I'm wearing. I do not have to live in fear of being attacked.

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    1. For the most part, I just get verbal harassment, and my friends who were attacked were living in parts of town that are known for being a bit rough; I'm not living fear - more aware that the threat can exist, so that I know to avoid it.

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