A Punk in a Business Suit

Last night, I went to a metal night at Blaze Bar in downtown Jerusalem. I enjoy the underground scene, the friendly badass atmosphere and of course, the music. But another thing I enjoy is looking at the crowd. You don’t see many metalheads or punks roaming the streets of Jerusalem on any given day. But on a metal night, they all seem to flock to one common place of congregation and rock out to some hardcore metal.

Looking at all the awesome punks with the funky hairdos, ragged clothes, tattooed up and down, I felt a tattoo-urge so intense it made my skin itch. I’ve had that same feeling in Belgium at the Graspop Metal Festival, except that back then, it was on a larger scale, and it lasted for a full three days, and not just a couple of hours.

It also made me wonder if all these people are as anti-establishment as their appearance implies they are. While some people adopt a style to match their identity or to show their identification with a particular group, others may adopt that same style because it’s “cool.” That’s how you get a capitalist consumerist sheep wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, or a hate monger with a blue mohawk. That’s how you get social groups like Nazi punks. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more hypocritical group of people than Nazi punks.

I’m not saying that if you have a little dolphin tattoo on the back of your shoulder, you are automatically a punk. But if you bear the symbols without believing in them, you are just another empty gimmick, devoid of any real significance.

Being a punk generally implies that you believe in the ideal of communism, fight for equal rights for all minorities, regardless of their social status, gender, sexuality, race and religion; oppose the patriarchical social order that perpetrates capitalism and treats women as second-class citizens; write manifestos, publish indie zines, or make music that rarely abides by the musical rules of greedy record companies. If you happen to sport a mohawk and some tattoos, that does not automatically make you an anti-establishment punk.

A punk rock band from Quebec called Vulgaires Machins state in one of their songs “on s’en va nulle part si la substance se résume au symbole,” meaning “We’re getting nowhere if substance is summed up in symbols.” If you’re wearing a grrrlVIRUS patch and you’re a chauvinist asshole, you’ve just defied the purpose of an entire movement and set back whatever accomplishments it managed to achieve, because people will look at you and say “Oh, so grrrlVIRUS is a chauvinist movement. Now I get it!” 

People who don’t know me may think that my tattoos and my piercings are just another fashion gimmick. It isn’t. It’s a true and honest representation of my feminist beliefs. I live and breathe the feminist ideals and I fight for them. Whether it’s through my zines, my blogs, my various writing projects, my art, my music, my active participation in demonstrations and events for the benefit of feminist groups, women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, and my efforts in spreading grrrlVIRUS awareness – my punk lifestyle and appearance is just icing on the anti-establishment cake. And this style is therefore not devoid of any substance or significance.

I wish all punks I meet live by the same beliefs and are active in the struggle for social change, however minor.

Peace, love and être un comme.

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