Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Goths and the Bus Discrimination

It is interesting given what I have been saying recently about Gothic culture and how on the fringes there is some overlap with aspects of sexual fetishes as both aspects came together in a news story today. Dani Graves, a 25-year old male Goth and his fiancee Tasha Maltby, a 19-year old Goth and a student tried to board a bus in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. They were wearing Goth clothing (not that incredibly unusual, though Goths are rarer than they once were, token ones even appear on popular soap operas so few people can be ignorant of them) and crucially Dani was holding a leash connected to Tasha's collar.

Now, this is not an overly common thing among Goths, though it is not unknown. As I have noted before, Goths, though often quite shy people, like to surprise and even shock mundane society. They are also more open about their feelings, especially their passions, whether they are dark or light in tone. They often wear clothing that has sexual overtones, for example leather and corsets. Collars were an element of punk culture of the late 1970s too. The collar and leash use comes from a sexual fetish, dominance & submission, in that one partner has ownership or control of the other and treats them unequally like a possession or a pet. Typically this is done with full consent between two partners. In some relationships one is always the dominant and the other the submissive, sometimes people switch. It may be combined with bondage or sado-masochism. As I have noted before such fetishes, once the realm of secret clubs and the bedroom have been straying more opening into public, being used by the media, especially in advertising and by movie makers. You can go to fetish clubs and see this and just typing such phrases into any search engine will provide you with a range of images and stories to keep you occupied for the next day and night. However, it remains still very edgy in mundane society, especially a small town in Yorkshire, it is hardly central London or Manchester.

The reason why this has got into the newspapers and the radio (and it is interesting to see the response of the 'Daily Mail' seem as the epitome of Conservative, Middle England attitudes, they seem not to know who to censure on this, though it did say 'they live on benefits in a council house' as if they were being subsidised by the state and should have this stopped), is that Dani and Tasha were barred from getting on a bus by the driver who said, 'we don't let freaks and dogs like you on.' Now it is an interesting question to ask whether they were barred for being Goths or fetishists, I guess it was mix of the two, it was outside the driver's understanding and he could not accept it in his sight. Goths are renowned for their non-violence, so it is not that he could have felt threatened. The bus company have come out with some feeble excuse that it was unsafe for Tasha to be leashed, but they never raise that when toddlers wearing reins come on the bus or even real dogs.

Tasha described herself as 'I am a pet, I generally act animal like and I lead a really easy life'. She sees the collar and leash as part of her culture and a free choice that was not harming anyone. I agree with her whole heartedly on those grounds. It is a choice and clearly was consensual. Dani was shoved back by the driver who was actually off duty at the time and natually he has made a complaint against the driver. As Tasha noted it was certainly discrimination, though I would not go as far as her to say it 'almost like a hate crime' but it does signal a slippery slope which does lead to hate crime very easily. I remember Mark Thomas, the comedian-cum-political activist talking about a campaigner for Goth Rights who came on a demonstration he organised. Maybe such a campaign will have to swing into action to protect the right to be a Goth and not be discriminated against for how we dress and what we believe (if I substituted Christian/Muslim/woman for Goth, I think few would argue with me). Wave the black-on-black flag and stand up and say 'I am Goth and proud; Goth Rights Now!'

2 comments: said...

This bus case is just the tip of the iceberg and a fairly harmless one at that. Look into the Sophie Lancaster case.

gothic engine said...
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