About a year ago, I was sitting at my local collective café in Exarhia, in Athens, with my friend Vicky. I had just celebrated my one-year anniversary of being back in my country and I was feeling restless. I grew up in Greece, but at 26 moved to the US for four years, then I bounced around a bit for a couple years and eventually returned to my hometown in 2017. I was an active part of my local DIY punk scene before I left, so I felt it was time to get my hands dirty again, make some shit happen. I had missed working on projects with punks, but I was also after something with a feminist framework. “With people who haven’t yet had the run of the town, you know?” Vicky’s eyes sparkled in response. “Funny you should say that…” Flash forward a year and Endropi has just celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Endropi started as a collective of women and non-binary individuals to share ideas, experiences, anxieties and hopes, at an irregular frequency, as a proactive reaction. Some of us punks, some of us queer, all of us politically minded and in need of a place to call our own. It’s a play on the words “entropy” and “end dropí”, dropí being the Greek word for “shame.” We found our golden section where chaos and freedom meet. Our common goal is to create spaces, physical and abstract, for bodies of all kinds, where we can exchange and share, teach and learn, challenge and unlearn. To create a space for ourselves where we can simultaneously invite others to feel welcome, comfortable and safe—something they may not have previously felt in other spaces.
For us the personal is always political, and for us feminism is a medium and a tool with which to recognize and liberate all bodies. On an individual level, we had all experienced or witnessed the side-effects of patriarchy, capitalism and oppression from within our own scenes, which we thought would (and should) be free of forms of discrimination, oppression, competition—the punk scene, the anarchist scene, the queer scene, the squatting scene, the activist scene. It was refreshing to find others who shared similar experiences and common anxieties.
When I was younger I was blind to certain latent, subconscious and internalized oppressive behaviours acted out mainly by men. Behaviours and attitudes I later realized were in fact oftentimes problematic, insulting, demeaning, dismissive and even traumatic. In the early 2000s, when I was a teenager, women at hardcore shows were few and far between; I’d say one woman per every 12 men or so. Never in a band, rarely in a group, almost always looking tough (because we had to) and automatically assumed to be a groupie. It was not uncommon to hear the Alpha males of the scene discuss their sexual escapes with said women in demeaning or mocking ways. It was even more commonplace to hear things like “for a woman, she’s really good on guitar” or “she’s a woman, what do you expect?” I’d often see sound guys assume that the few women who did get on stage didn’t know how to set up their own gear, or would say things like “don’t worry about the console settings, you won’t get it.” In conversations, I was used to being made fun of for my opinions, being interrogated about my music knowledge, while constantly being talked over and down to, being made to feel like I was a poser who was only looking for a hardcore boyfriend, looking for some kind of credibility agreed upon and granted only by Them, the keepers of the scene. I couldn’t possibly like this loud and heavy music or have any kind of meaningful opinion on it, because I was a girl. Of course, I was asked for blowjobs on more than a handful of occasions (“Come on, it’ll be fun! / Jeez, don’t get so angry, it was just a joke! / My girlfriend won’t find out”) This tiring, aggravating dismissal of my identity, my experiences and my voice, combined with a toxic relationship and a good dose of anxiety sent me to a dull and lonely place. My self-esteem plummeted and I thought depression was the normal emotional state for an 18-year-old.
Thankfully by my early college years I had found my local DIY punk scene (and a therapist) and felt relieved to be around people who instead of macho, crypto-conservative bros, were open-minded, politically charged punks. The DIY punk ethos showed me that I am my own authority and I slowly tried to rid myself of the masks and roles I had gathered in my closet of insecurities. My experience shifted from feeling like an outsider doomed to never meet other people’s unrealistic standards, to a dynamic, proactive freak in charge of her own self-determination. They say hindsight is 20/20 vision, so I know now that I was unconscious of this negative headspace at the time, of the internalized acceptance of normality; I thought, “OK, this is what it’s like, live with it.” But it’s not! This is not what it’s like everywhere and it doesn’t have to be like that here or anywhere.
My experience continues with much positivity and over the last 13 years I have found friends, worked with and loved people who accept me for who I am, and who constantly challenge me in the best possible way to become a better version of myself, for myself and for others. But not everyone is so lucky—just because your experience was easy doesn’t mean everyone had such an easy time trying to be themselves. And not everyone thinks such a compassionate effort is necessary. If we want to “create to destroy,” then we must learn how to create, and sometimes unlearning is the first step.
Despite appearances, Greece is still a deeply conservative, patriarchal, religious country. The deep-seated effects of these traits can be found across the board, even within the scenes to which we turn for refuge. There is a common understanding that our scenes are against certain things: capitalism, fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia. The first three are the holy triad: capitalism will be smashed, fascists will be beaten, racism will be stamped out. Check. But, even though, for example, theoretically sexism and homophobia are not tolerated, they are often perpetuated and frequently not even understood, recognized or even agreed upon as problems. Words like transphobia, body-shaming and ableism are often unknown to some groups, they can be mocked or seen as inconsequential or not as important as The Cause—forgetting that for some, their identity, their self-determined existence is the fight.
It’s understandable to focus on big (and surely important) enemies like fascism and capitalism when most of one’s other other fundamental rights are accounted for or taken for granted. Free to feel comfortable with your birth-assigned sex, free to enjoy your heterosexuality, free to enjoy the inherited (male) dominance your ancestors fought hard to maintain over the past few millennia, free to speak your mind whenever you want, free to walk home alone at night without fear of being attacked, free to claim jobs in industries (male) dominated for decades, free to be given the benefit of the doubt, free to go about your business while survivors are interrogated, shunned and often left permanently scarred. Irrelevant of if you agree with someone’s reactions towards a certain behavior, we can’t control them; each person has the right to their own feelings. What you can control is your own self.
Sexism, discrimination, transphobia, physical assault, homophobia, these are things that happen every day, everywhere, in both small ways and a large scale, systemically and systematically, from friends and foes, in broad daylight and behind closed doors, leaving large and small, visible and invisible scars. Sad fact. If you think this is not the case, you have been living under a rock of ignorant bliss, sometimes also known as: privilege. (What’s great about privilege is that, you can be oblivious to it your whole life, once you get called out on it, there’s this crazy sense of freedom: when you’re being a prick, it’s all you, not some fake privilege.) Such horrible things should not be happening anywhere, let alone within our punk communities. We should expect and demand more from our punk peers, uphold ourselves to higher standards. There’s a long way to go when people within a scene disagree on what rape is and why it is always the rapist’s fault, or think feminist groups (“feminazis” / “ball-busters”) are unnecessary, or disregard (even argue or mock) certain issues just because they do not impact them. There’s a lot of work to be done when a collective space makes no comment on the rape that occurred under its roof; when abusers are given a pass because of their social capital; when women are still treated in ways that perpetuate outdated gender roles. Ignoring or normalizing problematic attitudes is a large part of the problem. This brushing-off of responsibility and accountability is what helps maintain the small, daily but very real discrimination, discomfort and disappointment some people experience. Minimizing a problem does not make it go away, and avoiding difficult but necessary conversations and changes in attitude is easier than self-reflection and challenging what you have accepted to be the norm, what suits you to be the norm.
The solution, I have been told, is to take it or leave it. Which is one thought; to leave behind that which is toxic and no longer serves you—I did it once, I can do it again. They can have their run of the playground, I’ll go some place else to play. Always a shame when you realize “same shit, different label,” but hey, tell me something I don’t know. Surely there will always be people who will not and do not want to understand that which does not affect them, but I am open to having a conversation that might help change the overall outcome in favour of the underdog.
When we first made the pins, most people liked them, they found them catchy: Fight Punktriarchy. Cool. Then we made a banner for a big gig we organized and hung it up behind the bands. Some people were worried, annoyed even, that people from abroad would see this and assume our scene is sexist and patriarchal. A new word for the books? Yes. An actual problem? I don’t know, you tell me, show me, mansplain it to me. Yes, it’s obviously a play on the words “punk” and “patriarchy” but it suggests something more intricate, that I’m usually more willing to discuss than my (male) interrogators are: that behaviours found within the dominant patriarchal culture are acted out subconsciously within punk scenes around the world—unknowingly, deliberately, malevolently, subconsciously, accidentally, carelessly, politely, every which way. “Why do you feel oppressed, have I ever been sexist towards you, we don’t have such issues here, why do you feel excluded, what’s the problem, I’ve never done anything like that, I don’t see what you’re so upset about!” A common reaction is to doubt that such an issue exists; the same way survivors are blamed and doubted instead of heard and trusted. Instead of listening and trusting that these are our experiences as women, as non-binary individuals, as queer folk, as maladjusted freaks, disbelief is found in the form of disregard. Our experiences are minimized because they are not understood or shared by the majority. “Don’t be overly sensitive, everyone is equal, you’re just overacting” (“ovary-acting” even). “You shouldn’t feel like that, you should feel like this. Because I know better what it’s like to be you.” As if processing and freeing oneself of such oppressions is an easy task, shame on me for not knowing how to do it better, shame on me for hoping for something different to the status quo. At times it feels like being blamed of unfair play when in fact you’re being kicked when you’re down.
Some people challenged us, and despite what might come across in this text, I like to think of myself as a patient person, who listens and tries to understand. So I sat and I listened and I tried to understand the lamenting (male) punks who found this term unfair. Some spoke with genuine interest, some with irritated impatience, others with polite disagreement. “But why do you need to claim you’re a feminist collective? You just creating separations,” said the loudest manarchist at the meeting. “We’re all equal, I don’t see gender or sexuality, why do we have to make such a big deal out of it?” said the hardcore fuckboi taking up the whole pit at the show. “Why do you need to ‘fight’ Punktriarchy? That’s a bit aggressive don’t you think?” said the hooligan bully gearing up for a fight. “Punk is for everyone, I like seeing women on stage and girls making out” said the creepy grind guy who keeps a video archive of all the women “he’s fucked good.”
Here’s a thought: if having to simply discuss someone else’s negative experience is such a difficult and arduous task for you, then imagine what it’s like for that person to have to actually live out that negative situation. If sexism to you is a tiring conversation, then I can assure you that for others it’s an exhausting life-fact. If having to think twice about your place within your community is an occasional, insulting annoyance for you, then I can assure you that for some people (whose place within the community is constantly being challenged, invaded or downright erased) it’s a life-long struggle. If listening to others sounds so unfair to you, then I can assure you the dominant voices have drowned out others for too long, and that sounds unfair to me. Respect only works if it’s mutual.
This has been my experience and my purpose is not to preach or convince you of something, merely to share with you my story. Each person’s story is different and hopefully our punk scenes are places where we can exchange them. I find a good rule of thumb to remember is this: When it comes to oppression or discrimination, just because you cannot see it, or you do not experience it due to your inherent / unrecognized / unchallenged privilege (or just luck) does not mean it is not real for others. Just because you do not understand why someone feels the way they do does not mean their emotions are invalid or unimportant. Your acceptance of them is irrelevant to their existence.
We do not demand your space; we ask that you respect our desire to create our own spaces for ourselves. We do not demand that you do things the same way; we ask that you respect the fact that we do things our way. And if we wish to coexist, we must find some common ground upon which to stand as allies. Because, as the writing on the wall once said, you’re lucky we only want equality and not revenge.
My contribution for Punks Around: Girl’s Room. Thanks to Alex and Liz. Get your copy at punksaround.com.