Problematic artists are a threat to the Athens DIY community. To truly embody DIY, we have to lift each other up and embrace the diversity of a music scene that is a world of its own. This is an inclusive safe space where students and Athens community members alike bond over their deep connection to music. To understand t drives this scene and its venues, there needs to be a conversation on the artists that come through.
It is important to recognize the variety of problems. From repeated microaggressions to sexual assault allegations, Athens DIY has dealt with the whole spectrum. What do we do as a community when we find out these things occur? How do we try to prevent them from happening again?
Take action instead of being complacent.
Microaggressions appear often in everyday life, including at shows. Why do you sound ‘white’; I didn’t know if they were a boy or girl; and just take it as a compliment are just a few examples. This must change. Discussions need to be had about keeping DIY environments inclusive. If there is an artist threatening that idea, they must be told how what they did is offensive and the solutions to resolve it. If this particular person(s) refuses to see the error of their ways, stop supporting them as artists. Don’t buy their music. Don’t go to their shows. Don’t even listen to their music for free.
Many believe that musicians and the music they produce are separate. I disagree. Media, including music, can promulgate harmful views. I can’t justify listening to someone who is a proven pedophile, rapist, racist, sexist, homophobe, and that list goes on. I wouldn’t support someone I know personally if they were proven to be one or more of those things. Musicians should be held to the same standard. Boycotting a problematic artist’s work doesn’t necessarily mean removing all artistic merit, it means holding them accountable. Boycotting is important because, if effective, the musician and the hate they perpetuate will become irrelevant. Choices are made based on the principles we value most.
I live at the Pink Mistress, one of the venues for the local DIY scene. If someone did or said something ignorant or bigoted while performing at my house, there would not just be weird stares in the room. There would be a stop to all music to confront the asshole.
Athens DIY includes people of color and all genders, and musicians need to take their audience into account.
If inconsiderate acts are allowed to play in Athens, discomfort will build until the showgoers no longer feel safe in the venues.
The Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a new venue and dry space in Athens. Megan Fair, a host of the RBG and overall prominent figure in the DIY community, has made it clear that she wants this space to be as inclusive as possible. She decided to eliminate all drugs and alcohol from the premises in hopes of making the RBG a safer space. Some artists have been found drinking discreetly when playing the house, so they were told they were not welcome back until their behaviors changed. Fair has also decided to screen comedians before booking them after experiencing off-beat comments that hurt the sensitivity of the venue. She also tries to make sure the lineups are diverse. She takes action as needed and does not let anyone threaten the space that is dear to so many people.
Julia Leiby, another prominent figure, spoke to me about sexual assault allegations and said there needs to be real awareness that musicians can bring harmful language and ideologies into otherwise inclusive environments. It is a danger to the entire community to host a rapist, abuser, or bigot in what is supposed to be a safe space, or any space for that matter. Leiby said that various artists who have played Athens and were later proven to be insensitive to inclusiveness were not invited back. Both Leiby and Fair research bands before booking them in Athens.
Having an outlet that lets folks express themselves for who they are and bond with others over music is special. Artists threatening that value tarnishes the whole idea of Athens DIY. Punk scenes have indeed evolved from predominantly hyper-masculine figureheads who catered to a primarily white audience and provoked violence to prove dominance. Currently, Athens has multiple show houses run by non-males. Bailey Kretz, Megan Fair, Julia Leiby, and others actively work towards keeping the ethos of the DIY scene about inclusion and safety.
Art is a reflection of the creator, and in turn, the creator is a reflection of their art. There are so many great musicians out there who aren’t assholes! It is imperative to be active in addressing problems in your personal music library as well as your DIY community.
Correction: November 4, 2015
This article originally stated that Megan Fair stopped booking comedians at the RBG. That is incorrect. In fact, Megan Fair has instituted a “screening process if possible.”