I have this friend. He’s made a running gag of doing something at shows that I find pretty funny, due mainly to how obnoxious it is, but also thanks to an irony that I’ve never found particularly disturbing… until today (cue Hans Zimmer score). He takes pictures of himself, with bands, as they’re playing—selfies. He does this “on stage.” Granted, the platforms we’re talking about here are only “stages” by definition, those of dive bars and DIY spaces that rarely elevate performers more than two feet above the audience. But it’s generally understood that the stage is a sacred, if penetrable, space that is reserved for the band.

Now, I’ve never seen a musician so much as roll their eyes in response to this behavior, which my friend would be the first to admit is objectionable at best. Part of the reason he gets away with it is because he’s a musician himself, one who’s never done this to a band he didn’t know personally, and this type of thing usually happens once everyone in attendance has knocked back a few. In the same way that pelting empties at bands is a form of Chicagoan applause, his selfie bullshit is so obviously not okay from a professional perspective that it comes full circle and serves to illuminate the reality that what we’re doing isn’t high art, that we’re small time, etc. It’s only rock n’ roll.

On Sunday, at a 620-person capacity theater in Toronto, the singer of a California pop punk band literally kicked a teenage girl off the stage and into the crowd for doing exactly that—taking a selfie with the band. From what’s surfaced online in the days since, it’s clear that this girl was not a friend of the band, merely a fan who broke an unwritten rule. But what rule, exactly? In the cell phone video documenting the kick, following a roar of approval from the crowd, more fans—male and female, ostensibly—subsequently breach the same physical boundary to stage dive, and are ignored (approved) by the singer. One could say that the girl made the mistake of diverting attention to herself, of disrespecting the band’s performance by jacking a beam or two of hard-earned spotlight. But how is stage diving any less selfish? Is it simply because that’s what people do at pop punk shows? Perhaps this statement that the girl in question posted to Facebook can enlighten things:


Okay guys, so this is really embarrassing and im probably gonna get SO much hate for this but im the girl in the video LOL. Parker was totally in the right and i would have expected nothing less, especially at that type of show… I was being stupid for being on stage for so long just because i wanted to film my stage dive but my phone was fucking up and i was drunk. I know i shouldn’t have been up there for so long, or really had my phone out and i apologize to everyone for that. Im fucking fine and i rallied as hard as ever in the pit after that. Didnt even hurt. The last TSSF show i went to I got worse, from the crowd, not even Parker. Its what to expect at shows like this. I apologize to the band and to Parker Cannon for acting like an idiot, unintentionally of course, but im perfectly fine. I didnt think that would blow out of proportion at all, sorry for all the drama everyone.

 

There’s enough in this post to send a sensitive, impartial adult into a solid week of crippling depression, and the very real problem in “Its what to expect at shows like this” (sic) deserves a much longer essay than this one. It deserves books and weekly support groups. But the throughline of apology is equally troubling, and on a more pervasive level than the notion that violence of any kind is sanctioned at all-ages pop punk shows. Something was inherently wrong with this girl’s behavior, and not just because of its context.

The following is Urban Dictionary’s most popular definition for the slang term “selfies”:

An act usally carried out by girls aged 12-21, the act involves taking photos of ones self while posing. If the act is carried out by a man, he is usally seen as being gay.

Example 1: Yo man, I seen you put selfies up on facebook… You gay cunt!

Example 2: Hey man, I was doing some facebook stalking today, found the hottest girl, check out her selfies.

The concept of a selfie is not obscure teen jargon. I’m sure you have a fully grown friend or relative who owns a selfie stick, no matter how ironic their intentions with it. If you’re not an otherwise crippled Luddite, you know the concept and probably have an opinion on it. That opinion is probably negative. The selfie is obnoxious, juvenile, narcissistic. And while most of us would find the language in that Urban Dictionary definition offensive, I doubt anyone reading it would be surprised by it. The selfie is also female. It’s gay.

Again, this isn’t really news. But when we talk about selfies, dismissively and derisively, we’re ridiculing something that’s become a staple in teenage girlhood, and we’re mocking teenage girls as a whole by proxy. Fuck this Parker Cannon character. Obviously. Fuck him, Ben Weasel, Kevin Gates and any other performer who gets away with assaulting their fans, onstage or off. It doesn’t take a radically progressive mind to see anything wrong with violence against women. But a deeper and more troubling event, one that happens millions of times a day without recognition in our society, has been illuminated by this latent adolescent machismo and its surrounding “drama”: a young girl apologized for being herself.

Just as stage dives are “what people do” at punk shows, and therefore sanctioned, selfies are what teenage girls do, and most of us comfortably deride them for it. This is just one aspect of mass cultural shunning that we tacitly accept in a patriarchal society. But from a completely apolitical standpoint, all “patriarchy” talk aside, teenage girls do not have an easy time in our society. The young person in question, the teenage victim of assault, apologized for photographing herself at a show she attended of her own volition and expected nothing less.

She knowingly and willingly spent her money to enter a space where she would be dehumanized. This is her lot, as a person who happens to be young and female. My friend can do what she did because of his privilege, because it’s clearly ironic. A man in his mid-twenties taking a selfie onstage—it’s inherently funny. But when I stop to think about why, I’m a little disturbed. The problem isn’t simply that violence against young women is acceptable at punk shows. It’s that being a young woman, at punk shows or anywhere else, isn’t really acceptable.

 

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