Lauren Denitzio's (The Measure [SA]) essay, You Know What Makes Me Feel Unsafe? caused a sea of controversy, much agreement and even more debate in the Punknews' comment section. Lauren spoke to Punknews Interviewer Justin Dickman regarding the contents of her essay, the most confusing complaints, the elements of feminism and you (the Punknews commenters). This year, if you attend what could be your last Measure [SA] show culminating at this year's Fest in Gainesville, FL I advise you to watch what you say, keep it safe and keep your shirt on.
Were you expecting to get this kind of reactions with your essay or were you expecting people to push it to the side?
I feel like Iâm read similar things that have gotten similar reactions, or a similar range of reactions so I wasnât really surprised by it, no. Itâs an issue you get a lot of people who have perspectives on it so I wasnât surprised by a wide range of perception.
Have you read the comments posted on [Punknews]?
I did. I read through some of them when it first got posted. So, Iâm aware of that commentary and the comments that got posted on your site.
In general, I was glad to see that people were talking about it to people who possibly havenât talked about it before, or who havenât talked about it before with each other. I was disappointed with some of the comments on Punknews that I felt they were personally attacking me. I didnât feel like I was personally attacking anyone so I thought those were pretty unproductive, but I saw a lot of supportive comments too. Yeah, I was glad for those. I was little disappointed in some but I think, based on the comments that, "Sexism in the Punk scene" and surrounding issues are important for people to be talking about if people have such huge opinions about It.
One of the commenters wrote that women cannot be sexist; that reverse sexism is invalid as a theory. What is your stance on that?
Reverse sexismâI think that that itâs a complicated issue. That itâs not the same thing. So, they were saying that women canât be sexist, is that what you are saying?
I think that women can participate in patriarchy but I donât think that women are conditioned to be sexist in the same way that men are. And I donât think it stems from the same thing. It needs to be talked about in a different way; I donât think itâs the same conversation.
One of the more popular memes on Punknews was, "But would holy_balls do her?" A lot of people would post that when there was an article about a band featuring a female member. Thankfully, I havenât seen anyone post that for some time. My question is, where is the line drawn when it comes to stating oneâs attraction towards another and being a sexist statement?
So youâre saying you havenât seen that in a long time.
I havenât seen it in a while.
Honestly, Iâve seen plenty of sexist things, people making comments about female members on Punknews. Iâve seen it posted about me. Itâs the kind of stuff that I feel there is a clear difference between someone saying, "Oh, sheâs so cute" and making lewd remarks and really sexual suggestive things that are completely inappropriate and unnecessary and really objectifying. If it were the other way around, saying about any gender itâs not very nice cause theyâre here to play music. Itâs just not what most people want to be judged by so I think itâs just inappropriate and itâs certainly not welcoming to women to put themselves out there if thatâs the kind of response theyâre going to get.
It definitely does happen.
But where would you draw the line when it comes to someone stating their attraction to the female member and when theyâre going over the line?
I donât think you could draw a line specifically. Women arenât there to be judged like that or be rated like that when their band is being written about. People can say whatever they want but I think itâs pretty obvious, honestly. I think the people know when theyâre being objectifying and when theyâre being pretty gross with it, and they know it and they say it anyways. Would you say that the "holy_balls" meme is sexist?
I havenât actually seen it, so I canât speak about that unfortunately.
What about when female members of the board say the same thing about male members in bands?
I donât think itâs appropriate either way around but if youâre gonna talk about whether or not if the scene is sexist in terms of women feeling like theyâre not on an even playing field with men, I think men making comments about women are a bigger problem than a girl occasionally saying something inappropriate about a guy. But itâs not even inappropriate in the same way, so I think itâs creating another issue when a guy says something about a girl. Iâm not one to say such things about men in general. I donât know; I think itâs a different issue.
Is it preferable if a person at least recognizes what theyâre saying or doing as sexist and will admit to it compared to a person who is oblivious to the fact?
I think that if someone makes a comment and people they know are like, "Hey, that comment sucks. You shouldnât say stuff like that." Thatâs really inappropriate [the original comment] and they realize that theyâre doing that and are like, "I screwed up. I shouldnât talk like that. Itâs not cool of me." I think that itâs good and thatâs a good step.
Iâm hoping for is just more of a discussion of those type of things about talking to each other about that. I think it certainly doesnât help any if somebody says something and not care about it when somebody confronts them about It.
What about when a person knows what theyâre saying is sexist and they say it anyway?
I think that sucks.
If they were a friend of mine I would be certain to try and call them out on it but thatâs all I can do.
How would you say we can combat sexism within the scene?
Itâs about talking about it. About guys being aware of their actions and being able to talk to women about it and talk to other people in their scene about their feelings about it and acknowledging that stuff happens, regardless of who you are and where youâre coming from that if you make someone uncomfortable you need to own up to that. I donât think anyone is perfect. We all say or do things that we wish we hadnât, that we know are inappropriate or are hurtful. All you can do is own up to it and try not to have it happen again. Thatâs what I was trying to talk about in the article and being accountable for things and not trying to say that weâre past it. I think the worse thing you can do is say, "We donât have to talk about it. Weâre punks. Weâre past it. We donât accept those kinds of things in our scene so they just donât happen," but they do.
I think thatâs the most important thing is to acknowledge that it happens and be accountable for It.
Is calling someone out on their "bullshit" enough?
I think that is the way to get the ball rolling in that direction if you think something is happening. Itâs about creating an atmosphere open about those things and feels like talking about it. Obviously, itâs a discussion that creates quite a debate, at least on Punknews.
Calling somebody on their bullshit isnât the only thing to do. Creating awareness about it, making sure that women, well anyone in the scene has the ability to create safer places for themselves. I certainly donât have all the answers but itâs certainly something that needs to be discussed and acknowledged.
What if it backfires?
People can have whatever reaction to it they want but if you approach someone calmly about whatâs going on and they donât respond well to it thenâI donât really know what else you can do in that situation. You chose who you associate with. You chose whoâs apart of your circle of friends. I guess it really depends on the situation but the worse thing that can happen if someone responds negatively is that you know that that person is not on your wavelength; that you donât see eye to eye with them so itâs better at least you know. I feel itâs better to do that than not say anything.
Could you elaborate further when you said that it made you feel unsafe when men took their shirts off? Is it the double standard or just an uncomfortable feeling of being surrounded by a bunch of fat, sweaty dudes?
I think that itâs just a completely different thing when a male-identified person takes their shirt off versus a woman taking her shirt off. Itâs triggering for women and itâs a very physical statement of strength and power within a group. Even if a guy thinks that theyâre not being threatening with it, someone thinks they are. Itâs as simple as that sometimes.
So itâs kind of a mixture of the two?
Yeah, itâs a mixture of the two and I think that if someone is actively concerned about making women feel comfortable being at shows you could probably keep your shirt on. I donât think itâs about people feeling proud of their bodies. Thatâs not why. I feel thatâs not the reason that most people are talking about when they get to talking about being told to not take their shirt off.
When youâre doing something thatâs possibly triggering for someone and can make someone really uncomfortable itâs being inconsiderate. I donât necessarily feel triggered or overly threatened by guys taking their shirt off but I definitely do think that itâs a assertion of power and strength that makes me feel unwelcomed and makes me wonder why Iâm there.
Iâve sweated through every piece of clothing I have at plenty of shows and Iâve kept my shirt on and itâs not the end of the world. So, itâs not like a guy canât deal with that so I donât really see that as a valid complaint. People can do what they want but donât go tell me that youâre super concerned about everyone feeling safe at the stage. If youâre doing that all the time; if youâre in a group where someone might feel uncomfortable then obviously youâre not thinking about that.
What does feminism mean to you?
I feel like Iâve been asked this question a lot lately but; that quote that [states], "Feminism is a radical notion that women are human beings" and itâs about identifying patriarchy and talking about male-privilege, combating the things in your community whether itâs punk or otherwise. I feel thatâs what it means to me. Itâs the same issues surrounding feminism, element health issues, queer issues; it can all play into that. Thatâs what it means to me, especially in terms of issues within the closer community for me.
Words like "bitch" and "slut" are heavily intertwined into our consciousness. How as a scene can we eradicate these words?
Honestly, I know plenty of people when they hear people using those words in their every day speech theyâre like, "Hey, thatâs not cool. Thatâs not a good word to use. You could probably use something else." I think thatâs the only way is to talk about it and talk about why you would use those words and why for certain instances those words arenât be productive or helpful.
What do you have to say about the use of these words in "art" (film, music or theater)?
I think itâs all about context. Iâm not one to say that this word should never be used ever. I think certain words at one point have been derogatory can be reclaimed by certain groups and be used to be empowering; but itâs all about context. I donât think there are words that should never be used again. Itâs just that you need to be aware of their history and their context for certain people.
Are there insults as degrading to men as these words are to women?
Yeah, I think there are but theyâre loaded in a different way.
There are people whoâll say that when youâre calling a man a "dick," itâs equal to calling a woman a "bitch."
I think itâs putting their gender down. Itâs not something Iâm proud of having said before but I think that itâs loaded in a different way and thereâs a much longer history of men using that word to put women down, in a way that has much more power over them then a women calling a guy a, "dick." I donât think it has the same meaning. I donât think that either are helpful. Calling someone a "bitch" definitely has a heavier meaning.
One part I was confused about, in the last part of the essay is when you would talk about "women-only spaces." Would that be damaging to the "feminist" movement cause you wouldnât be allowing men to enter?"
I was talking about more, women-only groups or a womenâs only event, rather than a womanâs only venue. I think itâs really important to create entirely safe spaces sometimes where any minority group can get together and openly express themselves and not be threatened by anyone else in the room. There are spaces I wouldnât be welcomed at due to certain privileges I have. Iâm not being a hypocrite with this. I think itâs for most people to have a safe space for people to talk about their experiences and feel like theyâre being judged or being threatened by others in the room by certain privileges they have.
That makes a lot more sense to me now. Thank you.
Can rape jokes be funny?
Uhhh, no! I feel like there are a lot of people whoâll disagree with me on that one. I donât think itâs funny to use that word in a comical way.
What about with professional comedians?
Definitely not. Iâve been in the room when thatâs happened, with professional comedians and I could tell by the people Iâm with it was an instant cringe, thatâs not something you say kinda thing. I donât think thatâs appropriate at all. Itâs not something I would ever use in a joke or most comedians I listen to would use in a joke.