The Pathologically Aggresive Response to Criticism: Heteromasculine Fear and Challenge to Self-Conception

At this moment, somewhere, in some town, something sexist is happening relevant to the loosely defined and infinitely diverse abstraction individuals refer to as the “hardcore scene.” These sexist events likely precisely mirror the sexism which exists in the “real world,” as so-called participants in the “hardcore scene” are interpellated into the same ideology as the rest of the Western world which construes and perpetuates sexism in a given fashion. These sexist productions are unavoidable within ideology (at this specific moment and time - not to say that they should not be opposed), but interrogating these issues and their presence in the “hardcore scene” is particularly productive, as this loosely construed social body often styles itself as immune to ideological interpellation (not in those terms, we can’t all have read Althusser, nor should we aspire to do so) and specifically as a site wherein sexism is “prohibited” or somehow, as if by magic, not present. Of course, the analysis that follows sets aside the abhorrent sex politics that exist in the dominant “hardcore scene,” and the disparities in participation and representation of individuals other than white heterosexual male identifying people in said “scene.” So putting aside those issues for the moment…

A few important caveats to this analysis must be articulated to account for the middling level of logical force my colloquial observations have. I am lucky enough to exist within a group people who, in general, are less likely to fall prey to the pathological response to accusations of sexism that I describe. That is to say, the majority of the people I interact with regularly should by no means feel they are being indicted by the following analysis. My hope is that no one feels attacked, and that it is recognized that I am merely presenting a schema, and individuals can discern their own level of implication within said schema. The “hardcore scene,” or more accurately people who participate in punk and hardcore music to whatever degree, is in no way a monolithic whole and all individual participants do not behave in the exact same way. There are likely social groups, and perhaps entire cities, which have groups of participants in hardcore who do not behave in the following fashion. I do believe that participation in the hardcore scene, as is true with almost any subculture which has elements that exist in opposition to the goals of conventional cultures, promotes the self-scrutiny required to make one’s self less subject to ideology. However, such a state is by no means a given, and certainly takes a great deal of work.

Another confession is that the construction of this schema was motivated by a specific event, a relatively innocuous comment which spiraled into a rather one-sided conflict. The details of this exchange will be mostly paraphrased in a way that captures the logical force of each statement in the exchange.

In this exchange, a woman participant in the local “hardcore scene” made a comment drawing attention to the use of the word “pussy,” as a gendered pejorative term, in a Facebook event page for a “hardcore” show. To call her comment “critical” would be an overstatement, as the content of her comment was the sentence in which the word “pussy” was used and, following the quotation, the word “really?” It is difficult to conceive how such a comment demanded a response of the intensity that it received, but humanity rarely disappoints. The comment was immediately seized upon by a large number of male participants in the “hardcore scene” who made various comments (in order of frequency) such as:

1) calling the original poster a “feminazi bitch,” among other insults, many of them gendered

2) responding to accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment and assault of women that were never made, nor even alluded to

3) explicit enumerations of the anxieties of the “feminazi” accusation - that this individual by drawing attention to a word was somehow attempting to dictate behavior (no such dictation was ever made at any point, however the original poster’s ability to express their self was something the respondents were attempting to restrict)

4) threats of violence, explicit or implied, against the original poster

Wherever an individual stands on the use of gendered insults or specifically the use of the word “pussy,” what is plain here is that there is a massive disparity in the intensity of the original comment and the intensity and number of responses to the comment. That, alone, is a source of significant concern for the community in question. Certainly, a more reasonable response might be to make some inquiries about the original poster’s point of view, the logical content of their criticism, and what an adequate resolution to the situation would be. However, I am sure anyone reading the account of this exchange can think of representations of this conflict, and the specific uniqueness of the disparity between the nature of the original comment and the intensity (and absurdity) of the response, in their own “hardcore scenes.” An interesting thread which runs through all of the responses is that they rest on the assumption of multiple criticisms from the initial poster, almost none of which could be rationally discerned from the original post. Even the smallest inductive leap, however, rested on an assumption of the original poster’s ideological position since the criticism was not fully articulated. Something which brings a small degree of humor to the exchange is the fact that another often evoked sentiment was the idea that the original poster was “too upset” over “words,” which is hilarious based on the fact that the only discernible anger came from the respondents and their anger was specifically elicited by “words;” in this case an innocuous comment (vaguely) expressing a non-accusatory opinion.

This sort of response by degree, while common in certain segments of the greater “hardcore scene,” would feel very out of place in normal discourse or even in other subcultures. This is not to say that the “hardcore scene” is more or less sexist than other subcultures, or dominant culture, but that this response and this degree of disparity is far more frequently occurring in the “hardcore scene” than in other subcultures. The “gaming community,” a subculture which I would argue produces more “instances of sexism” on average, rarely ascends to this level of aggression toward someone expressing an idea fairly innocuously on such a small scale, and it is only well-known “celebrities” (by proportion of influence within this subculture) who inspire this sort of outrage.

The issue with the “hardcore scene” which inspires these sorts of responses is twofold. The first and most important issue is that the predominantly male hardcore scene construes itself as standing against sexism, so when someone pulls back the curtain and their behavior is exposed to these “anti-sexist crusaders” as others see it, outside of the “hardcore echo chamber,” they react with extreme hostility. That particular pathos is not unique to participants in the “hardcore scene,” any individual reacts with hostility when their self-conception is challenged. However, certain segments of the greater “hardcore scene” foster a unique environment where such an enormous disjunct (a delusion), between self-conception and actual behavior, can be fostered via the echo chamber to which I referred earlier. The second issue is the fact that participants in a “hardcore scene” see themselves as immune to any type of criticism or any type of accountability to any ethical system because of the “I don’t follow society’s rules!” ethos, the manifestation of the belief that participants in “hardcore scenes” are immune to ideological interpellation. However, the reality is that these participants are very much subject to ideology. In fact, sexist behaviors are manifestations of the ways in which the existence of an individual remains circumscribed by ideology, as said behaviors are not productive in any demonstrable sense, but merely serve as means for which one individual can attempt to affirm their value in the terms of society at large by assert dominance over another.


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