Equal Equality : Gig Segregation

Quite a few years ago I was at V Festival.  We were at the main stage when a band I didn’t really know came on.  They were called The Specials.

You can read about them on Wikipedia.  It’s safe to say that much of the crowd wasn’t there to see them and a lot had gone to a side stage to see other people.  I stayed, thinking I’d give them a chance because the timings meant I wasn’t losing out on a lot.

It would appear that the lead singer of The Specials at the time was a Manchester United fan.  He told all the Scousers that they could “fuck off to the back” but any Galatasary fans should go to the front.  This was a reference firstly to United fans not particularly liking Liverpool fans and then to secondly to Manchester United fans not particularly liking Leeds United fans.  Two Leeds fans were killed by a Galatasary fan before a game in 2000.

His sentiments were rightly and vociferously booed.  Being a Scouser, I took his advice and f*cked off to watch the Wombats (from Liverpool) followed by Katy Perry on a side stage which was far more packed than the stage that that twit was on.

The actions created contempt, anger, animosity and separation.  Before I say anything else, how many of you are thinking, “what a moron that singer is?”  I would think and hope that it’s most of you.

At the end of October this year, Colombian-Canadian musician Lido Pimienta performed at the Halifax Pop Explosion festival.  As she does regularly at her shows, Pimienta asked men to move to the back of the venue to allow more room for women up front, then invited women of colour and trans people to move to the front.  It’s a move that has prompted much debate.

The only report I can find on how Pimienta achieved what she did was a comment on Jezebel’s report:

I was at the show. She was refusing to play if all of the white men didn’t leave the front row. First it was the white guys, then the POC guys, then the white women.

I’ve seen people have questions about this and I’ve seen some interesting answers.  Some have asked “what if” (there are a lot of “what ifs”), “what if a person of colour is with white friends and wants to stay with them?”  One reply to that reads, “if you wanna fight racism and be part of the cause – you move to the front – anything else is tacit approval of white supremacy“.  Not just wanting to stay with your friends… So trying to sort through constructive opinion and stupidity and exaggeration isn’t easy.

Pimienta has explained her position in creating safe spaces for women at concerts as well as a show of “unpacking racism”  by having people of colour front and centre.  The counter argument is that it is a display of segregation and, if she genuinely did refuse to play until this had taken place, is potentially splitting people up from their cis gendered friends, family and partners a way to make them feel safe?

I think, for me, it’s an example of highlighting an issue rather than solving it which has been shown especially by the negative responses.  I wonder if Pimienta, as part of the exercise, explained why she was doing it.  Without doing, acting from a position of power to split people by race and gender is simply enforcing some supremacy.  I wonder if she followed up later in the gig with a way to bring everyone back together regardless of any protected characteristic.  I wonder where transracial Rachel Dolezal would fit in.

I’m a fan of a guy called Frank Turner.  At his shows, he actively supports the Safe Gigs For Women organisation by raising awareness.  He also, though, does something quite interesting and fun to bring people together.  He spends a lot of time talking about music being a method of bringing people together, that it’s a common point that everyone in the room has.  He then gets the crowd to split in to two halves and then walk towards each other and you give the person nearest to you a hug, introduce yourself and have a chat.

It might not fit too nicely with anti-groping sentiment, but it brings people together and those who don’t want to take part can opt out by standing at the side or simply hugging someone that they already know.

It’s an example that talks about togetherness without stigmatising anyone.

I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying that Frank Turner’s way is perfect.  I don’t think there’s any perfect way to achieve the goal of true equality.  I think what disappoints me most about the facts I can find out about that Lido Pimienta gig, though, is that I would love to find that state where equality is everyone having a full glass.  Everyone should have equal rights to do everything.  The example I see here is taking from one person’s glass and putting it in someone else’s, ensuring that we all have equal measures of inequality.

Everyone knows that The Specials were just being arseholes.  I don’t think Lido Pimienta was.  I just wish there was an alternative way where we could achieve equality without a group of people, privileged or not, feeling disadvantaged based on who they are.

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