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Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I did an interview a couple years ago for my friend's college assignment and thought it would be interesting to post. Enjoy.

how/why did you get involved in straight edge?

How: When I was 19 I saw my friend’s straight edge band Future Primitive and they put into words a lot of things that I was upset with. I started researching straight edge and found a lot of positive aspects to it. It has a rich history of political activism and supporting women’s, minority and animal rights. I started going to shows in Sacramento but never had any straight edge friends. I never felt like I had a ‘straight edge community’ (and still don’t, although I’ve met a lot of straight edge kids, more from being vegan I think.) I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only straight edge kids in Davis (I think there is one other) so I don’t really know how involved I am with the ‘scene’ other than going to shows. I had a band and put out a zine but it wasn’t really geared toward the straight edge community.

Why: I was drinking heavily, had been sexually assaulted, and was stuck in an unhealthy relationship. I hit rock bottom and needed an alternative. I realized a lot of things about the alcohol industry that made me want to boycott it. Minor Threat and punk music really resonated with me in the sense that I could do anything I wanted to do. I sang in a band, started a club to help victims of sexual assault, was involved with the Davis Veg Society, became a KDVS DJ, studied abroad in South Africa, and basically started living. Ultimately I was the one who took control, but I think the music gave me the added push that I needed. I was always a loner (and still am) and tried really hard to fit in. I was drinking for the wrong reasons—to fit in or to get guys to like me. Bands like Minor Threat made me see that being a loner and being yourself is OK, and even kind of cool.

what does straight edge mean to you? how does it create meaning and value in your life?

Everyone always asks me why I label myself as straight edge instead of drug free and the answer is this: straight edge has a personal meaning to me, and thus I don’t feel like it lumps me in with a certain group. What I think about straight edge isn’t the same way other people think about it. Everyone has their own interpretation but for me personally, it means taking control of your life and realizing that it’s OK to be yourself and to go against the grain. I’ve always been skeptical of religion and definitely don’t ‘worship’ bands, or humans, or ‘god’ yet I’ve made this label my own and I associate it with positive things. I think of it as a protest rather than just a lifestyle or community. Boycotting harmful substances and corrupt companies is important to me. I also think maybe I can influence young kids, especially women, who’ve been through similar situations and want an alternative to the mainstream. It would feel really good to have that kind of positive impact on someone’s life the same way hardcore punk has had on me.

do you think that women are tokenized in the straight edge scene? why or why not?

I’m not really associated with a ‘scene’ but I’ve gathered that women’s role in straight edge differs from scene to scene. I asked Ian Mackaye once how Riot Grrrl affected the punk scene, and he totally disassociated his DC scene from the scene as a whole. He said there had always been girls at shows until the dancing got more aggressive and the whole ‘tough guy’ thing started. I also think it’s weird when bands say stuff acknowledging all the women at the show. Doesn’t pointing them out only alienate them more? I think it’s rad when girls are in a band, or stage dive, or just go nuts and sing along, because it shows that a) they have an outlet to get out aggression and b) are interested in things besides make-up, shopping, and other gender constructs.

have you experienced any sexism in the straight edge scene?

Sexism will exist everywhere; the same way racism exists everywhere. Subcultures are not as separate from society as people think, and often times form microcosms reflecting mainstream society. Some guys say, “no clit in the pit,” which I find very offensive. Personally, no one has said anything to make me feel unwelcome.

have you experienced or witnessed homophobia, racism or classism in the straight edge scene?

The kids I hang out with are usually very accepting of everyone, but there is an overwhelming amount of white, middle class kids at shows. I personally haven’t witnessed homophobia, racism or classism.

do you think you will identify as straight edge or be a part of the straight edge scene forever? why or why not?

I think I will be myself forever, and who I am involves nurturing my body by being healthy and having healthy relationships, so in that sense I will be straight edge forever. I’ll go to shows as long as there are bands who inspire me to be a better person.

the straight edge scene and, more specifically, hardcore, are often seen as hyper masculine. do you agree with this observation?

I definitely agree. Men tend to be more aggressive than women. One reason for that might be how society and mainstream media portray aggressive women as ‘unattractive’ or women might just naturally be less aggressive than men. Either way, many women are angry and need a positive way to let that anger out. There is no doubt that a first time show goer would think of the hardcore scene as a boys club. There is a really good quote in All Ages that reflects the lack of female presence in the scene:

It's rare that someone tells girls how fun it is to have an independent hobby, one that doesn't involve nurturing, like playing a musical instrument or working on a methodical, challenging task. No one tells girls that diligence of this type, systematic learning, is stimulating to the mind, the soul, the ego. Boys are told this all their lives, and they are encouraged to act on it.

do you think women experience straight edge in similar ways as their male straight edge peers do? why or why not?

I don’t really know how men experience straight edge, but a lot of men I talk to have had similar issues with alcohol, but others have seen drugs and alcohol affect others in their family and have never had a sip or puff of anything. I think everyone has his or her own interpretation of straight edge, which makes every experience different.