I like to say that I became a feminist at a Crystal Castles show, in the way that we tend to ascribe more meaning to an event in retrospect than we do at the time.
I remember it clearly because I had been so excited about this show, and because I paid more for that ticket than for any other show I had been to before. Alice Glass strode onto the stage in chunky black boots, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. Thick eyeliner, severe haircut. She made the thumb gesture of “lend me your lighter,” grabbed one from somebody in the audience, and lit a cigarette. At this time (and still, to my knowledge) Alice Glass looked to be about 13 years old.
Several times during the show, Glass threw herself headlong into the audience, held aloft by hundreds of sweaty and groping teenage boy hands. When she landed back on the stage for the last time, I remember seeing that she was bleeding from a cut on her face, her tights and her shirt were torn, and her makeup was all fucked up. I saw (or thought I saw), for a split second, the look of disgust and terror on her face, quickly replaced by her usual tough-as-nails demeanor. I thought “I don’t feel good about this” at the exact moment that the friend I was there with, a dude, said “she’s so hot.”
It’s not my intention to shame people who look younger than their age, it’s not my intention to shame female pop stars, and it’s not my intention to shame Alice Glass. But it was more than just that she looks so young. You know the whole sexual objectification vs. sexual empowerment test? Like, if the person being viewed as sexy has all the power in the scenario, then they’re being empowered. If the viewer has all the power, then the viewee is being objectified. What I’m saying here is that, despite her toughness and her apparent enjoyment of the attention she was getting, Glass was definitely not the one with the power at that concert.
Make of this what you will, but my takeaway was this: power doesn’t always move in the most obvious directions. The person on the stage is not always the person in charge. And even the toughest, smartest women in the world can’t crowdsurf without the fear of being groped.
My feminism has always had a lot to do with music. Perhaps it’s because the music world still features some of the most visible and most unapologetic misogyny. Perhaps it’s because, despite this, I still love music and the nichey world of music journalism.
Or maybe it’s because the easiest way to ignore the catcalls and the haters is to put your headphones on and turn the volume way up.