By Meg Zulch
I hate going to shows. Not because I don't like seeing my favorite bands live. And not because I don't get totally high off that mid-show euphoria, when the music hits you just right and you feel like you're soaring over the crowd without any recollection of the pain you wear like a crown. It's not even because of the crowds, even though my smaller meek self doesn't always do well in them. It's because each and every time I attend a show, I'm reminded of my foolishness in feeling entitled to enjoy myself, to become vulnerable in the presence of the music that moves me so deeply. I'm reminded that even here I cannot feel safe. Especially here.
To my fellow femme-presenting people: Have you ever noticed the energy of the crowd fluctuate as you walk into a show? The ripple effect of what feels like rows upon rows of prying eyes on you from sinister men? Men who look earnest as you search for your friends in the crowd. Men that stand too close to you, following your eyes and breathing down your neck. They claw at you from behind, touch your body before you can say or do anything to stop it. All of our bodies are already so closely packed together, so they obviously reached up your skirt by accident. C’mon bitch, it was only an accident!
I hate how women and people who look like women are trained to avert their eyes when walking down the street. To stay as small as possible when passing men so as not to attract too much attention to themselves. Most importantly, they cannot smile. Smiling is a form of weakness. Smiling is an invitation to be touched. Never smile, always look down, walk a little faster.
The same rules apply in these crowds housed in sweaty basements or fresh cut lawns. You mustn't dare make eye contact with a single soul while navigating your way through the crowd or you're trapped. And God forbid if you lose yourself in the moment, rocking your head back and forth with closed eyes and a goofy smile, whoever your gaze lands on when you open your eyes is the person you're inviting to touch you. Inviting to talk to you. Inviting to assault you. There's hardly anywhere to move, and you feel your skin break into a hot itchy rash as you fight suffocation and endure the prying eyes and needy hands.
You could leave. You could push through the crowd and take a deep breath on the other side. But this is your favorite band, you fought forever to get to the front, hell you paid for this. So you stand your ground, elbow all your trolls and force yourself to enjoy the show. In the back of your mind, you wonder if the boy will hit back if you punched him in the face. Boy, would that feel good. But would the crowd react? Probably. Would you get kicked out? Definitely.
You wish there were ways to secretly and subtly torment your abuser. But the weight of rape culture and femme oppression is just too heavy on your shoulders for you to even consider making a plan. It's exhausting. You just came here to see your favorite band play.