Sometimes, not being a big guy at a show kind of sucks. No matter where you go, people can be mean even when they aren’t trying to, and a lot of the time you just don’t have the ability—whether it be mental, physical, whatever—to get yourself out of a situation. Sometimes when you try to ask people to stop saying a slur, or to stop rubbing up against you, they get so angry you start to worry for your own safety. Maybe you don’t even approach it, because you’re that worried.
Sadie Dupuis and the rest of Speedy Ortiz don’t want that to be the case at their shows. In the vein of Kathleen Hanna’s cry of “girls to the front,” at Bikini Kill shows, Speedy Ortiz wants you to come to their shows and not feel threatened or endangered. All you have to do is text their hotline.
“All of the band is included on that [text]. We have a sound engineer traveling with us so that if there’s a case of something while we’re performing they can respond from behind the mixing board,” said Dupuis about the hotline.
“We don’t want to like violate your privacy in any way. First name and location, and any identifying information you want to include. It’s not gonna be the type of thing where, you know, someone’s in trouble and texts us ‘get this person kicked out.’ Obviously if someone’s being touched inappropriately or harmed in any way like, we’ll get them out of there, but there may be subtler things that require different kinds of responses.”
While the audience is watching out for themselves and each other, you won’t end up being thrown out for stepping on someone else’s toe. “The idea is to be as inclusive as possible and to encourage people to be themselves,” Dupuis reassured. You won’t get kicked out of a show just because one person thinks you’re being a jerk, and you’re not going to get kicked out for moshing or opening up the pit.
But, she says, if you’re uncomfortable with this kind of thing happening at a show, maybe that’s a good thing.
“Prejudicial, oppressive language and aggressive behaviors of any kind are unacceptable to us,” reads the flyer posted on Speedy Ortiz’s Facebook page.
“This includes, but is not limited to: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, & all other oppressive and marginalizing actions and microaggresions. The emotional and physical safety of our friends at shows is of paramount importance to us.”
“If your idea of fun is making a bigoted joke at a show, like, maybe you deserve to be policed a little bit,” Sadie remarked when I asked whether or not people would see this as a “Big Brother” kind of tactic. “I just don’t see how presenting an option to help keep people safe subtracts from fun in any way, unless your idea of fun is to oppress the other person.”
“If you feel your rights are being violated because we’re not cool with a racist dude at a show, like, don’t come to our show.”
While she’s experienced her share of harassment during her time as a performer and show-goer, the decision to enact the hotline came after Dupuis experience three separate moments of harassment during a festival within the span of an hour and a half, and realized there was nothing she could comfortably do to make herself safer as an attendee. But as a performer, she has a lot more power to leverage against harassers. “I think when you’re performing at an event you have this certain amount of access that we have that a show-goer doesn’t have,” she said. “And I guess we’re in a position where we can redistribute our resources so we can help other people feel a little bit safer at shows.”
sometimes as a showgoer i've felt unsafe & didn't know what to do. as a performer i've always have an easier time getting security's ear
— sadie dupuis (@sad13) September 7, 2015
i'm hoping we can leverage our privilege as performers to help keep our friends in the crowd safer. we'll see how it goes but i'm optimistic
— sadie dupuis (@sad13) September 7, 2015
Two nights ago at a show in Ithaca, the band debuted their way of tackling harassers, and according to Dupuis it went really well. “You know, people are, in many cases, very willing to look out for one another.”
Does it have some wrinkles to be ironed out? Sure.
“Even just from posting on Facebook we’ve been getting all kinds of questions and suggestions on how to better those things when we implement it so that’s great,” remarked Dupuis.
There will definitely be kinks to work out, and things will be reviewed on a case by case basis, Dupuis reassured me, and the band is open to suggestions on how to make things better.
“It’s super new and we didn’t really expect people to be this excited about it, but I think the massive amount of response we’ve gotten just shows that something like this is necessary.”
Annalise Domenighini is on Twitter.