Lauren Denitzio (ex-The Measure [SA])

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 I’m read similar things that have gotten similar reactions, or a similar range of reactions so I wasn’t really surprised by it, no. It’s an issue you get a lot of people who have perspectives on it so I wasn’t 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, I’m 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 haven’t talked about it before, or who haven’t 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 didn’t 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 sexism—I think that that it’s a complicated issue. That it’s not the same thing. So, they were saying that women can’t be sexist, is that what you are saying?

I think that women can participate in patriarchy but I don’t think that women are conditioned to be sexist in the same way that men are. And I don’t think it stems from the same thing. It needs to be talked about in a different way; I don’t think it’s 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 haven’t seen anyone post that for some time. My question is, where is the line drawn when it comes to stating one’s attraction towards another and being a sexist statement?
So you’re saying you haven’t seen that in a long time.

I haven’t seen it in a while.
Honestly, I’ve seen plenty of sexist things, people making comments about female members on Punknews. I’ve seen it posted about me. It’s the kind of stuff that I feel there is a clear difference between someone saying, "Oh, she’s 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 it’s not very nice cause they’re here to play music. It’s just not what most people want to be judged by so I think it’s just inappropriate and it’s certainly not welcoming to women to put themselves out there if that’s the kind of response they’re 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 they’re going over the line?
I don’t think you could draw a line specifically. Women aren’t 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 it’s pretty obvious, honestly. I think the people know when they’re being objectifying and when they’re 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 haven’t actually seen it, so I can’t speak about that unfortunately.

What about when female members of the board say the same thing about male members in bands?
I don’t think it’s appropriate either way around but if you’re gonna talk about whether or not if the scene is sexist in terms of women feeling like they’re 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 it’s not even inappropriate in the same way, so I think it’s creating another issue when a guy says something about a girl. I’m not one to say such things about men in general. I don’t know; I think it’s a different issue.

Is it preferable if a person at least recognizes what they’re 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 shouldn’t say stuff like that." That’s really inappropriate [the original comment] and they realize that they’re doing that and are like, "I screwed up. I shouldn’t talk like that. It’s not cool of me." I think that it’s good and that’s a good step.

I’m hoping for is just more of a discussion of those type of things about talking to each other about that. I think it certainly doesn’t help any if somebody says something and not care about it when somebody confronts them about It.

What about when a person knows what they’re 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 that’s all I can do.

How would you say we can combat sexism within the scene?
It’s 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 you’re coming from that if you make someone uncomfortable you need to own up to that. I don’t think anyone is perfect. We all say or do things that we wish we hadn’t, 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. That’s what I was trying to talk about in the article and being accountable for things and not trying to say that we’re past it. I think the worse thing you can do is say, "We don’t have to talk about it. We’re punks. We’re past it. We don’t accept those kinds of things in our scene so they just don’t happen," but they do.

I think that’s 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. It’s about creating an atmosphere open about those things and feels like talking about it. Obviously, it’s a discussion that creates quite a debate, at least on Punknews.

Calling somebody on their bullshit isn’t 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 don’t have all the answers but it’s 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 what’s going on and they don’t respond well to it then—I don’t really know what else you can do in that situation. You chose who you associate with. You chose who’s 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 don’t see eye to eye with them so it’s better at least you know. I feel it’s 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 it’s just a completely different thing when a male-identified person takes their shirt off versus a woman taking her shirt off. It’s triggering for women and it’s a very physical statement of strength and power within a group. Even if a guy thinks that they’re not being threatening with it, someone thinks they are. It’s as simple as that sometimes.

So it’s kind of a mixture of the two?
Yeah, it’s 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 don’t think it’s about people feeling proud of their bodies. That’s not why. I feel that’s not the reason that most people are talking about when they get to talking about being told to not take their shirt off.

When you’re doing something that’s possibly triggering for someone and can make someone really uncomfortable it’s being inconsiderate. I don’t necessarily feel triggered or overly threatened by guys taking their shirt off but I definitely do think that it’s a assertion of power and strength that makes me feel unwelcomed and makes me wonder why I’m there.

I’ve sweated through every piece of clothing I have at plenty of shows and I’ve kept my shirt on and it’s not the end of the world. So, it’s not like a guy can’t deal with that so I don’t really see that as a valid complaint. People can do what they want but don’t go tell me that you’re super concerned about everyone feeling safe at the stage. If you’re doing that all the time; if you’re in a group where someone might feel uncomfortable then obviously you’re not thinking about that.

What does feminism mean to you?
I feel like I’ve been asked this question a lot lately but; that quote that [states], "Feminism is a radical notion that women are human beings" and it’s about identifying patriarchy and talking about male-privilege, combating the things in your community whether it’s punk or otherwise. I feel that’s what it means to me. It’s the same issues surrounding feminism, element health issues, queer issues; it can all play into that. That’s 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 they’re like, "Hey, that’s not cool. That’s not a good word to use. You could probably use something else." I think that’s the only way is to talk about it and talk about why you would use those words and why for certain instances those words aren’t be productive or helpful.

What do you have to say about the use of these words in "art" (film, music or theater)?
I think it’s all about context. I’m 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 it’s all about context. I don’t think there are words that should never be used again. It’s 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 they’re loaded in a different way.

There are people who’ll say that when you’re calling a man a "dick," it’s equal to calling a woman a "bitch."
I think it’s putting their gender down. It’s not something I’m proud of having said before but I think that it’s loaded in a different way and there’s 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 don’t think it has the same meaning. I don’t 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 wouldn’t be allowing men to enter?"
I was talking about more, women-only groups or a women’s only event, rather than a woman’s only venue. I think it’s 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 wouldn’t be welcomed at due to certain privileges I have. I’m not being a hypocrite with this. I think it’s for most people to have a safe space for people to talk about their experiences and feel like they’re 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 who’ll disagree with me on that one. I don’t think it’s funny to use that word in a comical way.

What about with professional comedians?
Definitely not. I’ve been in the room when that’s happened, with professional comedians and I could tell by the people I’m with it was an instant cringe, that’s not something you say kinda thing. I don’t think that’s appropriate at all. It’s not something I would ever use in a joke or most comedians I listen to would use in a joke.