Thursday, September 29, 2011
Misogyny and Sexism in Industrial Music Videos
Let's start with some things I really love about industrial, goth, and other dark electronic scenes I have been privileged to be a part of. First of all, I love the music. I like all kinds of genres and in spite of my dedication to "the old stuff," I really love a lot of the "new stuff" as well. (What is new and old in a 40 year time span anyways?) I love that men have much more freedom to explore gender expression. Seeing a dude in a skirt, make up, and so on is not uncommon in these scenes, and they're much less likely (though not completely unlikely) to get jumped because of it. I'd say there is not quite as much freedom for other gendered people but it does still exist moreso than more mainstream culture. I love how scenes ebb and flow and when one starts to die, another is born. I love the age variation in these genres and how teenagers listen to it as much as older adults. I love dancing by myself and going wild without criticism. I love how industrial and goth scenes are often much safer club spaces than many other music scenes. I can show up with a partner to an industrial show and be pretty confident we will not be gay bashed or stared at the entire time. I love the variety in culture and clothing. I love how many people from darker electronic music backgrounds often care about politics, animals, the Earth, and other things. I like that many (but not all) have the ability not to take themselves seriously. I could go on for a long time about what I like. But now that I can be confident the reader knows I do not intend to tear apart the scene, let's go to what I have been seeing a growing problem with lately.
Sexism. Misogyny. Violence against women. Sexual Violence. And none of these to make a statement against these things. These things are used purely for shock value, or perhaps worse- to promote the macho ideal that harming women makes you strong. I have seen these topics brought up online and fanboys will feel the need to defend their favorite bands with their lives. For instance, when DJ Pathogen wrote about a Combichrist video. I hope, that if a band you like shows up on here that you will try to set aside your love of music and think about oppression at hand. Afterall, many of these things were a surprise to me, as they come from bands that I like the sound of quite a bit. Many of the bands I list here I own albums of and listen to.
It is no secret to anyone that the majority of industrial musicians are straight, white, cis, men. Women of color like Shikhee of Android Lust, who compose their own music and actually make it, are rare. This is the way many music genres are. It is a "man's world" afterall. This is not a blog to rail against men. I can think of many bands fronted by or composed of all men that are quite awesome and do not resort to images of violence towards women to sell songs and tickets. This is an entry to rail against sexism and to hopefully get a conversation started about how we can change this.
Here are some more recent examples of what I am talking about. Content warning for depictions of violence, specifically towards women, sexual assault, and other things:
Suicide Commando's "Die Motherfucker Die"
Nachtmahr's "Can You Feel the Beat?"
(analyzed in depth in a later post here)
(These are trailers for a longer video, so perhaps I am suddenly going to see a nice consensual arrangement where these women worked out a bdsm contract to be tied up, but I doubt it.)
Combichrist's "Throat Full of Glass"
COMBICHRIST "Throat Full Of Glass" (Explicit Version) from Combichrist on Vimeo.
Andy Laplegua has blamed all responsibility for this video on the women in it. It was apparently all their idea. Uh huh. From a band with songs like "shut up and swallow" fronted by a man who wears confederate flags. I can't say I'm surprised. Combichrist's tunes will never be catchy enough for me to ignore the inanity in their lyrics. And anyone who names an album "What the fuck is wrong with you people?" is way too full of themselves. (Yeah, I said I wasn't gonna talk shit but this is the only band here that really gets my briefs in a bunch. The fact that skinny puppy clears the dance floor but random-popular-EDM-music-generator Andy Laplegua in all his misogynistic glory fills it is a bit frustrating. I remember some letter in 2007 where he said he was gonna stop cheating on his wife and disrespecting women but I guess we're still waiting for the change. But I digress...)
All of these videos depict the sexual and physical assault of women with no intended message that this is wrong.
Additionally, on the Gothsicles' newest album Industrialites&Magic, the song "Drunk Cuts" has mention of stabbing a "cock tease" in the chest (a very bad joke) which caught me off guard. Even a group knowing how to laugh at themselves can still manage to write songs at the expense of women (who apparently are required to fuck men when they are drunk, lest they be a "cock tease").
I wonder if men, in society's eternal quest to make them into sissies if they aren't big enough or strong enough, have resorted in these genres to showing "I'm no pussy, look how violent my videos are." Let's forget how awesome pussies are for a second and think about this. This happens all the time. Internalized patriarchy, the fear of being seen as gay, the fear of being seen as weak, and so on.
What ever happened to videos like this? (Ignoring the obvious cheese that comes from watching older videos and the fact that macho dudes look ridiculous sometimes) They manage to be gory, bizarre, aggressive, dark, without glorifying sexual assault and violence towards women...
And since I was hard on Andy earlier, I'll even add this video as an example of non-misogynistic stuff.
...and some even make statements against oppression. There are ways to show violence and make it quite obvious that what is happening is wrong. These videos do not glorify such oppression.(trigger warning on the first three videos as they make statements against animal abuse and police brutality among other things, hence they have some disturbing images.)
(This video does show violence against women, but is making an obvious statement that that violence, as well as that towards other animals, is wrong).
And the next time Andy Laplegua and friends wanna sit around wearing black in a hotel room, they should try something more like this. There's plenty of (consensual) sexuality and weird shit going on there to get attention.
Personally, nothing screams "wuss" to me like dudes who use violence towards women half his size to make money. I'd prefer Pitchfork (and their cross dressing signer) over that any day in a fight.
Granted, the above videos are from bands who are political. They probably think about these things regularly whereas bands who are apolitical may not think of this stuff. I hope they think of it more, because I think it is very obvious to people that the promotion of violence towards women doesn't help anyone, and it hurts a lot of people.
So is there a place for people like me who wish to combat oppression but still love the music? Or will we be written off as ruining everyone's fun? I hope people find this entry and join in the conversation. And if you have videos you want me to add to entries on here, please post them in the comments. I did not take the time to analyze these videos in depth because I wanted them to speak for themselves.
(Please be respectful to each other and to me in the comments. I will moderate them very loosely and will let a lot of shit slide, but if you're being outright nasty I'll probably delete your stuff. Same with spammers.)
UPDATE (10/1/11): I want to link to one of the only other people online I have see address this topic (correct me if I am wrong, I would love to read more). This article I think addresses many of the counterarguments (mostly on social networking sites) to what I have written here as they often tend to be similar. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I will link to it as it is very good. Hopefully some of the detractors who didn't read this far before defending misogynistic videos will make it to this link. Perhaps they will listen to a dude if they won't listen to me. Here is also a 101 on Rape Culture since it seems it could benefit many people (afterall the need for this 101 is part of such a culture).
UPDATE 2 (10/10/2011): Some folks have said that much of the music I mention here is "not real industrial" or whatever. That may be true, but these things are all played in industrial scenes and clubs, seen as subgenres of industrial (EBM, aggro, aggrotech, second generation industrial, future pop, industrial rock, industrial metal, coldwave, etc). While I am very aware of the many sub genres of industrial, and how many older heads like myself don't see combichrist as "real industrial", they are still part of our scenes and still must be addressed. I'd rather focus on rampant misogyny than arguing what is "real industrial" and what is not. To me, I got sick of that argument many years ago and just started enjoying music. I also encourage folks to air their grievances with this piece here so I don't have to dig through the website hits to address these. Conversations are rad.
Also, there was mention that I should have brought Throbbing Gristle into discussions of gender politics. While I agree that TG's music is relevant, it would have made this exhausting article to write much more lengthy. Perhaps I will get into this later, but it is important to note that TG is headed by a trans gender pandrogyne and anything they do is going to be completely different in meaning, perception, privilege, and effect than cis straight guys doing things. Oppression dynamics are for people who face those oppressions to exploit, not for people who perpetuate them to exploit. Queers reclaimed the word "queer", not straights. I can agree that songs like "slug bait" do have horrific narratives but this article was specifically written mostly about videos of recent bands (again, for brevity). But, I also think slug bait is so obviously disgusting and unglorified that no one is going to think those things are cool as a result. Does it reinforce misogyny? Perhaps, but that is for another article. A much much longer one.
I would also point to song's like Coil's (also published under Zos Kia) song "Rape." I doubt anyone can listen to this song, however abstract, and think that rape is being promoted in it. I do however think that many of the early examples of misogyny I have above do suggest a "coolness" factor of misogyny. There is a difference. I think people can have the freedom to explore and touch on horrific subjects in music without promoting them. Also, note that half (or all depending on time period) of Coil was two gay lovers (who also did the first HIV music benefit ever)- again going to have different experiences of oppression than hetero dudes. I think that TG and Coil are set far far apart from the stuff in Combichrist. This does not mean Coil or TG are untouchable. Touch them. Discuss them. At length. Like I said earlier, I listen to half or more of the bands I have gripe with here regularly. It is possible to like something and not worship it's every flaw at the same time.