To be honest, I hesitate to discuss this topic because it's like shouting into the void at this point. However, Angela Benedict recently posted a video about being a 90s teen goth and the fear of being labeled a poseur. Since we are nearly the same age, I generally tend to agree with her recollections, and it got me thinking about how much things have changed since then. The fear of being considered a fake was a possible embarrassment that kept people from doing and saying stupid things.
It's too bad that some these standards never got passed down into the online community. Perhaps if they had, the Goth Elitism Monster would end it's reign of terror on the internet forevermore.
One of the most basic things I remember about being a baby bat in the mid-90s was to either know what you were talking about or ask first. You didn't want to try to bullshit your way into the local scene. It was too easy to destroy your reputation, especially if others were still getting to know you and witnessing your first baby steps into gothdom.
If someone was all image but no substance, they got called out. Yes, it was embarrassing to have your pronunciation of Cocteau Twins corrected in public. And yes, we got grilled when the more established goths saw us wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt for the first time. It was an awkward rite of passage, but we managed to survive and thrive.
It was important for us baby bats to understand it wasn't just a look. Having knowledge about music and goth lifestyle components meant you were able to explain what being goth meant. Think of it as self-defense from a world who was eagerly waiting to proclaim us as Satan worshippers and pop us full of Prozac.
For better or worse, we didn't have safe spaces and nobody knew what a micro-aggression was. You either learned to fight back or run away. We weren't as sheltered, we had to develop a thick skin. If we couldn't physically fight back, we learned to use or wit and sharp tongue to cut down strangers who made snotty remarks. Some might say we were closer to our punk rock roots in that regard *shrugs*
Those who came up after us didn't have to be on the defense after The Craft came out or when Columbine incited goth paranoia in every town across the country. A week or two after the massacre, my friends and I went to see a movie. The manager ultimately denied us entry because the boys had long trench coats and refused to take them off as a "safety precaution".
Those of us who happened to be Wiccan and goth? Wearing a pentacle at that time was like an invitation to be harassed by any person who happened to notice it. I'm talking random outbursts from strangers in public on a semi-regular basis. One that always stuck out in my mind is when my friend Shane held the door open for a lady coming out of McDonalds. She noticed his pentacle and makeup then screamed something along the lines of "Stay away from me, you demon spawn!!" After dropping her bag in horror, she then proceed to run across the parking lot. Ahhh, the good old days when it was easy to shock people ;)
I think the next generation had a vastly different experience. Schools began to enforce anti-bullying policies and having neon green hair was no longer a barrier to getting your first minimum wage job.
Not saying that these differences are good or bad, just that they exist and probably affect the way each generation perceives the world.
The younger goths who interact mostly on social media do not seem to understand where us older bats are coming from. For many of them, the most important thing is the image they present. Why bother writing a poem and sharing it, when you can just take a selfie and get way more likes and subscribers? Why bother reading gothic literature when you can just buy some Killstar and make an unboxing video? Add the possibility of internet fame, free products and money, and being goth becomes nothing more than a walking commercial.
That being said, I do sympathize.
They have most likely been raised on the internet and interacting face to face may seem harsh compared to the ease of simply blocking and deleting comments when someone disagrees with you. When you have such a large fan base who constantly tells you how wonderful you are, it may be hard to accept constructive criticism or engage in healthy debate.
My intention isn't to place blame. This is just speculation about some of the generational differences that perhaps explain why we are experiencing this divide in the goth community. Our technology is addictive, and now we are starting to experience some negative side effects we weren't prepared for.
DEFINING THE PROBLEM
After watching yet another goth elitism video, I decided to ask the content creator what definition they were using for elitism because she never addressed it.
Instead of an answer, several people (including the young lady) accused me of being a bully, being negative, gatekeeping, etc. Simply for asking for clarity.
It certainly wasn't an attack on her intelligence, and it baffles me that asking someone to define their terms is now considering bullying.
In professional and academic situations, you must be prepared to defend your argument and expand on your ideas if necessary.
If you use a word that someone doesn't understand in a casual conversation, they might ask you to explain it.
This isn't bullying, and it certainly isn't elitism
From my understanding, elitism is often tied to power and the ability to grant or deny social status or resources to the people who are considered the lower class. In my experience, this simply isn't an issue that the community at large needs to worry about.
I've lived in several major U.S cities and have been going to goth and alternative clubs for about 20 years.
I'm an awkward introvert who doesn't always make the best impression.
I'm sure many people might have cringed at some of my makeup for club outfits during my baby bat years. I'm sure my fashion choices and makeup skills are still negatively judged by some.
There have always been occasional bullies and snobby goths, but no one has ever tried to stop me from being a part of a local scene if I made attempts to get involved.