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Being Treated as a Novelty: Language and Equality in the Hardcore Scene

Originally Published: Thursday, March 10, 2005
Written by: Sarah De Borre 

Frequency of Patronizing Comments

“You are so cute when you dance.” “You like random band. That is so cute.” Is it just me or are comments like these getting more frequent? Some may argue that there is a fine line between patronizing and simply supporting in this manner.

Interpreting Comments as Novelty

To me, my history dictates how I interpret such comments: as me being a total novelty which is then endearing to boys. While girls in the scene can be hard to come by, I believe our presence here should not be deemed as less sincere or normal as boys’.

The ‘Gender Card’ in Discussions

It seems when I get into a discussion, I get yelled at because I’m “playing the gender card”. What this translates to me is that I understand the relationship between language and the nuances of inequality.

Cringing at Undermining Language

When some dude says, “My girlfriend said she liked Bad Brains. It was really cute” I automatically cringe. I acknowledge that this could be have said in the context of “Even though she likes classical and hates hardcore my girlfriend said she liked Bad Brains. It was cute.”

The Problem with the Word ‘Cute’

However, my associations with the word “cute” would not lead me to that interpretation automatically. By saying that her appreciation for this music is “cute” her boyfriend undermines her liking it.

‘Cute’ as a Patronizing Attitude

Of course, if the phrase was said in the context I provided above, then it would mean simply that this avid classical music lover likes something as musically simple and raw as Bad Brains. I will admit that some girls could say this about their boyfriends and I would be less likely to get in a huff.

Rejecting the ‘Cute’ Label

The point is that the word is so connected with the lowered expectations for girls and patronizing attitude I have experienced for so much of my life. “Cute” connotes a lack of normalcy, endearing, or physical attractiveness. Whenever I have taken an interest in something unconventional, someone (usually a dude) with allegedly more “experience/expertise” deems it “cute”.

Condemning Physical Appearance Evaluations

Another reason these evaluations of girls being “cute” pisses me off is that it is related to the long tradition of judging women mainly by their physical appearance.

The Incongruity of Appearance Focus in Hardcore

By telling me that I “look cute” when I’m dancing, the dude sounds like he is evaluating my physical appearance. This is surprising on many levels. It seems to me that hardcore was a place for ugly fuck-ups who were discontent with society.

Hardcore’s True Essence

In this manner, I’m not sure how so many kids adopted the body standards and an unhealthy view of sexuality of the mainstream. Hardcore is about what you think, and feel. Hardcore is about your anger and striving to make a change.

Rejecting the Meat Market Approach

How do meat market approach to viewing others in the scene fit in? I want to know that the dude to my left at a show is fucking pissed and riveted by the band, not thinking about who looks hot tonight.

The Impact of Words

In conclusion, nothing is said in a vacuum. Words have connotations that are symbolic of certain attitudes. While I understand the danger in critiquing people’s word choices all the time, I see the word “cute”, as used in these instances, as indicative of a larger problem of patronizing women in the scene.

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