I put myself out there last spring, into the ring of cause mixed with controversy, writing an article about my experiences in the world of music as a woman, and how they differ from that of the average man in the modern day. I wrote the article to give a personal side and a diplomatic (and somewhat) humorous voice to what has become a frustrating discussion that swings between everyone being upset about it all the time and just wanting to ignore the problem by pretending it doesn't exist. I admit, it would be so much easier to just ignore the fact I'm a woman and continue to live my life.
There's just one small problem with that plan of attack: I am a woman, I'm still treated differently because of it, with results that I'm not happy about. To stay silent admits complacency. Yet to speak out about sexism or related issues seems to invite controversy. I was most worried not about sharing my thoughts on the internet, but the retaliation I might receive from hot-headed white male internet activists. You know who I'm talking about: the comments that show up out of nowhere, boiling with righteousness and the lead arguments of "what you said isn't true," or making a huge deal out of one sentence (from a total of 1500 words) to derail your argument, or telling you plainly that you suck - but in much more graphic or obscene terms.
Luckily, I had only a brief encounter with one man like this, after posting my article in March. This last week, however, he came back with a lot more to say. And a lot more hate with it.
A petition was started online, asking for several things, including that the upcoming performance by the band at First Avenue be cancelled. While their demand wasn't successful, but it succeeded in gaining the attention it needed to alert Minneapolis to the situation, and for the band to give up a fight they didn't want.
I'll admit, this band isn't very creative, naming their original group "Women" and then following up with "Viet Cong." It's called cultural appropriation, and it's inappropriate, but is still used throughout America. From Native American patterns and prints on popular clothing to choosing a band name based on another culture's history, what Viet Cong has done is not novel. But it doesn't mean it's okay. Mostly I don't care how great your music is - if you can't be original enough to come up with a name that actually applies to your music, the people in your band, or a concept you want to promote, maybe go back to the drawing board before going on stage.
This article says things much better than I could.
I posted the petition to The Aural's Facebook page to raise awareness. Just because the Viet Cong affected fewer people worldwide than other hate and terror groups such as the Nazi Party or ISIS, it doesn't make their negative impact any less significant. That people aren't still suffering because of their actions. And to adopt that name, even just as a punk band, implies you admire that legacy in some way, that you have given that title the honor of representing your original musical creations. It's not a "cool" name to use, it's a disgustingly dark one, with imagery that US citizens wish they could un-see every day of their lives.
I posted it because I'm tired of causes or conversations being discounted because it's a small group of people who got offended. A small group of people who have something to say that isn't popular. A small group of people who are trying to point out that they matter, and what they have to say matters, too. I expect when you speak about personal experience in a situation that matters to you, you'd appreciate being heard, not discounted. You'd appreciate basic respect.
I posted it because I want to have discussions. Real conversations about things that matter. Don't tell someone what they should or shouldn't be offended about, ask them why, instead. Ask them, what does this mean to you? You will find the difference between dramaholics who just want attention, and those who want to make a difference their lives, and in the lives of others, by making changes to popular or ignorant opinion.
I posted it because I don't know what to do about angry, righteous white men who complain about freedom of speech while insulting me personally on my own Facebook page, other than post more. Speak out more. In debate or speech team in school, did they teach you that a valid argument is to insult the other person as much as possible until they shut up? No. That's called bullying. So why do grown adults on the internet think that is a valid method? I have no idea. But I know you can't make me shut up by being mean to me. It's not called "trolling," it's called verbal abuse, and if you wouldn't say something like that to your grandmother, then don't call me that online. Would you call her "fucking unbelievable" to her face? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Negativity is a hard leech to shake, I'll give it that. And when you feel attacked, you'll get defensive. It's only natural. But as grownups, as the adults of society, what are we doing when we assume the worst first? What kind of bad day, week, or year are you having in order to feel like yelling at a stranger will make the situation better? That "I'm right!" trumps everything else. Whatever happened to the golden rule?
I thought that once I was past this whole draining debacle, I wouldn't have to question humanity so thoroughly again, at least for a little while. But then just the other night, I'm out at a show. I know the venue, I know people there, it's all a very casual and friendly setting. The music is blowing our minds. We're dancing, talking, tapping rhythms on each other's bodies, enjoying our night out as friends in an intimate venue while one of our favorite indie musicians performs. And then out of nowhere - negativity. Blatant negativity from a fellow concert-goer. A threat to be thrown out over what, in a different situation, could have turned into a good pick-up line. (I mean, I once accidentally elbowed a guy in the face at a club, and he used it to ask me to dance.)
I couldn't even see what had happened, and in fact, nothing really had. But it was the exact same feeling I experienced when the angry comment appeared on my page last week: a sinking gut, a serious cloud of shame and guilt descended upon the mind, and a desire to sit down and curl into a ball. All over a complete misunderstanding, a miscommunication. Different personalities and a different opinion on how a live show is best enjoyed.
As we left that night, what remained in my mind was not a feeling of shame, anger, or frustration over the situation, however. It was empathy. It was compassion. It was "why did they feel the need to escalate the situation so severely, when it could have been easily discussed or dismissed?" That thought also applies to the angry internet commenters I've experienced. Why do we need to communicate power along with our point? Do we think someone won't hear us, or take us seriously? When does the moment change from conversation into conflict, into controversy?
When did we stop listening to each other, or giving each other the benefit of the doubt?
When did we stop caring about each other and decide that our own experience in life is more important than anyone else's?
The music industry is a wild place. It's full of such a wide variety of people, it's ridiculous. Yet we share a common cause. We share a common passion. Why can't we share a common respect for each other?
Maybe I was raised in an experience that lent itself to seek out understanding, dole out a heavy dose of empathy daily, and see everybody as the little guy that should be respected and have a voice. And honestly, I'm not easily riled up, unless you spill your drink all over me at a show or call me awful words to my face. But I don't want to be alone in this view, in this practice of compassion. We are all going to disagree on something, every single day. Maybe it's valid, maybe it's not. But no matter what it is, all I'm asking is that before we act, we talk. And before we talk, we think. And above all, before we do anything else, first, we care.
And yes, I happen to be an ENFP.