Saturday, October 6, 2007

Goths argue over School dress Code

In the United states following Columbine many schools instituted dress codes outlawing gothic fashions. Now in Florida one school has revised the code:

The Brevard County School Board tweaked its dress code policy to remove the word "Gothic" this week.

That was a judicious move. No other group of students is listed in the policy. Hip-hop and jock styles also break the dress code, but their groups aren't singled out for censure by name.

Branding Goths as somehow dangerous was unfair and unneeded. But some Goth kids dislike school dress code restrictions -- such as bans on facial piercings and heavy makeup -- and petitioned the board to ease them.

The board correctly said no, and Brevard schools will continue to prohibit piercings anywhere but the ear, and extreme make-up.

The dress code also rightly forbids clothing or accessories with violent, death-oriented or sexually aggressive themes, gang-related items, dog collars, and other styles that can be disruptive in the classroom.

The new ruling allows goths a bit more freedom of expression. This followed a campaign by local goth pupils at Rockledge High. This is a fine example of a committed campaign organised intelligently on a local level to fight against pure prejudice which has won a small but significant triumph, in that they will be able to wear gothic items that do not break the code. The group continue their campaign. Baggy pants associated with rap and hip-hop are also banned in the school.

If there is no general uniform policy for a school then children should be free to wear what they want within reason. Sportswear indicates certain gangs as much as anything else. As is now known the Columbine killers did not follow gothic fashions nor were they part of the subculture in general. If simply wearing black makes you a goth someone should tell the Church. It is interesting Columbine was mentioned in the article showing how deeply the media coverage took root.

Gordon Crews, a professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., who specializes in Gothic subculture studies and criminal justice said:

"There's so much misperception and miscommunication that it leads to hysteria," he said. "Just because kids are wearing black or a facial piercing, we automatically attach that to disruptive behavior when most the time these kids are well behaved."

Interestingly one of the pupils claimed her goth clothes were part of her Wiccan spirituality.

Friday, October 5, 2007

They want to corrupt our children and drive them to murder with their fascination with the dark and evil world of Satan!"

Want to write songs about death ? Don't do it in Seattle because some parents will get up a petition like they did against local goth/deathrock band Schoolyard Heroes.

"We are a group of upset parents who are trying to stop a tragedy before it begins, and that tragedy is Schoolyard Heroes," the online petition read. "It has been brought to our attention that there is a cult of young children, ONLY 13 YEARS OLD in some cases, following this band around and running away from home. This must be stopped."

"They are evil! They want to corrupt our children and drive them to murder with their fascination with the dark and evil world of Satan!"

In an interview the band discuss the problem:
"It's incredible, there's nothing that can celebrate the ignorance of parents like this letter -- how out of touch are they with the lives of their children?" Bergman, admitting that the band's lyrics do in fact discuss "zombies and stuff," as well as other graphic imagery, states the those involved with the petition have "clearly never heard our music our seen our shows… We love everyone, we give everyone a chance, it's not about worshipping the devil -- it's a Halloween dance every night."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fear of the Other - the Purpose of this Blog

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. Alterophobia is the term for fear and hatred of the Other, which is Fear of the the Strange, the Unknown. This hatred of the Other, is the basis for all kinds of fears and hatreds: hatred of foreigners, hatred of those of a different sexuality or gender, hatred of those of a different religion, hatred of the disabled, or hatred of the young or old. To fight against these prejudices to respect other people and to tolerate diversity is a keystone of modern Western society.

One area of intolerance which is little appreciated is the lack of respect shown towards members of alternative subcultures across the world. So I think alterophobia is a convient term to use describe this kind of prejudice. Often these subcultures arose in youth movements, but with time they have grown to become permanent part of the diverse web of organisations and people which make up modern life. These groups have frequently become targets of moral panics, their members turned into folk devils responsible for all the ills of society. Exaggeration, distortion and prejudice have made them convenient media scapegoats for tragedies like the Columbine shooting (see Columbine - The Legacy of Hatred ). These media distortions then support and reinforce existing prejudices.

Subcultural groups from hippies, punks, metalers, goths, skaters, emos, mods, rockers, New Age travellers, ravers and others all have suffered from these perceptions. As a result members of these subcultures often feel isolated and under attack. They receive not just verbal abuse but even physical violence which this blog has documentated in a number of posts There have always been those who are ready to turn to violence because of prejudice, ready to attack those who seem different. It is particularly bad for teenagers in school who are bullied simply because they listen to a different kind of music or dress alternatively. Many of the reports we have dealt with underline that school is a key location in these problems. Yes indeed some members of subcultural groups are criminals, or indulge in bad behaviour, but the extent of this is exaggerated along with other media distortions simply because it is easy to pick on them as scapegoats rather than o explore the complex social issues surrounding problems like violence, suicide and self-harm. There are cases like the West Memphis Three where being part of subculture has led to a miscarriage of justice and has further blackened the reputation of the subcultures involved. The vast majority of members of these groups are law abiding citizens of wherever they live. Indeed they often unnoticed perform good deeds. We must not forget to condemn equally the long-standing rivalries amongst subcultures, which when taken to extremes support exactly the sort of hatred and prejudice we are against. These feelings have contributed to violence in Mexico against emos for example.

I believe that this prejudice against these subcultures feed into creating a wider sphere of discrimination and hatred. If you cannot tolerate someone from the same nation as you, but who has a different hair style what chance is there you can tolerate other differences? By teaching tolerance for everyone we can create a better society.

This blog was motivated by the death of Sophie Lancaster, only twenty years old but murdered because she choose to dress in a goth style in August 2007. Yet Sophie's death is only part of a wider wave of prejudice which chooses to attack or abuse members of subcultures simply for the crime of existing and going about their daily lives. Look at the earlier case of the death of American punk Brian Deneke in 1997 in Amarillo, Texas for another example. Ten years on the case of Brian Deneke's death still arouses deep feelings amongst punks but there is no sign the issues of school and teen divisions it highlighted have been dealt with.

If Columbine High School had solved in 1999 the similar social divisions between jocks and alternative people in their school, exactly the sam divisions as there had been at Amarillo, would lives have been saved?

In the UK the death of Sophie has resulted in a Epetition at Downing Street website against Subcultural Hate Crime which is drawing attention to the issues and created a debate. This led to a poltical movement which may lead to a change in the law in the UK see post on the Early Day Motion.

Are these attacks at the same level as in earlier periods or are they getting worse? Without statistics it is difficult to say. Certainly it might seem we are just seeing what is an age old story but if you take the example of the fight which ended with the death of Dele Little that gives you two deaths as a result of subcultural differences amongst teenagers in the UK in 2007. There are worrying indications the problem may be getting worse. Since starting this blog I have documented a number of attacks and other issues which have effected emos, goths, punk, followers of Heavy Metal and skaters.

This blog will try to keep track of these problems, in the UK and across the world, and by highlighting them hopefully go some way to showing the problem exists and start to combat them.