Monday, June 1, 2015

The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll: Black Pussy, World's Most Dangerous Band

My last blog post about the band Black Pussy was a tongue in cheek roasting of what I see is a complete over reaction that the bands name has spawned. Here in Winnipeg, "activists" upset about the name have threatened to boycott The Pyramid Cabaret, the venue hosting the band. The anger that has been shown by some has left me puzzled, and frustrated. And, the band has released a statement addressing the controversy......HERE.

The idea of free speech and it's limits has been something that has fascinated me in the last few years. In a world where cartoonists and bloggers are slaughtered over material that is perceived to be offensive, freedom of speech is once again becoming almost an act of dissent, so protecting as much of our freedom of speech as possible is important, although considerations do have to be made on how we are going to deal with the most offensive and dangerous speech in our society.

Now, those who oppose Black Pussy more than don't like the name. They say the name is outright oppressive, especially towards women of colour. At least that's what the white women and men who have taken up this struggle are insisting. Speaking for women of colour seems to be the cool thing to do. And yes, okay, fine, I can see how the name might be perceived as offensive and in no way am I going to say that someone shouldn't find it offensive. If you find it offensive, you find it offensive. But, when I hear people say that the name is oppressive, that it creates an unsafe environment for women, that it contributes to rape culture, further marginalizes a marginalized group, etc, I think to myself, "REALLY?? You have managed to get all of that out the name Black Pussy??" Again, I'm not arguing. If that's how one wants to perceive it, sure. I guess. But, it seems to me that some are giving an awful lot of power to this name.

The way some are talking, this truly is the most dangerous band in the world. And this is why the Pyramid Cabaret, apparently, made a HUGE mistake in booking them and should cancel the show and repent for being so sinful. By booking them, they will have created an unsafe environment that some will never be able to go to again. Wow. That's, ya, that's intense. It's also bizarre given the acts that have played in the past at the Pyramid.

Xzibit, Necro, Ghostface Killah, Twiztid, Mad Child, Winnipeg's Most, Onyx, etc, have all taken the stage at the Pyramid. For frick sakes, these guys redefine misogyny, sexism and violence towards women! I mean, come ON! And yet, not a word about these artists. Not a word. There was not one protest to my knowledge about any of these artists being there. Compared to these folks, Black Pussy is TAME. If anyone went into the Pyramid after these guys played and saw it as a safe environment, then the least of your concerns should be a band called Black Pussy. This is why I feel that the outrage over this band is complete disproportionate to the "crime" they have committed, and that there is a certain level of hypocrisy in those who say they want Black Pussy banned to maintain a safe environment, while never mentioning these previous artists. It boggles my mind. It seems to me that if Black Pussy named themselves Love Puppies, and then got on stage and sang about murdering women (like Necro does, and Mad Child does in one of his videos) it would be more acceptable and receive no protests. That's the message I am getting here at least.

I'm not saying the name doesn't offend. I guess after seeing hundreds of bands for 25 years now, I've seen and heard so much more offensive stuff that to me this name seems so tame. I'm not saying people should not be offended. But I am saying that, when I look at the offence and the vitriolic response, I shake my head. As someone mentioned, "Well, it has started a decent debate and we are talking about the name." That's true. Can't argue with that. Well, to a degree. I mean, there has been no shortage of back and forth about it, but has it really been a debate? Based on what I see, it's one side calling anyone who doesn't denounce the name outright and back a boycott racist, sexist assholes. That isn't debate. That isn't being open to discussion. That is dictating how all others should feel about the name. That doesn't leave room for a debate or discussion in the slightest. But, the fact that the racial and sexual undertones of the band name are being discussed in an open way can be seen as positive, yes.

What worries me is this: What band will be next? I like a ton of music. And there are bands that I like that have themes, ideas, words, etc that in many ways, when I look at them, arguments about "safe spaces" and feeling threatened and oppressed by some of the content of this music could be levelled against them as well. For example, the Supersuckers, a band that comes to the Pyramid regularly. I mean, they are a sex, drugs and rock and roll band. They are not over the top, but there are definitely lyrics and ideas that can be scrutinized. Will they be the next band on the chopping block? Who will be? Who will be targeted next? How clean do those opposed to Black Pussy want to scrub this venue? How safe do they want it to be? And what will happen to all those other artists that I mentioned above? How on earth can a venue justify banning Black Pussy but then allowing an artist like, say, Mad Child who also plays at the Pyramid regularly, when he has a video featuring him killing prostitutes in a brothel? It would be the height of hypocrisy for both the venue to host him AND those opposing to the name Black Pussy to allow this guy to play again. This guy makes Black Pussy look tame.

As I write this, the Pyramid is contemplating how they will handle this controversy and plan to address it soon. It will be interesting to see what they plan to do, and how this will impact events at the venue in the future. In many ways, they can't win. If they don't cancel, they will have many upset people being very upset as upset people can be. I won't say ALL of their reasoning for being upset or offended are false or wrong. Like I said, if someone wants to feel offended, it is not up to be me to say they shouldn't. On the other hand, if they do cancel, how can they justify booking many of the acts that they do book. Will this usher in a new era for the venue where all acts will have to go under heavy scrutiny? How can a venue ban an artist on what is COMPARATIVELY a tame name (key word comparatively, that's why I put it in caps) compared to what it has hosted before and then ever host any of those artists ever again? Will it be opening the doors to never ending charges of hypocrisy or never ending series of boycotts?

The ball is now in the Pyramid's court. This should be interesting.

UPDATE:

The Pyramid has announced that they have cancelled the show. Interesting indeed. However, according to reports, the band will be playing at The Zoo in Winnipeg. We shall see if that comes true or not.

It's hard to know what to say here. I don't blame the Pyramid necessarily. They were between a rock and a hard place here. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. I don't want to say they made the wrong decision, but I also don't want to say they made the right decision. They made a decision. But I think I laid out above why the decision is problematic and what is means for the venue in the future.

UPDATE to the UPDATE:

So, yes, the show IS happening at the Zoo in Winnipeg, Tuesday, June 2nd. Furthermore, I just wrote this comment on a Facebook post that I thought I would pin to the end of this:

Sadly, for me, personally, and I know this is going to come across bad, but I now have a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Good Will Social Club. Some of the fiercest critics of this event kept dropping that name, and wanting the Pyramid to take on their policies, and for people to go there to a show the same night, almost in "protest". I don't want to demonize the GWSC, BUT, now I feel that it isn't an environment I would be welcome in at all and would be under scrutiny from the time I walked into the place. I used to think their policies sounded good (safe space policies against homophobia, sexism, racism, etc, etc., and for the most part YES, they are good). But now they sound a tad scary and as though these fierce critics who were so vitriolic wait there to judge and pounce. I know, probably irrational, and I am not calling for a boycott or trying to besmirch the place, but, I definitely got a bad taste in my mouth.

FINAL UPDATE

So, the Pyramid posted a rather odd thing on their Facebook page yesterday explaining that they had offered Black Pussy an opportunity to do a discussion session of sorts prior to the show where concerned parties could express their views to the band. They have since deleted it.

This, I thought, was bizarre. Is this the new standard in entertainment? If a band that has any controversial ideas, names, lyrics, videos, etc, is it now going to be a thing to have an open session prior to each performance to discuss these issues?? It's kind of like a meet and greet package, but instead it's a "meet and tell the band how much you hate them" package.

Yup. That was bizarre.

On a brighter note, apparently the band was paid in full for being cancelled, which I think was the right thing to do.

Given all this, however, I do want to point out that the Pyramid really is a fantastic venue. I've seen a ton of good stuff there and have always enjoyed the place. The atmosphere is great, the sound is excellent, the staff is wonderful and it's just a good place to go all around, and Winnipeg is lucky to have this venue. They have gone through a lot in the past week with all of this. I think they tried very hard to do what they felt was right. I feel that they listened to all sides of this story. They were gracious enough to allow their Facebook event page to be used as an open forum for discussion, which I think was healthy to some degree. I think it showed a commitment to the community, allowing the community to use it's page to discuss, sometimes intensely, a controversy (that shouldn't have been a controversy). I commend them for their efforts and know that they were in a tough position. I'm not convinced they necessarily did the right thing in the end, but they did what they did and they did it for their reasons, and it's now time to move on, remembering it is still one of the city's BEST venues!














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