Straight edge tendency, a Dutch MA thesis
Straight edge revenge:Toewijding en authenticiteit binnen het punkveld
Rianne Kasse 267304rk
Master Sociologie van Kunst en Cultuur
Faculteit der Historische en Kunstwetenschappen
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
This 2007 thesis applies the theories of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to the Straight Edge sub-tendency within punk. Based both on literature, mainly from the USA, and the author's experiences at Straight Edge concerts in the Netherlands. The author describes a paradox: while lyrics are often anti-sexist, at concerts mechanisms excluding and marginalising girls are often at work. Rianne Kasse personally prefers other musical subgenres within punk.
According to her, in the Netherlands, most Straight Edge musicians are in bands also including non-sXe band members. She thinks that may be different from the USA.
Het gaat al fout bij de analyse van de punkscene. Voor de schrijver is dit waarbij verschillende posities binnen de punkscene worden bevochten om een bepaalde status te behalen. Straight Edge is zo’n status. De onderzoeksmethoden en bronnen zijn summier en zijn vooral gericht op de Amerikaanse populaire scene. Veldonderzoek is van een aantal concerten en interviews dat zijn bezocht en gegeven in Rotterdam 2007. De onderverdeling van punks in Hardcore, Preppie, Softcore en Spectator is ronduit discutabel zoniet belachelijk. Als Sham 69 als grootste inspirator wordt aangehaald voor de Amerikaanse hardcorescene weet je helaas hoelaat het is. Na het nodige geneuzel over jeugdbewegingen en punk begint het echte werk pas op pagina 55 van de 83. De naam van de band Minor Threat wordt in het begin consequent fout geschreven, geen woord over de politieke Europese Straight Edge stroming met de nodige vrouwen (wel dat de Nederlandse scene minder politiek bewust of actief is...), geen woord over de militante Vegan Straight Edge van de jaren 90, geen woord over de talloze Straight Edge fanzines. Deze thesis staat erg vol met fouten die door een beetje dieper doorgraven makkelijk kunnen worden hersteld. Al met al zeer slecht en een dikke 1.
These are valid criticisms. However, the thesis has one interesting point which I did not find being described this way elsewhere; at 4.2 Straight edge levensstijl.
It is about mechanisms excluding women. A debate started by Siouxsie Sioux's comments on 1976 punk vs. later hardcore punk. By female United States hardcore punk band members complaining about the sexist slogan 'No clit in the [mosh]pit'. The Riot Grrl movement did not start for nothing.
In the subsections of Straight Edge, Jesuscore and Krishnacore, sexism is not surprising as in fundamentalist interpretations of religion making women second rate people is part of the ideology. Rianne Kasse does not write about that kind of excluding women. She writes about exclusion mechanisms at work when the ideology is in theory anti-sexist (compare the Ieperfest/Impaled Nazarene issue, elsewhere on this forum). If only things would be so simple that only people with bad intentions can cause bad consequences ... She describes concerts where women are not in center stage mosh pits, but are relegated to the back of the hall (where one can see bands less well) or to the sides of the front row (where the amps are, which may cause ear damage. Rianne Kasse might have mentioned that).
Rianne Kasse's thesis because of this point has attracted the attention of punk scholars like Frances Stewart, herself Straight Edge in Northern Ireland, as far as I know the only country in the world where a majority of Straight Edge people are women; and Louise Barrière in France.
Sometimes, there is good non-exclusion news about mosh pits; like this item about a hijab-clad Muslim girl.
Straight Edge did not exclude women. Soon a reprint of "The Past The Present 1982-2007: A History Of 25 Years Of European Straight Edge" will come out (written by Dutch people from the scene) and there's pieces about important female involvement as well. This scene is as male-dominated as hardcore in general. Read "I'm not holding your coat" by Nancy Barile who played an important role in the Philadelphia scene 1976-1983. It's good that the thesis of Rianne Kasse attracts people but it is still abominable.
I agree there was/is usually not the *intention* to exclude women. However, sometimes things happen not because of intentions, but contrary to conscious intentions (which may be honestly anti-sexist).
Let us look beyond Straight Edge, beyond hardcore in general, beyond punk: to music in general. Research in Germany showed that of people playing at music festivals (all kinds of music) 96% were men. You don't have to be a radical feminist at all to agree that that shows there is a serious problem in the music industry.
Is that 96% because concert promoters in Germany are hardened sexists, like you have in the neonazi parties AfD and NPD in Germany? Maybe a minority, very improbably so for the majority. I think it is a more a question of like in the Dutch proverb 'Wat de boer niet kent, dat lust hij niet' (the farmer does not like what he does not know). Bands including women will relatively often hear: You don't have a record out, or You do have a record out but it is not on a major label. Your music is not on the radio. You are inexperienced. We don't know you. And in this way, those bands will stay inexperienced. A vicious circle. Those bands may disband. Wasting talents of many women. I doubt if the situation in other west European countries is really much better than in Germany.
This may be an interesting part of discussions at the Punk Scholars Network Netherlands conference in December this year, where Louise Barrière who studies France and German situations, and Marie Arleth Skov of the German/Danish PSN affiliate, intend to be present.
Punk, all tendencies in punk, owe to the history of punk, from Patti Smith to Siouxsie, Poly Styrene to Dutch early punk, to be better than music in general. In practice, that is not always the case. As the intended line-up of the 2020 Ieperfest in Belgium, calling itself a punk festival, showed: just one woman. A metal woman, so not even one punk woman was planned to play.
My experience in punk/hardcore between 1982 and 2010 is there was much more room for women (in bands) than in the mainstream. I've seen tons of women punkbands and also female punks running concerts, fanzines, squats...etc. I am purely speaking out of experience and not relying on studies/research mostly done by people outside "the scene".
Hi Michael, I have no doubt that you are correct about your experiences in the Groningen situation. However, there were also other situations. In the USA, eg:
"The increased aggression, drunkenness and hyper masculinity — the “no clit in the pit” mentality — drove women to the margins and ultimately away from the scene altogether.
“There would be girls standing all around the corners holding these jackets and then there would be the boys with their shirt off playing hardcore music,” recalled [riot grrl] punk musician Madigan Shive. “I remember looking round and asking ‘Why are all these girls standing there holding these jackets’ and I remember overhearing another person say ‘Those are the coathangers.’”
The riot grrrl underground punk movement of the early 1990s was in part a reaction against the hypermasculinity dominating the punk scene. At riot grrrl shows, it was common for band members to call for “girls to the front”, providing women with a safe space to mosh. “It was super schizo to play shows where guys threw stuff at us, called us cunts and yelled ‘Take it off’ during our set,” recalled punk musician Kathleen Hanna. “And then the next night perform for throngs of amazing girls singing along to every lyric and cheering after every song.”
I personally think that Jesuscore, Krishnacore and heavy metal influence all made Riot Grrl as a reaction necessary.
As for 'outside the scene': Siouxsie is very definitely not outside the punk scene, though not in the 1980s ff hardcore scene (she was called 'hardcore' as the word was used in the 1970s). Rianne Kasse was outside the straight edge scene, but not outside the punk scene in general (being a 'melodic punk' fan). She made mistakes in various points of her thesis, as you correctly pointed out. But her description of where women were in concert halls during gigs is interesting and shows parallels with writings about United States scenes.
This is a complex issue. It is about history changing all the time from 1976 till now in various countries. About people in audiences. About people in bands. About how writings reflect things. I would like to hear the perspectives of more people on this.
I'm not talking about the Groningen situation, I have travelled all around Europe very often and have friends worldwide since 1982. Rianne Kasse is only talking about the few concerts she visited in the 00's without telling what bands played. I think the Riot Grrl movement is a good thing but at that time (post-1990) there were countless subgenres in punk and the mainstream got a huge influence as well. My experience is only concerning the worldwide DIY scene coz I tried to stay away from the mainstream.
Yes, Rianne Kasse should have written which bands played. Her thesis would also have been better with quotes how the girls felt about being at the back or on the front, but on the sides near the amps. In the 1970s-early 1980s, long before there was an official Riot Grrl movement, girls were often center stage front, see photos like here, Adverts gigs videos, Slits concert September 1978 in London, Banshees in Tiel 1981, etc.