should READ THIS Sexism, misogyny & abuse in the global Punk Rock scene EveryPunk.com
contents Introduction The EveryPunk survey Patronisation Sexualisation Harassment / Verbal abuse Domestic / Emotional abuse Assauts / Unwanted touching R*pe / Violent Sexual assault Contrarian responses to the survey Practical suggestions Contributor suggestions and comments Useful or relevent resources
Report compiled by Tom West
3 5 6 8 9 11 13 18 21 22 25 28
Punk rock has a sexism problem. Even ‘nice guys’ have blind spots. Sexism isn’t an issue that solely affects punk rock; of course, society as a whole has a sexism problem. But for all our back-patting and anti-establishment credentials, what makes any of us think the punk rock scene is any better, when it’s historically been utterly dominated by men? For example, Rolling Stone Magazine ’s readers poll of ‘The Best Punk Rock Bands of All Time’, the top ten - as far as I’m aware - consisted entirely of all-cis-male bands. When you type ‘punk rock bands’ into Google, only 1 out of the first 25 (Siouxsie and the Banshees) breaks the chain. Is this the fault of you or I? Of course not. It’s down to the environment we’ve inherited. Should this lead to us asking ourselves why this is happening? Absolutely. While the lack of gender representation might be endemic in the music industry in general, the punk rock scene - with its decorated history of speaking truth to power - has a duty to be better. Big steps have been made in recent years, with more gender diversity on stage and in crowds, but there’s still an element that shouldn’t be ignored. Yes, it’s better than it was, but as we learn more we can continue to become even better than that.
WHY THIS MATTERS The concerns don’t solely lie in better inclusion and diversity merely for inclusion and diversity’s sake. Our collective catastrophic failure to open up the floor and pass the mic to people of marginalised genders has sadly led to sexist, misogynistic attitudes being allowed to fester - even in the more progressive circles of the global punk rock scene. It’s important to clarify at this stage that ‘sexism’ means different things to different people. To some, it means generally offhand remarks that patronise and annoy, rather than cause tangible harm to people. This problem goes so much deeper than a few hurt feelings or a bit of shit banter about “the kitchen”. An environment where everyday sexism is embedded - ‘ironically’ or otherwise - is one where people are able to abuse their positions and get away with heinous acts. When sexism and misogyny are not taken seriously, victims of abuse are silenced, harassed, blamed, and even cast out. Their accusations are belittled and ignored. Meanwhile, the accused continue to be put in positions where they can do actual harm, and their peers facilitate this by existing within a culture of “it’s none of my business” and “well, he’s always been nice to me”. Many of us may have seen this first hand, or have even uttered things like this in the past. 3
In a similar way that all-white communities will find it difficult to fully recognise their privilege, a community where almost every person of influence is a man will never be a community where sexism is challenged sufficiently. ...And then we scratch our heads and wonder why there arenâ€™t many people other than men involved in ours.
This culture requires urgent reassessment Iâ€™m not sure how the problem of representation can be fixed. I wish I had the answers. But there needs to be discussion, and typically disparaged or ignored voices to be heard and taken seriously. (This report does contains some practical suggestions - see page 22). I decided to put this report together with accounts from the victims of sexism, misogyny and abuse because too many of my friends have told me they donâ€™t feel safe. Wherever we go from here, the global punk rock scene needs to accept there is a problem. Accepting there IS a problem, after all, is the first step to solving a problem.
the EveryPunk survey The accounts featured in this report were contributed from survey respondents all over the world, responding to questions about their experiences in the punk rock scene. The survey was open for one week in August 2020. If you read something in this report and think you might know who wrote it - the chances are that you don’t. It could have come from anyone, from any punk scene, anywhere. Nonetheless, while there is a lot to be learned and taken into account from reading this report, it needs to be clarified that this is not an invitation to begin wild speculation. I strongly urge all readers to refrain from blasting stories from this report across social media, especially alongside guesses about the identities of any of the parties involved. Everybody who contributed gave their consent to be a part of this report on the understanding that they would remain anonymous. Please bear this in mind. The responses were all given anonymously - names have been replaced with placeholder names ‘Henry’ or ‘Bob’, and specific identifiers such as locations have been removed.
IMPORTANT CONTENT / TRIGGER WARNINGS Please be warned that among the accounts that came in via the survey, there were some extremely severe cases of rape and sexual assault. In order to best prepare readers for difficult subjects, I have divided the stories into five sections: Patronisation, Sexualisation, Harassment / Verbal Abuse, Assaults / Unwanted Touching, and finally Rape / Violent Sexual Assault. The title of this report, ‘Every Punk Should Read This’, is intended to express the importance of the scene acknowledging the scale of the problem. If you’re already aware of this from first-hand experience, it might not be either necessary or a healthy decision to read it in its entirety. The Practical Suggestions section begins on page 22, which might be good to skip to. The intentions of this report are to amplify voices of people who didn’t feel like they had a platform to talk about their experiences, and to strike up much-needed conversations about how to create a safer space for people of marginalised genders. Great care has been taken to ensure this is an educational and eye-opening project, and not one that is viewed upon as voyeuristic, exploitative or sensationalist. Thank you in advance for understanding and respecting this. Sincerest thanks to everybody who took part in the survey, contributed in some way, helped iron out the creases, provided vital feedback, or provided moral support during the process of compiling the report.
Patronisation Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to our Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
It’s easy to assume that because punk rock - or at least, the good kind - tends to celebrate inclusivity and equality for all, that it’s a place which makes everyone feel at home. But according to anonymous responses to the EveryPunk survey, many social circles talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Among the survey answers, there was a common thread of respondents being patronised and treated as if they were an anomaly - an outsider in a man’s space - even if they were heavily involved or an active industry participant. “Every time I offer advice or help on booking gigs/bands to book this sudden glazed look appears across peoples faces like I haven't been doing this for 5+ years?!” “I have been questioned on my knowledge of punk bands, as well as other womxn I know in the scene by males - yet they do not question other males.” “I remember going to a local music shop which is well known in the area. I was looking at guitars looking to try them out and play them no one came over - apart from one guy and said what a nice colour the guitar was, it doesn’t seem much but it is and I’d imagine every female guitarist gets this shit all the time.” While these issues may be played down by cynics as inconsequential, there were plenty of responses to the survey that suggest that they represent a deeper fundamental issue. One expromoter told the survey: “I was regularly told that ‘I didn’t have what it takes’ because I was a girl’.” , and a musician who had played in bands for over a decade reminisced of “having to pay on the door to get in the venue because the door guy didn’t believe I was in the band.” Taking into account the way the scene defaults towards men, one contributor unsurprisingly cited “awkward scene politics of ex-girlfriends of band members not being welcome at gigs after breakups”. One respondent explained the frustration of dealing with mens’ assumption that your presence in their space is purely by association: “ When I ran my DIY distro and had stalls at various festivals, some customers would not speak to me directly but instead went out of their way to talk to a random male person standing next to me (not even near my boxes) about prices or recommendations for stuff in my distro. Infuriating at times. In the past, there have been instances when promoting gigs and having bands stay over at my house was like playing a sad bingo of lines like: "Are those guitars your boyfriends?" " Your dude has a nice record collection" " Thanks for hosting us man" (whilst proceeding to ignore me) When in fact said boyfriend was not even remotely involved or interested in anything to do with punk rock.”
Because men tend to make up the majority of band members, promoters, sound engineers, tour managers, and drivers, it’s understandable that people can make stupid mistakes and assume that this is always the case. We’ve all probably put our foot in it at some point. But we owe it to the people who aren’t men in our scene to work harder to ensure that we correct these mistakes and get to a point where they aren’t considered a deviation from the norm. Not only does “‘assume’ make an ass out of u and me”, it quietly asserts and strengthens the dominance of men in the industry, creating a situation where it’s a novelty when someone who isn’t a man is involved. “Microaggressions add up. No matter how confident people from marginalized or underrepresented communities feel about their identities, microaggressions create unsafe spaces and make individuals feel like perpetual outsiders.” - Mira Yang, The Daily Northwestern
Sexualisation Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to our Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
The assumption that women are generally only present in the scene as an accessory or a hangeron to a man, as outlined in the previous chapter, is a dangerous one. The punk scene has historically been seen as a man’s world, and this leads to some assumptions (some underlying, some overt) that everybody else who is in it must either be someone’s significant other, or looking to hook up with someone. This even applies when the person is actually playing music in a band: “Relatively low-key I suppose, but as a singer and guitarist in a band over the years I have had forum created about me where men chatted about wanting to ' jizz on my face' when it was about my band and a bunch of shitty comments about whether I was in the band or just some kind of hanger-on, demeaning comments about being able to use the equipment, talked over and being ignored by other bands or organisers... the whole ‘female-fronted’ thing was a regular occurrence - I am not sure this needs to even be said. Women are sexualised generally in bands.” One contributor mentioned that their drummer was told after a set that “I should move more, because me “being fit” isn’t going to get me anywhere”. This isn’t just a case of a few weirdos on the internet or lurking in the audience, either. Another band member answered the survey with some damning words to say about their fellow musicians: “I was playing guitar and synth in a band and was constantly being told by my other bandmate, whom I started the band with, that I should wear high heels on stage, dress sexier in general... I cut all my hair off once and he got mad and told me “short hair doesn’t sell” (OK Delores O’riordan, Annie Lennox, Sinead O’Connor, Grace Jones etc...) He actually told me he wanted to make music “15-year-old girls would like” when I wanted to make more mature music. Looking back on that and hearing all these stories about pop-punk musicians hooking up with young girls...it creeps me out. He also expressed he wanted to live a life like the guys in Entourage (hard cringe) Another previous bandmate told me I was “just a gimmick”. Comments like this pretty much killed my passion for years and I didn’t start getting back into music until a couple of years ago after about an 8-year hiatus. I just didn’t want to deal with that again. However, when I was looking to join a band again, I posted an ad on Craigslist (big mistake!) saying “bass player and back up vocalist looking for punk/indie band” with a pic of myself and a short blurb. I got more creepy messages than actual musicians trying to jam with me. Offers to be in amateur porn, cam girl stuff, and one guy who wouldn’t stop emailing me who was nice at first but when I didn’ t respond he said: “ you’re a 6 out of 10 at best, can you even play bass, Plain Jane?” My experiences haven’t been as bad as some but I felt it was worth sharing. Right now I’m in a band with bandmates that respect me and treat me as an equal. It’s quite refreshing.” The punk rock community - especially male members of it - owe it to our friends to be bolder at condemning this. They’re here to have a good time and live their lives like everyone else. People who think it’s acceptable to prop up these misogynist attitudes should be the ones made to feel awkward and ashamed, not empowered by our silence. 8
Harassment / verbal abuse Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to our Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
Nobody likes to get involved in other peoples’ personal business - everyone’s entitled to their own lives and relationships, after all. But we need to ensure that the punk scene’s inherent bias towards men does not make us blind to the mistreatment other people face. And when we hear about it, we must take it seriously. “I'm female-presenting and not white so I get my fair share of "casual" racism where guys think they're being original by saying they recognise me from another gig..of course you do buddy, I was one of two people of colour at the last gig too. It’s often the opening statement I get at most gigs, luckily the number of people asking me where I'm from has dropped away in the last 10 years. I usually go to gigs on my own and spend a lot of time at the front but when I feel like resting I'll move to the side or back. I'm usually happy to have a casual small-talk conversation but when the person trying to talk to me has had one too many pints and is getting WAY too close to my face when trying to talk over the music, I'll usually back away. I'll make my apologies and walk away to stand somewhere else in the room, but lo and behold about 2 minutes later they'll manage to find me and start talking into my ear/cheek again. Usually, on the 2nd or 3rd time of me walking away, they get it, but once I actually just left the gig and went home because even after clearly saying "I'm not interested" to this one guy, he kept finding me to talk to me. He just picked up where he'd left the conversation as if I'd not said anything and was even waiting for me outside the toilet when I tried to hide in there for a bit. Luckily nothing bad happened and he didn't follow me out of the venue, but I should just be able to go to gigs on my own and stand to one side without worrying about some dude following me around the room and not understanding when I don't want to talk to them. Not all of us at gigs are sociable/extroverts. Some of us like the music and atmosphere but just want to be left alone. “ In contributing yet another case of punk rock musicians showing an embarrassing lack of awareness, this person also highlights the harassment marginalised people can face for speaking up: “Last year, my band were offered a gig that was being put on by the headlining band, a threepiece, and I like to know who we’re playing with, and I also like to interact with them online to help promote the show, so I followed them on a couple of different social media accounts. I didn’t like what I saw, a lot of their tweets were pure misogyny, and I felt like I was given a million red flags, but we hate to pull out of shows, so I made sure to take my partner with me for support. On the day of the gig, I was made to feel super uncomfortable by the other band, they insisted on hugging me hello and goodbye, but not my male bandmates, my partner told me that they made inappropriate comments about me whilst I was on stage. A couple of weeks later, they made a tweet that absolutely disgusted me, so I sent the drummer a friendly message, politely telling him that I don’t think that they should continue using hating women as a gimmick. His response was to use more vulgar language about women, threaten me with a lawsuit (for what exactly?!), and threaten to get my band blacklisted from venues in the UK. I made a personal post about it, not naming them, and they proceeded to post my name and picture on their social media and encouraged their followers to publicly mock me. Even though my bandmates publicly supported me, no one went after them, just me personally. 9
The short and long of it is that I had so many names given to me that week by this band and their followers, and I had a lot of private messages from their friends that were not pleasant. I’ ve been told by a friend that the band are telling people that it was all a big misunderstanding and that we’re friends now. I’m still blocked by them, and I never got an apology. So not only are they misogynists, they’re also liars.” We would all love to believe that our scene is an environment where discriminatory language and attitudes are condemned, with the perpetrators either set straight or cast out. Unfortunately, the people with the most power to do something can occasionally be among the most troublesome gatekeepers: “For many years I was in a relationship with a guy who was a strong part of the local punk scene. Although I met many great people, I can hand on my heart say that I witnessed some of the worst sexism and homophobia I’ ve ever seen, and as a woman working in a very male-dominated industry that’s saying something. There was a constant expectation of the wives and girlfriends on the scene to put up and shut up. There were men who were known to target vulnerable and drunk females in the extended group or at gigs and this was joked and laughed about, but these were the same people who would spit on you for wearing leather or claim they supported LGBT rights... but when challenged it was always that you were taking it too seriously. Female bands were actively excluded. I witnessed incidents of physical abuse towards women at gigs, girls crying in toilets because they had been called names and spat at for daring to voice their opinions and people being excluded for daring to be different or express their opinions. The use of the word “gay”, was the most common insult.”
content / trigger warning The upcoming sections focus on even more troublesome behaviour starting with discussion of domestic and emotional abuse on pages 11-12. If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to the Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
domestic and emotional abuse Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to the Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
Vocally opposing bad behaviour becomes far more tricky when it takes place out of the public eye. It’s harder to spot, and it can become a case of one person’s word against another (or to use a rather cursed phrase, “he said, she said”). Sometimes seemingly isolated incidents can be indicative of much more insidious patterns of behaviour. “Bob is well known in the punk scene, he fills in for lots of bands. He now has a full-time position in one that tours still regularly. I dated Bob for years and he made my life a living hell, I was 9 years younger than him. I had only just turned 18 when we started seeing each other, I had no idea of his past, or that for a man in his late 20s at the time he would use his position in bands to pick up girls as young as 16 in clubs. I was physically and emotionally abused by him, gaslighted and forced to become a shell of myself. Blissfully unaware that he had done this to two previous girlfriends and then sadly two more after me. He would stop me from talking to other men, make me stand at the back of gigs. I was never allowed to dance, change my hair from blonde or wear clothes he didn’t approve of. I lost my identity and going to punk gigs or any gigs. After we split up it took me 3 years to completely rebuild who I was and find myself again, when his newest ex then reached out to me and made me aware he’d done it to her and she wanted to know if it was the same for me. After this, I decided enough was enough, at this time he had a different punk band. So I reached out to his friends and promoters, promoters understood and took the band off certain shows. Apparently he had caused an incident at a gig quite recently, his friends especially ones in bands turned a blind eye to it. This man has been allowed to continue his career for 15+ years because he’s a talented musician, without any circumstance or support of his victims.” We owe it to our friends of all genders to be more switched-on to manipulative behaviour, to take people’s accounts of it seriously without making excuses for accused parties. “I was in a mentally abusive relationship with a musician (Henry) for a few years. Henry would always be outspoken on feminist issues and would be quite 'woke'. Yet behind closed doors, he was quite manipulative and proceeded to gaslight me for a long time. After we split up he proceeded to keep up his manipulative behaviour. A year after our breakup he threatened me multiple times with sending people after me if I ever talked bad about him again. Henry would also say things like "My suicide will be your fault", "If I end up homeless it will be your fault". This happened in public at a punk rock show. Yet no one stepped in. When I brought up these things to mutual (male) punk friends they would brush it off and make excuses. "He didn't mean it", "He is depressed", "He doesn't know any better", "he's on the spectrum". Only womxn seemed to take my experience with him seriously. Bad mental health is not an excuse for abusive behaviour. Being a good musician or a funny person doesn't make you exempt from being held accountable for your threats and actions.” 11
â€œI met Henry at a punk festival. We entered a relationship where he constantly abused me. He would say things like 'I love seeing you with bruises I made'. His misogynistic behaviour was encouraged by his friends. This relationship ended when he brought a girl back to my house and tried to get us to have a threesome. I can't go to punk gigs anymore without feeling extremely anxious.â€? The UK-based charity Refuge, offers advice on the signs of domestic abuse, and has useful information on supporting a survivor. There are further links to support and resources on page 22.
content / trigger warning The next section (pages 13-16) discusses instances of assaults and unwanted touching. If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to the Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
Assaults / Unwanted touching Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to our Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
Non-sexual violence proved to be an area of concern for some contributors, with men taking out their aggression on smaller people within the confines of a mosh pit.
“A friend of mine, Henriette, got caught, hit at a gig, and someone spat in her face”
“ Witnessed fighting between a guy accusing a girl of being too aggressive in the pit. He got very angry when she wouldn’t back down and apologise. I had to step in as he started throwing punches.” “I have seen violence and abuse happen before my own eyes, and sometimes I’ ve not felt able to safely challenge it.” Throughout the week of accounts coming in, mentions of unwanted groping or grabbing at shows were among the most common - from fans assaulting musicians to vice versa. One contributor said “I have felt both physically and sexually threatened at gigs my whole life.”, while another spoke of “being assaulted at venues- grabbed boobs, arse and vag, yep and I wasn’ t even in the pit. It’s worse as a musician than a gig-goer if they see you on stage it’s like they feel like they have the right to touch you. And more so it seems put you back in your place because I’m taking up space on the bill of a man.” One gig-goer claimed there were “Far too many incidents to single any particular ones out.” , and that “it’s common at gigs to be "accidentally" groped”, while another said they had seen men “exploit women” who are drinking heavily or using drugs. Shamefully, instances of sexual assault seems to be an extremely common occurrence. The replies go on and on:
“I have been inappropriately touched at shows. I have seen others be groped.”
“Saw a girl crowdsurfing and a guy reached over the heads of about 3/4 people just to touch her butt. I pushed him away and had a go at him, but suddenly I was the dickhead?” “MULTIPLE times where guys have felt it okay to touch me up at a gig, bar, etc and drinks were thrown over me after politely declining the offer of a drink as my boyfriend was buying me one” “Having to save a poor girl from a guy grinding up against her at a gig. The same guy, at a feminist punk show, throwing himself around, hurting a lot of people in the process, I lost my shit and shoved him but it wasn't just me, about 5-10 other women banded together and we all told him off - a happy ended that shouldn't have been necessary.” 13
“At a punk rock festival, I experienced a guy running towards me and then slapping my butt as hard as he could, I yelled out in pain and shock. It hurt the next day.” “Once, at a festival I talked to a girl who was sexually attacked by a man. Also, at festivals some unknown men have touched me (arms, hands, legs...)” “At a gig - I was front row and a guy behind me spent the entire gig rubbing his crotch against my back, grinding himself against me. He was getting off on the fact that I couldn't move away. I turned around a couple of times to show I was aware of what he was doing and that I was very uncomfortable. He grinned. I was 17.” “Many female friends have complained about lads grabbing them at gigs or parties, often lads who they know. Obnoxious large guys slamming/windmilling into a crowd featuring many women just being inconsiderate with their elbows and fists. At one gig a guy I didn't know was behind me and kept grabbing my hips and grinding his junk into my ass crack, so I told him to stop. He didn't stop, so I told him to pack it in as my boyfriend is behind him - he turned his head to look and I punched him in the back of the head and ran off to the pit, didn't see him again. At another gig I saw a teenage girl who looked a bit upset on the edge of the pit, asked her what's up, she said a guy she doesn't know is following her and keeps touching her. So I spent the rest of the gig as a barrier between them. My friends at times will tell me about violent exes or pushy pervs who don't take no for an answer, cos they know I will watch the perv like a hawk in the pit and have a stern word in his ear or even get away with a few sly digs in his ribs if he oversteps the mark.” “On several accounts as a musician, I have seen my bandmates /fellow bands (usually vocalists) exploiting the social traction solely for the purpose of superficial sexual satisfaction at any cost.Inappropriate touching and language justified by social relevancy. I want musicians to be about the music and not the attention and sexual rewards.” “I remember when I first started a band in the early 00s in our local punk scene, we were a female punk/riot grrl band. And even having to say ‘all-female band’ is wrong - why can’t we just say, ‘band’? Or the boring question: what’s it like to be a girl in a band. I can remember the jeers the abuse being touched playing on stage, but we were tough and we stood up to this abusive behaviour being 16/17-year-olds at the time.” “ When I was on the way out of a gig, someone used the crowd to touch and grab me inappropriately. (The force and repeated nature meant it wasn't accidental) I looked around and one guy was looking at me and laughing, making it pretty clear it was him. Even though I was with my husband at the time I still felt vulnerable, especially because we then had to walk through a big city late at night. It was a shame that such a good gig finished up with someone thinking they can invade my physical space and mental equilibrium for their own non-consensual purposes. It was especially ridiculous because safe gigs for women had a stall before the gig.”
“I’ ve had my private areas grabbed by men more times than I can count on both hands, as they walk by me in the crowd. They grab your arse, squeeze, and disappear into the crowd before you even know who’s done it. I had one guy grind up against me and when I moved away from him he called me a “fucking bitch”. I was 15. I am now 22 and every time I attend a show I am hyper nervous of this happening because it happens more often than not.” “I have stopped going to gigs due to several instances of unwanted sexual touching/sexual assault from men in the pit; additionally, men (particularly drunk men) ignore when challenged or become aggressive. When I do go to see bands live now, I stay out of the crowd entirely. Assaults of this nature do not always happen within the context of a live event. This contributor was just lending a hand to a promoter when their assault took place, and suffered consequences even though there was a witness present: “I used to work with a long time punk promoter. He was lazy and had made running gigs to profit, and for his self-image, whilst getting others doing his leg work in the name of collective. I was young and excited to get involved at first, however, I ended up doing the labour whilst he flounced around and took the credit. I accepted at first and tried to make the changes I wanted to see for the future of the scene, and he had the funds to keep us going, but more often than not, he and his friends made it clear it was their world. They were in charge. Especially after one evening whilst readying materials for a festival that weekend, a few of us were having beers at his house, I turned around at some point and he grabbed my ass. Properly gripped before giving what I think he must have seen as a friendly slap. I felt sick but said nothing, turned around and noticed his friend looking. He obviously saw, but they liked to keep up appearances. They liked to have this whole feminist progressive front, however, behind closed doors they liked some good old locker room chat. After talking to friends, I realised I wasn’t the only one he advanced on. He also had a bad habit of protecting closeted abusers, some because they were his female friends and one guy because he was a poor working-class boy that he felt sorry for because of his childhood. Some shit went down, later on, splitting the scene. Last time I tried to come out against him, he came coked up the eyeballs ready for a fight. After that, I was labelled a ‘psycho’.” According to the contributor, this person is still putting on events.
“I MADE A SAFE SPACE UNSAFE” Notably for anyone who thinks that people, for whatever reason, just making this stuff up - this account came in from someone who had actually committed a sexual assault at a festival. “A few years ago I was at a festival with some friends. It was the second day, I believe, of a three-day festival. It was the evening and it was getting dark. I had concocted a drink with what I had managed to sneak into the arena and what was available at the bar. To my surprise, it was delicious and didn't taste nearly as strong as it was, so I added more booze. I got drunker and I got comfortable and began loosening up a bit. I would normally have been quite anxious and too worried about having a good time to really have a good time, but alcohol helps to make me relax and enjoy things more. I was watching a band on a small stage with a friend and having a thoroughly good time. There was quite a big audience for a stage of that size. We were in the thick of the crowd, on the outskirts of the pit. We were drinking and dancing and laughing and just generally having fun. A girl nearby, not far behind us began crowdsurfing. She was wearing a green top and a pair of denim short shorts. As she passed over our heads we helped push her along, though she was moving quite slowly. Lost in the moment, having a good time, loose on booze and not considering my actions, I am deeply ashamed to say that I raised a hand and grabbed her. A pinch. A small but nonetheless utterly loathsome act. This was merely because I could, and for some reason I cannot fathom, I thought it was funny at the time. My friend laughed, and while I don't fully recall, it would feel disingenuous to claim that I didn't then do it once more. I was drunk. I was caught up in the moment. I was at a festival. I was surrounded by music. I was comfortable. None of this excuses the action. If that's who I am when I feel comfortable and good, then either I don't deserve to feel good or I need to seriously think about who I really am. There is no way around it. No valid excuse. I don't recall ever doing anything like that before or since, and I would like to believe that I never will. In fact, I do believe that I never will but evidently, I am capable of doing something like this and maybe it's not enough to just believe I won't. It has been brought in conversation with that friend a couple of times since then as something of a humorous anecdote but I don't see it that way. I often think of it and I genuinely hope I never forget that I did that. I don't know who this girl was. I don't know how she responded to my actions and I can't apologise. Did she shake it off as just the actions of some cunt and continues enjoying her weekend, or did it ruin her weekend? Does she remember now? Does she think about it as often as I do? Did it put her off going to shows? Any negative effect this had on her is too much because people shouldn't have to experience such things while they're enjoying themselves. I made a safe space unsafe and I am ashamed of myself. I don't believe that I deserve forgiveness, but I do believe that if people are willing to accept and admit that they have done wrong (and perhaps tell people about it, even anonymously), that will help them to really think about it, and think twice about their future actions. “
content / trigger warning The next section (pages 17-19) discusses instances of violent sexual abuse and rape. If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to the Practical Suggestions section on page 22.
Rape and violent sexual assault Content Warning: If this is likely to make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping ahead to the Practical Suggestions section on page 22. As mentioned at the beginning of this report, some extremely serious cases were submitted as part of the survey. There is very little to be gained by making false accusations of sexual assault, but those who come forward are often subject to harassment and threats, particularly when the perpetrator is wellknown. I wanted to give an anonymous platform for people to document their experiences, ensuring that the horrible consequences of the sexist culture in global punk rock were accurately illustrated and learned about. However, after a week of collecting these accounts for this report, it was explained to me by friends much better-placed to discuss these matters that asking people to reminisce about traumatic experiences without ensuring they had sufficient support networks in place was irresponsible. As a result, I closed the survey in its initial iteration. Answering an anonymous survey like this - while selflessly assisting the cause - isn't a good substitute at all for professional support or advice. Sharing can seem like a good idea at the time, but itâ€™s not a way to cure or ameliorate deep trauma. Your body and mind can react in ways you do not expect. This was a naive oversight on my part, and I sincerely apologise for not communicating or fully appreciating this point previously. While I hope contributors have found some catharsis in writing and submitting their responses, it's now clearer to me that this might not necessarily have been the case. Iâ€™m sorry. I feel itâ€™d be highly disrespectful to those who contributed not to include these stories as I said I would - however If you feel like you'd like to retract your contribution, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (obviously feel free to use an anonymous burner email address if you prefer). This motion extends to anybody who has sent anything in, and applies at any time. Please keep yourself safe and ensure you have a support network of real people to call upon should you need them. It's perfectly natural to feel scared, confused and debilitated after sharing a trauma. Please, please seek help if you are starting to tumble. Many areas will have local charities which offer rape and sexual abuse counselling - these will be simple to search for in your area, and your GP will also be able to provide information about local services. There are some links to useful resources on page 22.
Rape and violent sexual assault (B) “Innocence until proven guilty simplifies something complicated. Concrete evidence in cases of sexual harassment and abuse is often hard to come by. You are reliant on peoples’ word, and it is time you start believing them.” - Girls Against One of the excuses people use for not believing people coming forward with allegations is that they haven’t followed the ‘proper’ route of seeking legal action. Reporting violent crime is important, but there are many reasons that this is a vastly unattractive process. Not all survivors find it necessary to report sexual assault to the criminal justice system in order to move forward from their experience. Many feel that the criminal justice system revictimizes them in its process, and all-too-often this traumatic process does not tend to result in meaningful action being taken. Here in the UK, rape prosecutions are at an all-time low - with recent figures showing that 1.4% of recorded rape cases ended with a prosecution. While statistics may be better or worse wherever you may be reading this, we can be sure that similar issues affect people across the world. A lack of presentable evidence in these cases is often a factor, as well as people not realising the extent of what had happened until long after the fact. A lack of a conviction or official investigation is not a sign that the incident did not occur. Outside of the legal system, as this contributor explains, there are other reasons for a survivor staying quiet. “I’ ve been raped by someone in the punk scene. After a gig, we wanted to keep drinking after the venue closed. I agreed to go back to his place for a couple of beers, making it very clear that I wasn’ t coming back for sex, just for friendly hangs. I repeatedly said I wasn’t interested in him in that way, and said I definitely didn’t want sex of any kind - he agreed with that and seemed fine/safe. When I woke up a couple of hours later, he was fucking me. I’d passed out, or at least blacked out. Since then, because we’re both part of the same music scene, I’ ve seen him at shows and seen his band’s promotion online pretty frequently. I’ ve told a couple of friends about it, but they’re still friends with him and didn’t take me seriously. I have no idea whether or not he did it maliciously, or whether he thinks I consented. I chose not to report because I was too nervous that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, or that I would be ostracised from the punk scene for condemning him.” This contributor highlights some red flags that should be very concerning for people within the scene, as well as the poor treatment that those speaking up sadly often face. “Not a band member, but a person who is part of the punk scene. I was raped while incredibly drunk. I even went and did a rape kit. A few months later the same person sexually assaulted me. I was afraid to say anything to my current boyfriend but at the same time, I knew it would keep happening. After some months I told him and then it was apparent on the punk scene I was involved in. My name was going around that I lied and I was "bat shit" crazy. Since then I don't feel safe going to gigs. I haven't been because I am now this liar bat shit crazy person. And this person is known for grabbing girls breasts in public and being really horrible to girls.” 19
While an opportunity to intervene isn’t usually available in cases like these, there were examples raised of illegal behaviour happening in plain sight and, bafflingly, still going unchallenged. “In a venue, I saw a woman being dragged into the Male toilets by her ex-boyfriend. His friends wouldn’ t intervene because “ they’re always fighting” and it was “none of my business”. She was screaming. Me and another woman who I’d never met confronted him and he let her go. She was shaking and crying uncontrollably while the men sitting at the bar acted as if nothing happened. I’ ve got a lot of stories of men being complicit by staying quiet.” “I've witnessed guys using their 'status' in the scene to harass or denigrate girls or women. I've seen 'tru punx' abuse or torment their girlfriends. I know guys who are in their 30's or 40's openly saying how they want to have sex with underage girls, some of them actually did. Every time I used to point out some of these problems I was labelled a 'pussy' or a 'fag', or even an extremist(?!).” In the call-out for contributors, respondents were asked to give their thoughts on why marginalised genders may not consider the punk rock scene to be a safe space, despite all the nice-guy rhetoric. This person summed up the situation very precisely: “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape. I suffer from PTSD - I don’t know why I haven’ t given up music because nearly every time I play I’m triggered in some way. It’s bad enough that women and non-binary people aren’t supported in music but we’re actively put off because of the sexual violence and creeps in the scene. The small punk scene I’m in has closed ranks and there’s a wall of silence about all these issues. I’m being harassed for openly talking about it. Things have to change. I’m worried about being blackballed but silence isn’t an option anymore. I just want the next generation of vulnerable musicians and gig-goers to be safe.”
A NEW NORMAL There is an important connection between the culture that has been highlighted throughout this report and the mindset that empowers and emboldens abusers, but it would be naive to suggest that predators aren’t present in pretty much every walk of life. They’re often very good manipulators - not just to their survivors, but to the other people around them. That’s one of the ways they manage to get away with their actions. Try as we might, we’ll sadly never be able to rid our scene of these individuals entirely, but we can work towards creating a safer environment where victims are comfortable coming forward, knowing they will be listened to and believed. At the end of this report there are some links to resources you may find helpful if you have been affected by these issues.
contrarian responses to the survey Naturally there were a couple of angry people contributing things to the survey to waste time. I think it’s important to include these as well, not only because they answered ‘ Yes’ to being published in this report, but also to showcase how out of touch some people are on this subject. “I was at a show some years ago, working as a volunteer backstage. I was tasked with accomodating the band members with water, booze and snacks. They were all cool until [redacted] showed up. Sweating profusely from working out too much. He grinned at me and proceeded to grope me the rest of the evening until I arrived home. The lesson of this experience is to showcase how easy it can be to call yourself a victim on bullshit stories. Anyone can say that someone assaulted them. Accusing someone of sexual harassment or rape is a serious accusation that shouldn't be thrown around without solid proof, otherwise, you ruin people's lives over bullshit. Stop trying to automate cancelling based on bullshit assumptions on social media. The internet isn't the place to report criminal activity. The internet isn't your trauma journal. The internet isn't a place to search for truth. The police exist for a reason.” The option of anonymity in this survey aims to encourage victims to share stories which we otherwise might not hear of, because these are private and (in some cases) traumatising experiences. Of course, the only person who made any accusations, albeit sarcastically, was this person. (I’ve removed the name to avoid their chosen rockstar being unfairly dragged into this conversation.) While the police play a role in tackling abuse, it’s a victim’s choice whether they report and it’s important we respect that. They may fear that they will not be taken seriously, it may affect their relationship with other members of the ‘scene’, or it may prolong a traumatic experience, among other reasons. If we want to fight for a safer environment for everybody, these ignorant responses are a small indication of what we’re all up against: “No bad experiences. Never seen anything like this or heard of anything like this in the punk scene. Been to a ton of shows over the years and it’s been a blast. I have to question whether or not the allegations come with proof or evidence because I know of a few women that have made up lies to discredit people and ruin their reputation out of jealousy & hate. Suggestion: Facts and evidence presented for allegations.” As we’ve discussed, evidence for many cases is not often readily available, and just because we may not hear about troubling events, doesn’t mean they’re not happening behind the scenes. Let’s ensure we all take this into account when speaking to our peers.
practical Suggestions Rather aptly, the contributor from earlier in the report who spoke about inappropriately touching a crowdsurfer at a festival signed off with this comment: “ This kind of thing is probably a far bigger problem than you'd think, and acknowledging your own shitty behaviour is as big a part of solving it as victims coming forward.” Yes, this report is likely to make men feel uncomfortable. But we should all be questioning and challenging why that is. Why do we think or act in ways that directly or indirectly create an unsafe, unwelcome environment for others? We can’t go on like this. From speaking to friends and taking some tips from Shawna Potter’s very useful “Making Spaces Safer” handbook, I’ve got a few suggestions for positive action we can take to make the scene more welcoming, inclusive, and safe.
Bystander intervention If you see some shady stuff happening, there are three general methods in which you can step in. You don’t always have to put yourself at risk or escalate a situation when intervening - in fact the opposite is the goal - get that person out of harm’s way. Direct: Point out threatening or inappropriate behavior in a safe, respectful manner. Distract: Make up an excuse to help the person get away from the dangerous situation Delegate: Alert a bartender / host that someone has had too much to drink or is behaving in a distressing manner.
Unequivocal codes of conduct Yes, “don’ t harass people” should go without saying, but unfortunately it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t. Having visible signs up around the venue to establish the ground rules can mean that there’s no murkiness surrounding: • What behaviour isn’t tolerated? • What will happen if it occurs? • Who should you speak to in such an event? This is as much to make potential victims to feel safe and empowered as it is to discourage potential offenders. “ We know that that ‘don’t be a dick’ should be enough to communicate the shared values on which your venue is based, and we don’t disagree with that! However, evidence shows that this isn’ t enough – harassment and sexual assaults still take place. We do think that ‘don’t be a dick’ can really benefit from a clearly laid out set of guidance, because: It’s a deterrent to potential harassers. It helps people feel safer and therefore freer to have more fun. It helps collective members to feel better supported as they maintain/ implement the values of the venue.” - Your Right to Party zine
Having the house rules readily available means that bystander intervention becomes much easier. Everybody in attendance at an event would now have the ability to point to the sign in an impersonal manner if someone is breaking the rules, rather than having to go through the stress of reprimanding someone without knowing whether they’ll be supported. If you’re in a band and the venues you play don’t have such documents to hand, you can print some out and stick them up on the walls before doors open. If this isn’t an option, you always have a microphone you can use between songs to explain why these rules are important.
Speak to your friends Speak to marginalised people in your scene to find out what you, your band or your community can do to create a safer environment. If you know one of your friends has a tendency to make others uncomfortable, it’s worth letting them know. Letting creepy behaviour go unchecked sends a message to that person (and everybody else) that it’s accepted in your social circle. If they’re a good friend, they should be thankful to hear that you care enough about them to warn them.
Support diverse acts Better representation won’t fix everything, but it’s a very good start. If you hear promoters or prominent record label owners talk about how difficult it is to find diverse bands, why not send them some links to your favourite artists? Being in a band is expensive, and marginalised artists don't always have access to the same resources or opportunities that their peers do. Try to make a habit of amplifying and spreading the word about them when they're doing great work - and if you can afford to, prioritise spending money on their merchandise to help support them!
Community support WhatsApp or Facebook groups are a good way for marginalised groups to network, look out for each other, and identify patterns of hurtful behaviour. Ask around, and if there aren’t any in your area, why not look into starting one? Or if you’re a guy, suggest the idea to a friend who could use support?
Get rid of the “I’m one of the good ones” mentality You may have been ridiculed or seen people being ridiculed for using the classic devil’s advocate term “Not all men”. This excerpt from an article by writers Aaminah and Melissa via EverydayFeminist.com gives a great explanation as to why it’s every man’s responsibility to be staunchly anti-sexism, rather than simply “not sexist”. 23
“Here’s the truth: Even when it’s not conscious, male entitlement is a choice – a choice to be uncritical, a choice to continue to passively benefit. And attempting to fight that entitlement is also a choice – one that has to be both conscious and ongoing. You’ ve got to choose it every day, in every instance. But how many well-meaning men are truly choosing that path, instead of just insisting that it’s “not all men” and that they’re “not like that?” Hint: You are “like that” – especially if you’re not actively fighting patriarchy. And claiming that you’re “not like that” doesn’t negate patriarchy – it enforces it. Fighting learned male entitlement means assuming the burden of vigilance – watching not just yourself, but other men. It means being open to having your motives questioned, even when they’re pure. It means knowing you’re not always as pure as you think. It means assessing the harm you’re capable of causing, and then being proactive in mitigating it. Most of all, it’s a conscious decision to view every individual’s humanity as something exactly as valuable and inviolable as your own. And it means doing it every single moment of your life. Point blank, period. If you really want to stop the “all men” cycle, that’s the only place to start.
Contributor Suggestions and Comments All contributors were asked the question of “ What changes would you like to see to make the punk rock scene a safer and more welcoming environment?” I haven’t put these in any particular order, nor should their inclusion be automatically considered a personal endorsement on my part - but they are all the expressions of real people and are worth your attention. Here are the answers that were given: “ The punk community likes to think that it is open and a safe place. This is not always the case and I think it needs to be acknowledged that it is also an easy place for people to hide. Misogyny is rife, women are systematically excluded. I would like to see more bands, promoters and venues question what they can do to change the view of women in the scene.facing up to the behaviour, acknowledging they are doing something about it.” “I’m done with the punk scene, due to too many idiots. Hopefully, it will space the scene out into a safer place with more options. Relying on 1 or 2 people puts them in a position of power over others where they can pick and choose. Try to stop the self-entitlement these people believe they have.”
“Bands not forgiving or brushing away abuse because someone is ‘talented’.”
“It makes sense we see so many fewer women in the punk scene because sadly I now know so many women let down by it.” “Hopefully, those who see this might change their behaviour, or at least learn from the values of the punk scene that they claim to support, not just the ones that they are comfortable with or supports their status. I highly doubt people after a certain age will change though.”
“I would like to see the scene more inclusive of all genders and races.”
“Safety for women attending live gigs. I want sexual assault to be taken seriously and for that beautiful rock family, we have to start acting as a shield between predators and potential victims - if you see something call the person out. We need to be aware of predatory behaviour to keep each other safe.” “More men treat scantily clad sexy women with the same respect you would show to a male MMA fighter you're scared of. Just because someone is fit and small does not mean you can do what you like with them. Don't be aggressive about being "friend-zoned" or think that just because a girl has shagged a lot of the punk scene that your turn will come soon to "have a go". Don't be vile.”
“More awareness of sexism/misogyny and for people to accept that it does happen in the punk scene despite some claiming it doesn't happen/exist. Zero tolerance on groping.”
“Supposedly powerful men aren't the future”
“I would like bands to make some prevention before gigs.”
“I want people to stand up for what is right, help each other out, male or female. If you can see someone who looks uncomfortable or needs help, HELP THEM!!! Why does that only seem to apply in a mosh pit? That care for each other needs to extend to every aspect.” “I would like to see more equal-gendered line ups. I feel like more Womxn in the scene will help. I do feel for the womxn who feel they aren't able to attend gigs due to safety reasons. Music should be for absolutely everyone.” “Reminding people not to touch or grab others at all. And reinforcing that sexual harassers will be chucked out and even banned from venues.” “ When bands say girls/nonbinary people to the front and I hear people who don't identify as such complaining about this - fuck off. They're normally male, 5'’10+ and can see over most of us, let us have a few minutes where we don't have to get smacked in the face with your elbow!” “I think the scene is doing much better than it was 10 years ago but there are still a lot of men who haven't got the message about safer spaces. I see a lot of women/non-binary folk making a huge effort to make gigs safer but it feels like some men just ignore their message. We need more males, especially those in bands, to be vocal about making gigs safer.” “It shouldn't be this way, but I feel like if more male frontmen made it a point to support women and non-binary people at their shows, fewer men in the crowd would feel entitled to just carry on like they always have.” “I feel that’s a hard question to answer. It’s a problem with patriarchy and also viewing women as products. I feel more women speaking up about this will definitely help and not just talking but MAKING people listen.” “People reading this, feeling empowered by it, and calling that behaviour out as what it is if it ever happened to themselves” “More women and non-binary people in positions of power. And just more in bands and at gigs. All-male lineups need to be done. Most of the time I’m the only femme on the bill that needs to stop. “ 26
“I want for creeps to feel unwelcome. I want to be able to talk about this stuff without fear of being shunned. I want men to give up some space - the power dynamics are way off. Men in bands need to say they believe us when we say how bad it is. Everyone needs to stop being friends and bandmates with abusers, and stop sharing the bill with them too.” “I would like men to stop covering their male friends’ backs. Each time I read online about girls’ experience with rape or sexual assault you get some men basically saying "oh well, we don't know the truth yet - two sides to a story". This is really damaging for girls.” “For men to call out the behaviour of other men. For everyone to look out for each other more.” “I want to feel safe reporting things like this. Normally there’s no evidence - when I have reported it to events managers they found the man who did it, he denied it and was allowed to stay. I don’ t feel like there is anyone safe to confide in at these shows.” “ Trans /non -binary inclusive bathrooms. If an alternative bathroom can not be offered then there should be an assigned member of staff who checks bathrooms to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable and supported. A no-tolerance rule for anyone who gives people a hard time over their bathroom choices. Support staff at gigs, trained to recognise abuse, harassment and be a kind faced point of contact for anyone who may be in distress. Security usually handle this, and in my experience, certain DIY venues are known for their security staff being abusive, especially towards womxn. Posters regarding non consensual physical contact, in hope it might make some men more aware that touching isn't OK.”
“A better sober promoter who doesn’t deal drugs as a sideline to get "headline" bands.”
“I would like women to be believed. And I would like to see bands containing abusers to be completely cancelled – no more 'separating the music from the man'. There should be no platform for abusers in punk.”
USEFUL OR RELEVANT RESOURCES Note: As far as Iâ€™m aware, all of these operate with trans and non-binary inclusive ideology. If anyone knows anything to the contrary, please let me know and I will replace the links accordingly.
Global / non-location specific Hollaback - A movement aiming to change the culture that makes harassment OK. Includes useful guides and training programs, with local leaders in 16 countries around the world. Your Right to Party zine - A handy PDF zine including safe space tips for venues and promoters. Solidarity Not Silence - A fundraiser to help a group of feminist musicians defend themselves against a defamation claim made by a prominent punk rock musician for statements that they made concerning his treatment of women. Hell Hath No Fury - A non-profit DIY punk promotions and record label focusing on providing a platform for women, non-binary and / or queer punk musicians. Women of the World - A global charity that runs festivals, events and more celebrating women and girls, taking a look at the obstacles they face and discussing solutions for change. Loud Women - Not-for-profit group for all those who support putting women on stage, and turning up the volume. Has chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Canada, Ireland and Australia
UK-based organisations Safe Gigs For Women - UK based initiative established by regular gig goers with the aim of creating a safer environment for women at gigs. Girls Against - Fighting against sexual assault & misogyny in the live music scene. Building valuable educational resources, safe spaces & inclusivity within the UK scene. Fawcett Society - UK membership charity campaigning for gender equality and womenâ€™s rights at work, at home and in public life. Mind - UK-based Charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Survivors Trust - Get help finding a specialist anywhere in the UK & Ireland who can provide expert, empathic support for anyone who has survived rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse. Saferspaces.org.uk - A guide based on research on sexual harassment at gigs which examines the implementation of measures to prevent and respond to sexual violence at gigs in West Yorkshire. Womensâ€™ Aid - a grassroots federation working together to provide life-saving services in England and build a future where domestic abuse is not tolerated. 28
“Ordinary people do fucked up things when fucked up things become ordinary”. Propagandhi
“ We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” Malala Yousafzai
Sexism, Misogyny and Abuse in the Global Punk Scene