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Question Of The Day

Which Subculture Deserves to Be Protected As a Social Group?

"People with glasses – we've been victimised for years."
05 April 2013, 2:04pm

If there's one social group who really are vastly underrepresented when it comes to the persecution they receive, it's goths. Sure, the Jews had the Holocaust, black people had slavery and apartheid, and the gays have the majority of the modern world, but goths are quietly abused day in, day out, and you don't see anyone leaping to their defence, do you?

Imagine how it feels to spend hours slathering your face with makeup, squeezing into leather trousers and spending an inordinate amount of money to have your velvet coat dry-cleaned, only for some ignorant hater to shout, "You look like a fucking gaylord!" at you when you pop out for some milk. Luckily for goths – and punks, weirdly, because I thought the whole point of punk was to not GAF – abuse directed towards "alternative subcultures" is now being treated as a hate crime in the UK.

That's obviously strange, because I always thought that being a goth was more of a life choice than an unavoidable path dictated by your birth, but whatever. Anyway, I wanted to know what the public thought, so I walked around London's streets and asked some strangers a question: which other subculture deserves to be protected as a social group?

Harold, software designer: As a social group? Aren’t all cultures classified as social groups?

VICE: Well, like, legally classified.
I think people like punks, goths and Star Wars fans probably get picked on because they've been around for quite a long time.

But do you think they need to be protected by law?
No, it's stupid. I think it's pure rubbish.

Why? Because they're getting preferential treatment over, say, mods?
No, I don’t even think they're getting any special treatment, or anything – I think they're just getting labelled.

Alistair, sales: People with glasses – we’ve been victimised for years! So yeah, there probably should be more social groups started up like that. But actually, wait – for what purpose? Why have they been classified as a social group? I'm confused. I've confused myself.

For protection, I guess. So if someone calls a goth's hair shit, for example, they can have them done for a hate crime.
I don't think you can start protecting every subculture, plus I don't think people should be defined by the subculture they belong to; it's their choice how they look, it's not like they were born goths. They just need to get on with it. If they have a problem with having the piss taken out of the, they just need to be ready with a witty comeback, like, "Your mum", or, "Yeah, well your face is goth as well."

Jesus, I would not want to fuck with you in an insult battle. What subculture are you part of?
Awesomeness! I don’t know – I don’t think there's any subculture that I fit into, necessarily.

There aren't any music or movie cultures you'd identify with?
I think I fit into the category of "has no idea so just follows". I didn't wear red trousers until six months ago and then I just bought into it. I sold out, basically. Look at me – I'm wearing a blue jumper, that's so corporate.

Too right, mate.

Luca, sales: Umm, no. Why?

Well, goth and punk have now been made into a social group, so if a crime is committed against them it's now deemed a hate crime.
I don’t think you can really classify those cultures as social groups, they're more like a trend. I mean, does that also mean that all those people around Shoreditch who wear skinny jeans will be called a social group? Because that doesn’t really make sense.

So you don't agree with it?
Ah, I don’t know. I mean, you shouldn't victimise people for what they wear, but it's also their choice to wear it. Like, skin colour and race isn't a choice, obviously, but wearing loads of black makeup is. Does that make sense?

I know what you're getting at. Do hipsters need to be protected?
No! No way.

Sophie, designer: In terms of defined social groups? No, I don’t think so. I don’t really think it's that necessary.

What about hipsters?
Well, I already feel like they have their own social group. They have their own music, culture, their own art – so why bother making it a legal thing? Those kind of subculture groups are good because they make the world diverse, but I think everyone should be equal. Giving special treatment to certain groups isn't needed.

Tina, sales: I think attacking any subculture or specific type of person just comes down to ignorance, and I don't think anyone can really help prevent attacks on people like that.

So defining subcultures as social groups is pointless?
Yeah, of course. And you can't define them – they can come from a super wealthy family or a super poor family. Quite frankly, I think those things are just phases in people's lives; people evolve, so I think it's ridiculous to classify something that's always changing.

Have you ever been a punk? Or part of any subculture?
Maybe back in the day when they I shell suits and – god, it's so embarrassing – hooded tops and graffiti stuff all over me. But that was many years ago and only for a small amount of time. I wasn’t even allowed to do that, really, because my parents didn't like it.

Do you think other people looked at you differently because of that look?
I felt like that, but not because of the way I dressed. I felt like that because, being Asian, there was a lot of ignorance to put up with.

Previously - Could You Live on £53 a Week?