I recently went to a King Krule concert and made the effort of getting as close to the stage as I could to get a good view. Yet as soon as the artist walked on stage, I realised I wasn’t going to be able to simply dance and enjoy the music. This was going to be a fight for my life. The pushing and shoving, the crushing weight of hundreds of people being thrown from side to side made it impossible to focus on anything but how not to get crushed to death.
Okay so, before going further, I get the feeling I have to take a step back and clarify, because I can already feel the eye-rolling and comments from all sides telling me I need to stop being a boring square, and that this is just what happens at gigs. Obviously, there is always an amount of sneaky pushing through, elbowing, and other space-claiming techniques that go on at live concerts.
But what became clear once I’d miraculously hauled myself up onto a precarious ledge and looked down, was that all the women I’d previously seen around me also seemed to have found ways to disappear from the violently moving crowd. The problem was solely the large, aggressive men who were ruthlessly shoving and dominating the space. And it worked – their performances of hyper-masculinity were rewarded; the “weaklings” not strong enough to fight back had forfeited the space.
Women just don’t have the same right to physically exist
As girls we’re taught not to take up too much space, not to spread our legs, to act politely, and not argue – standard boys simply aren’t held to. They’re encouraged to put up a fight, to claim their place in the world. While I don’t see the much-discussed topic of “manspreading” as an issue of pivotal importance in the fight for gender equality, it is a piece of a larger puzzle. Women’s bodies are at a disadvantage in public spaces.
Not only are we conditioned from childhood to make ourselves smaller and less defiant, the pervasive culture of sexual harassment means that we are hyper aware of our bodies in public. The recent revelations of the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo social media trend have thrown what women already knew into a sharp light. The simple fact of our bodies existing in public spaces means the we’re in danger of harassment and assault. Women just don’t have the same right to physically exist at a concert or on the tube as men do. Nor it seems, do we have the right to complain about it without being written off as being too sensitive, or making a fuss out of nothing.
Women either remove their bodies from these public spaces, or they put them at risk.
Western thought has traditionally made a point of separating the spheres of body and mind, and asserted that the fluctuations of the former hinder women’s abilities regarding the latter. Feminist activists and thinkers have long emphasised the body as a sphere of resistance, deeming it a matter for political consideration, in the hopes of subverting such traditional opinions. Yet I was still met with eye rolls after expressing the frustration I felt at King Krule’s concert. “That’s just what happens at gigs, didn’t you know?” Yes, and that’s just what happens on streets or buses. Women either remove their bodies from these public spaces, or they put them at risk.
It may be true that a bit of pushing and shoving at a concert, or a man spreading his legs on the tube might not be the end of the world. But women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies are still being limited in multiple ways across the world. Contraception is the responsibility of women, access to abortions is limited or compromised across the world, and menstrual products are taxed as luxury items. These are all public infringements on women’s bodies encouraging us to stay in our place. We need to ignore the eye-rolling and continue putting women’s bodies at the centre of discussions about our rights, even if they are physically pushed from the centre of the dance floor.