This is Alyx Poska’s view on the Joyce Manor/stage diving incident. You can read the rest of our contributor’s opinions here! This in no way represents an “official Seeing Your Scene view.”
The internet was ablaze and atwitter about a recent stage diving incident at Joyce Manor’s show in Jacksonville. Lead singer Barry Johnson stopped their first song mid-way through and pulled over the first stage diver that threw himself into the crowd. He did it again a few nights later when someone tried to dive, after the band explicitly told the audience “no” before the show. Fuck yeah, finally someone in one of the bands is calling out the imposition of (usually male) bodies onto other folks at shows- be it stage diving, moshing, or pogoing. There is so much going on here with power relations- it’s an anthropological wet dream and a great way to open a dialog about “what is punk”.
While Barry did use the example of a 190 lb guy jumping onto a group of girls, this is not just an issue of “protecting women”, because women don’t need men to protect them. Men (and women) should respect all peoples, of all genders, space and bodies. Being at a “punk” show doesn’t mean you are at a free-for-all with no rules. Punk is not moral nihilism. Punk is not oppressing the others who co-create the punk community with you to express your own freedom. Punk is postmodern, and it does not exist as a static entity defined by the various milieus of disaffected bohemians in New York or the suburban kids in Southern California or the fashion fetish Brits across the pond.
What we co-create is an alternative to the mainstream of society. We purposefully exist on the margins to reimagine the world differently. That is what punk has always been. Whether is reimaging what one can do with a distorted guitar or reimagining who can play in bands, punk has existed to be an alternative to the lifestyle and branding of the music industry (and those who participate, or rather dominate, it- hint: mostly dudes) in the contemporary/late capitalist world. Of course punk was appropriated and commercialized in the disgusting ways that were rebelled against in the 70s. That’s what the invisible hand of capitalism does- it moves into every nook and cranny to assimilate everything under its paradigm of fraudulent valuation and faux-free-markets. We try to fight it but it’s hard to escape. Just as inevitably, people who support the status quo come into our co-created communities and reproduce the power inequalities of our patriarchal capitalist society.
There is a bit to be taken from Foucault here when discussing Power Relations, “a power relationship can only be articulated on the basis of two elements which are each indispensable if it is really to be a power relationship: that ‘the other’ (the one over whom power is exercised) be thoroughly recognized and maintained to the very end as a person who acts; and that, faced with a relationship of power, a whole field of responses, reactions, results, and possible inventions may open up… always a way of acting upon an acting subject or acting subjects by virtue of their acting or being capable of action”. The stagediver is clearly engaging in an uneven power relationship that he has been disciplined to believe is “ok” (via patriarchy in capitalism) by governmentalizing the audiences behavior- they have to catch him or endure his dive. This passage from Foucault is quite dense, but what makes this stage diving unacceptable is how the guy basically governs the actions of others and takes away the freedom we struggle for in punk. Because the audience is governed by his behavior they cannot be considered free. We must be intransigent in stopping people from governmentalizing the Others body by engaging in consent, respect, and active opposition to patriarchal capitalism. We must, as Foucault says, “ promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality that has been imposed on us for several centuries”- that is, the survival of the fittest, winner-take-all, capital-controlled individuality we learn from patriarchal capitalism that leads to entitled behavior (in this instance, this specific persons’ stage dive, and what we assume are others like it at previous Joyce Manor shows).
We must keep creating the Other world, we want to see. The Punk world where we are not limited to standing in stadiums where we are violated by security guards to just to get inside. The Punk world where we don’t have to spend a good portion of our weekly paycheck to have a good night with good friends and good music. The Punk world where anyone can get on a stage to express their creativity and inner-emotions. The Punk world where we don’t have to fear being objectified by the other gender or being touched without consent. It’s not hard to ask people if it’s ok for you to stagedive onto them. It’s not hard to give people 5 to 10 seconds to get out of the way. It’s not hard to just say no and get off the stage. Up the punx and down with the schmucks– right on Joyce Manor.
*Some quotes we’re copied from or paraphrased from Michel Foucault’s “The Subject and Power” around pages 130, 134 and 137 in The Essential Foucault edited by Paul Rabinow, a former professor of mine.