Reason Magazine just posted an interesting piece on their blog about proposed legislation in Russia that would ban goth and emo style dress in public schools and government buildings. They also linked to an older piece about anti-emo “hunts” that have happened in Mexico wherein hundreds of teenagers chase down emo kids and beat the crap out of them.
It all reminded me of a conversation that Fire and I had a few weeks ago about the difference between when we were goth kids (on the outside, I’d say in many ways we still are on the inside) and what the goth/emo thing has kind of turned into. One good way to sum it up it seems is this:
Emo kids get beat up a lot, a lot of people hate them for reasons I don’t understand. Even in the U.S. it seems that being an emo kid ain’t the safest thing to do.
A lot of people hated goth kids too, but it seems like people didn’t want to fuck with you if you were a hardcore goth. Part of the goth “thing” was that you seemed unpredictable i.e. “if she’ll shove a safety pin in her own ear and wear it like that, what’ll she do to me?” This isn’t to say that a lot of goths didn’t get the shit beat out of them somewhat regularly, but that is often part of how they became goths.
The Russians aren’t the only ones to try to legislate goths away. Here in America they did it years ago, just not at a national level. I believe that in some ways that is what birthed emo culture as distinct from goth culture.
Fire put it this way: Emo is goth, except that you can only be angry at yourself not the rest of the world.
Part of the point of goth was that other people found it weird and a bit scary. That’s how we stopped getting the shit beaten out of us. The problem is that when Columbine and the following shootings happened, people focused on the fact that goths were the ones with the guns instead of asking “what fucked these kids up?” The general public simply decided that being goth is what made them go nuts and shoot people. I’ve got news for you: the fucked up kids don’t become the popular and successful ones in high school. So yeah, often they became goths. The people who committed those crimes were fucked in the head long before they put on black clothes and white makeup.
This however is a reasonable point, and one thing about our culture and society is that when there’s blood on the walls, reason goes out the window.
During my adolescence and college years my mother was the vice principal at a suburban high school. I remember that not to long after the Columbine shooting I was home from college and stopped in to see her at work. It was pouring outside so I was wearing the black London Fog trench coat she had bought me a few weeks earlier. Here’s another newsflash, London Fog raincoats pretty much come in black and beige, and if you spend a lot of time in the woods or a metal shop, and in college I did both, wearing beige is a really bad idea.
My mother was outraged. She couldn’t believe that I’d wear a black trench-coat (did I mention it was a present from her?) in her school. My protestations that it was pouring cats and dogs fell on deaf ears. In the wake of the school shootings it had been decided that goth clothing was a tool of fear and terror and was outlawed in many schools.
They had rational sounding explanations, but under examination these explanations were often revealed as, well dumb. For example, my mother pointed out that you can hide a lot of weapons in a trench-coat. Absolutely irrefutable, and maybe a good point from a school security point of view. However, her school only banned black trench-coats. To point out how stupid this was, Fire carried on an entire conversation with my mother while concealing a nearly four-foot broadsword under the cute pale-red LL Bean trench-coat she had gotten from her grandmother. At the end of the conversation she drew the sword that my mother didn’t know was there, proving that the black part was irrelevant. Not that it mattered.
I’m not trying to say that there aren’t differences between emo and goth, to be honest, I know a lot less about the emo movement than I could. Nor am I saying that goth is dead.
Nor do I understand why it is ok to hate and assault goth or emo or in some places queer or foreign kids in school. The fact is that I think there are always going to be kids who teachers and adults will look the other way rather than protect. And whether it’s legislation in Russia or goth kids being afraid to express themselves for fear of being looked on as potential dangers, what’s really going on is society making it easier to look the other way.