Statement on sexism at Coventry SU’s LGBT History Month Gig

by Ruth

Last night’s gig was unpleasant for a number of reasons. First and foremost amongst these was the barrage of sexist comments and rape jokes directed at us from a small group of men in the audience. We were also deeply unimpressed with the response from certain individuals representing Coventry University’s Students’ Union, who seemed keen to be rid of our band as quickly as possible.

It doesn’t seem fair to label the night a disaster: there were fantastic performances from other acts, particularly headliner Devon Mayson, and we were grateful for the extremely positive response we recieved from many members of the audience. However, we feel it is important to publicly address some of the things that went wrong.

Sexist heckling

We started our set on a pretty positive note. It rapidly became unpleasant after Ruth began to read an extract from My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012 in light of the recent announcement of the transphobic Radfem 2013 conference. The room went silent during the reading…only to be broken by laughing from a corner. Apparently transphobia is hilarious.

Things rapidly went downhill from there as we were then subjected to a series of sexist taunts: “how does it feel?” “I prefer gang rape!”

We responded in anger. We told those responsible how we felt about their comments. We asked them if they were prepared to emerge from their corner booth to talk with us about it face-to-face (they weren’t, surprise surprise). We accused them of being cowards.

And then we carried on playing, deliberately aiming our venom at the sexist power structures that enable gendered abuse and violent language.

After a couple of songs we noticed that the hecklers were leaving. We levelled a barrage of abuse at them until they were out of the door, before thanking everyone else in the room and continuing with our set. Apparently they had been asked by venue staff to leave. We weren’t aware of this at the time, but were grateful for it in retrospect. Ejecting them from the venue was the right decision, particularly given that the event was themed around LGBT liberation.

We played another tune before being informed that we didn’t have long left. We quickly agreed to drop one of the remaining songs, before then being told we only had time for one more. So we agreed upon a set closer and Ruth – not realising that we hadn’t actually been on particularly long – announced to the audience that it would be our last song.

As we played a woman wearing a Coventry SU hoodie approached Kirsty and asked us to wrap it up. Kirsty – annoyed to be interrupted whilst she was playing – informed her briefly that we were going to finish the song.

In the end we played a set that was roughly 20 minutes long. We had been alloted up to 40 minutes in which to perform.

Rape culture is fucking terrible

Needless to say, both the attitude of the hecklers and the comments they made were completely out of order. We make no apology for reacting in anger.

Not Right is a political act, and informed by feminism. We believe that sexism (and transphobia) should be tackled directly and never tolerated. If bigoted behaviour is unaddressed, it will only prosper. The world will only become a better place if hateful attitudes are challenged directly.

We live in a world of unnecessary suffering that is only perpetuated through greed and fear as well as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism, ageism etc. Addressing these inqualities and fighting for a better world is deeply important to us as a band. You can’t change the world a lot with a song, but you can take a stand.

Having made our objections clear, we made an effort both to continue playing, and to address both other members of the audience and members of staff at the venue in a friendly and polite manner both before and after we left the stage. The actions of a few unpleasant individuals should not have to spoil the night for anyone.

Coventry SU’s response

It seems that the staff of Coventry Students’ Union and several members of Coventry LGBT+ did not agree with our assessment of the situation. As the night draw to a close, it was made quite clear to us that our set had been cut because of our response to the sexist heckling. We were informed that we should have let venue staff deal with the problem without attempting to confront it ourselves.

We have a number of issues with this position.

Firstly, if we hadn’t powerfully highlighted what was happening, it was unlikely that the hecklers would have been ejected from the venue. It certainly didn’t seem like anyone was paying a huge amount of attention at first.

Secondly, by implying that our response was inappropriate, there is an implication that we were also misbehaving. The venue staff’s approach – to blame all those involved in a situation, kick one group out and give the other group a warning – is in many ways understandable. It absolves them of ‘picking sides’ in any confrontation that may occur in the venue.

However, we feel this approach fails to acknowledge either the nature of the incident that actually took place, or the seriousness of that incident. In suggesting that we were at fault for responding with legitimate anger, we feel that Coventry SU implicitly tolerated the violent language used against us.

Finally, failing to communicate properly with a band is quite rude; cutting their set short before attempting to persuade a band to leave the stage whilst they’re playing their last song is exceptionally so.

We are not members of Coventry Students’ Union, or Coventry LGBT+. We do not know who was responsible for the various decisions taken. But those individuals were representing their respective organisations, and this reflects poorly upon both.

Thanks to the lovely people

We don’t want to end on a negative note. In many ways, last night’s gig was a great success. We feel we played a pretty decent set under the circumstances, and it was clear that a large proportion of the audience enjoyed it.

We don’t have a problem with Coventry students, let alone LGBT students at Coventry. In fact, we were grateful for the overwhelmingly positive reception we recieved from many people in the room. We’d like to thank those people – you were awesome. Thank you for watching us playing, dancing to our songs, reading our zines. We hope to see you at a gig again soon!

Massive love, and down with sexism.

Not Right