By Marie Scarsella, Editor-in-Chief
When I tell people I run an LGBTQ blog, I usually get confused stares. I’m straight and I’m white. What the hell do I know about discrimination or feeling unsafe? Sure, you’re right. I’m straight. I’m white. I’ve said it before and I’ll stand by it – I don’t experience the same struggles the LGBTQ community or people of color face every day. However, I will wholeheartedly stand by the statement that I have, and continue to, experience gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment within our scene, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of watching the scene I grew up in devolve into a toxic wasteland for women, for girls, for LGBTQ community members...I'm sick of people feeling unsafe, excluded, and downright uncomfortable, and I want this to change.
When I attended my first Warped Tour, I was only 14 or 15 years old. I treated “punk rock” or “the scene” or whatever the fuck you prefer to call it as a safe haven. I was different than most kids at school and I finally found my niche. I was around others like me, and in my experience at that age, everyone treated each other with respect. If I fell down in a pit, dudes helped me up. The problem is this was many moons ago, and now when I fall down in a pit, dudes use it as an opportunity to weirdly touch me or tell me I don’t belong there in the first place. (Obviously not all dudes behave in this manner, but this has happened more than once.)
As a music journalist and frequent show-goer in 2015, I’ve had dudes in crowds blatantly stick their hand down my pants/underwear, I’ve been groped while crowd surfing, I’ve been hit on and called a bitch for rejecting advances. I’ve had band members catcall me and follow me around for over an hour, I’ve been called a tease, people haven’t taken my interview questions seriously, I’ve been viewed as a “groupie.” There’s plenty more where that came from, but what all of those incidents have in common is that they’re all bullshit.
The community I grew up in no longer feels safe, and that’s a huge problem, especially with the scene becoming more and more age-inclusive. Fans are getting younger, and creepy band dudes are giving even less fucks. When these bands are given a platform that allows them access to venues packed out with young girls, we’re asking for trouble. In my opinion, these dudes should be getting professional help, not access to scores of potential victims.
Upon hearing about all the initial drama with Front Porch Step, I, like everyone else on planet Earth, was disturbed. Someone who was given a platform to support safe spaces and encourage the feelings of community instead used that platform to allegedly sexually assault a young woman. This contradicts everything our scene theoretically stands for. It should’ve been a no-brainer to boot this guy from Warped Tour for good for the safety of the women in attendance. Instead, the powers that be showed poor judgment and brought him on anyway, despite protests and false promises. Not only did this guy perform, but he got on stage and had the gall to make statements that showed no remorse for his actions. "The difference between you and me is that I know who I am, and I fucking am very proud of that. So you can go ahead, watch my set. Thank you very much. Thanks for the ticket money, dude." FUCKING SERIOUSLY?!
Over at camp Punk Out, we grappled with how we should respond to this. In fact, we weren't even sure we should respond at all. Sure, we all agreed that Front Porch Step shouldn't be at Warped Tour, but do we get involved? What’s done is done, right? McElfresh was allowed to take the stage. Girls were put in harm's way. Warped Tour was essentially fucked.
However, we quickly realized there is some good that can come from this breakdown. There is good in the sense that people are blowing up the internet with talk of safe spaces. Band members are protesting and speaking out, canceling sets. Kids are expressing their disappointment and anger at whoever let McElfresh play. It is generating the conversation we so desperately need to kickstart change.
I encourage you all to keep expressing what makes you feel unsafe in your own community. Combat the lack of consideration for safety. Ask yourself and those around you, “What needs to be done?” But instead of boycotting Warped Tour and admitting defeat, take this opportunity to actively assist in creating change. There will always be young kids who seek Warped Tour out as a retreat from normal life, no matter what shitbag happens to take the stage that year. We cannot give up. We must work towards creating an environment that is a safe place for these kids to turn.
That is why, despite our disappointment with the situation at hand, we here at Punk Out will be at Warped Tour a few days this month. We are coming with a purpose. We will be there to ask, “What needs to be done?” We will be sure to generate the conversations about sexism, safety, inclusion, and harassment, even when nobody else wants to talk about it. We want to help make Warped Tour (and well, the scene in general…) a safe space for ALL people, but in order to do it, we need YOU.
I sincerely hope you'll join us in cultivating a safe, inclusive environment we all can all call home.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.