I didn’t have access to or knowledge about the Riot Grrls when I was a teenager. I missed it all, instead just having Courtney Love and Hole, which you can pry out of my cold, dead hands, regardless of the ass Love can be.
A couple years ago, I watched The Punk Singer on Netflix, which is a documentary about Kathleen Hanna and her feminist punk rock, and it blew me away. She blew me away. I felt a profound sense of loss, everything I had missed out on. This clip is the part that stayed with me.
That part has been with me as I’ve gone to events that were more about other people than me. When we went to see Danez Smith, we sat toward the back. When we went to see Native Woman The Musical, we sat in the back and off to the side by a pole. When my partner (a tall man) and I (also tall) go to see shows, we stand a bit back and always leave room in front of us for shorter women to have a space where they can not get too crowded by dude bros and actually maybe see.
But it’s always actually maybe see because there’s always a line of tall dudes right in front of the area. They go straight to the front of everywhere, taking up space, blocking views, not giving a FUCK that for many of us, going to see L7 or The Breeders in 2018 is basically a religious experience, that these women mean everything to us and made all the difference for us. Nope. Many men are pathologically self-centered and unaware or uncaring that they make everything about themselves, that they take up space that isn’t theirs, that they shove the rest of us out of the way at events that are more for us than them.
When it happened at the Queens of the Stone Age concert that several dudes decided to stand through the show, blocking disabled, elderly, and female people from being able to see, I was pissed, but I also decided to never go to a dude bro concert again, even if I like the band. I don’t want to be in those toxic spaces with those toxic dudes. But when they come to our shows and act like that?!
If I’d had one wish last night, it would have been for Kathleen Hanna to show up at every single event for the rest of eternity to declare:
“All girls to the front. I’m not kidding. All girls to the front! All boys be cool for once in your lives. Go back. Back. Back. Back.”
Or whatever wording is more appropriate, depending.
There was a man behind us who kept up his high-pitched undulating yells even when Kelley and Kim Deal were speaking. He clearly didn’t give a fuck about listening to anything they said, nor did he give a fuck that he was preventing others from listening to what they said. At one point, I turned around and said, “Dude, you’re the worst!” And when I did, the women around me all said, “Thank you!” and “Yes!” and “That’s right!”
It didn’t stop him. Awhile later, Kim Deal, on stage, looked right at him and said, “Classy.” That only deterred him for about five minutes before he started up again. After the show, he was speaking loudly to his friends, and I turned to him, wanting to make sure he understood, and said, “Dude, Kim Deal basically called you a douche.” And then I went to the bathroom.
Another super important dude with super important observations got his buddies’ attention during the show to tell them, “That bassist never smiles! So weird. She’s never smiled once!”
I cannot begin to describe the amount of adrenaline his words pumped into my body. I cannot begin to describe how much I wanted to physically attack him in that moment. Because misogyny and patriarchy always activate my base instincts and biology, and I ain’t one to run from a fight. And yet, I manage to control myself (unlike so many men who always whine that they just couldn’t control themselves and had to assault people in the moment). I looked at him and with rage clearly in my voice said, “Why THE FUCK should she smile?!”
He had the usual shocked expression of men when someone asks them a very basic question they’d never once considered in their fantasy realms where everything is about them and their precious thoughts and feelings and the rest of us aren’t really people, but just objects to be evaluated according to how much they do or don’t appreciate what we do.
Josephine Wiggs: I love you, and I especially love that you don’t fucking smile when you don’t want to, that you managed to resist the programming that most of us couldn’t, our faces moving against our wills and betraying us all the damn time.
So yeah, watch The Punk Singer, take it to heart, and please, just, fucking ask yourself if you’re taking up space that’s meant for you or if you should fucking GO BACK BACK BACK and be cool for once in your life.