When Insane Clown Posse performs their 1994 classic "Chicken Huntin'," a song about killing a racist hillbilly, they throw scarecrows into the crowd for the Juggalos to rip to shreds. Saturday night, at their headlining performance at the 17th annual Gathering of the Juggalos, they added an especially relevant prop to the tradition. After rapping lyrics like "To the hillbilly, stick my barrel in his eye / Boomshacka boomshacka, hair jumps in the sky," they threw a scarecrow draped in the Confederate Flag into the crowd and encouraged the Juggalos to rip it apart.
This political performance may seem odd coming from ICP, but like all subcultures, the Juggalo community exists within the mainstream. They react to the same news the media propagates, but often in more unapologetic ways than other American musicians. For example, as a new feminist wave has taken over the internet during the past five years, a Juggalette feminist project has arisen within the Juggalo community. It's called Lette's Respect, and the group aims to bring Juggalo culture to a middle ground where Juggalettes can both express their sexuality and earn respect for their music, art, and other talents. And like most feminist movements, Lette's Respect has its very own spokeswoman: 29-year-old Philidelphia-based painter and writer Rachel Paul.
"[They're] the most beautiful women on the planet," Paul explained to me over a bottle of Faygo at this weekend's Gathering. "There's nothing like the family that you choose."
Paul simultaneously resembles both a 1960s hippie feminist and a Juggalette. She wears wraps around her head. Walking around the Gathering, you'll see her in a wife-beater, but at night she wears long robes while working as a tarot reader in the Gathering's Bizzaro World tent.
"We don't turn people away [at the tarot tent]," Paul said. "It's important shit. We're like the camp counselors."
Paul grew up as a "scrub" in inner-city Philadelphia. Today, she works a day job as an editor in publishing and uses her position to help young struggling ninjas and ninjettes. She recommends them for jobs and runs the Scrub House, a Detroit halfway house for Juggalos in need.
Jugalettes are super smart and super intelligent and super loving. They will give you their shirts off their back-and show their titties.
Paul clearly loves the Juggalos, but in 2013, she realized her family needed to grow up in some departments. The Gathering's annual Ms. Juggalette pageant devolved from a celebration of women's talents to an event focused on their bodies. Porn legend Ron Jeremy had started hosting the pageant, and according to Paul and several other Juggalos I spoke to this weekend, he dismissed contestants who refused to perform sexual acts on stage, like putting Faygo bottles in their vaginas.
"It's dangerous to [let outsiders in]," Paul said about Jeremy. "In the Juggalo world, there are a lot less snakes."
Like other feminists in the past ten years, Paul took to the internet to make her community better for her fellow girls. On FaygoLuvers.net, a popular Insane Clown Posse fansite, she wrote a post criticizing the pageant's treatment of women. She posted a controversial call to action that took on the Juggalo tradition of yelling "Show us your tiiiiiiiitttttts!"
"I hear you," Paul wrote. "Ahahaha. Ha. It's funny. But right now, at this point… just this one moment in time… you can shut the fuck up and get out the way."
Paul encouraged the Juggalos to forbid longtime judge Ron Jeremy from attending the pageant and to revamp the contest to focus on women's talents: their rapping, art, and dances. Other Juggalettes and many male Juggalos agreed with her and took to the blog and other internet platforms to encourage Lette's Respect. During the project's first year, Paul took over the pageant and enacted her desired changes. Instead of resembling a glorified wet T-shirt contest, the pageant had three sections: one in which the girls were interviewed about their personalities, a talent portion, and a bikini segment that broke the mainstream concept of who looks good in a bikini.
Many Juggalettes found the changes created an atmosphere more supportive of different body types, including an up-and-coming overweight female MC named Ms. Cyainide. She hesitated to perform, but Paul encouraged Ms. Cyainide to forget her insecurities and compete in the 2014 pageant.
"[Paul wanted to] show it's for all Lettes," Ms. Cyainide says. "[The beauty pageant is significant] because it's about going out and proving people wrong."
Some Juggalos have complained about the changes online, painting Paul and the other Lette's Respect members as anti-sex, but Paul dismisses these perceptions. She simply wants women to receive positive attention for their talents as well as their sexuality.
"The whole part of this is to bring it back to the middle," Paul said. "I'm about freedom of expression… I would never defy a super-freak."
Other feminist Juggalettes back up Paul's description of Lette's Respect as trying to create a nuanced world. Take Kace Kush, the Juggalo performer, who helps run the Sausage Castle's outdoor strip club at the Gathering. After years of opening for different rap groups, she considers the Gathering her favorite venue because she can perform comfortably without scorn from most men or women.
"As a feminist, I'm a proud, empowered woman and I'm comfortable with what I do," Kace Kush explained. "If you have to hide [your sexuality], that's you not being as strong as an individual."
Paul believes ninjettes deserve a place to safely explore their sexuality. "They roll with the Insane Clown Posse," she said. "They've got to have a really good sense of humor."
"Jugalettes are super smart and super intelligent and super loving," Paul said. "They will give you their shirts off their back-and show their titties. They may [look stupid], but they're so wonderful."