вторник, 22 ноября 2011 г.

Privilege and radical sobriety vs. straight edge

I’ve been sober and drug-free for about a year and a half. My personal sobriety is something that’s really important to me, but I really don’t care if you drink/smoke/use drugs (although I get super uncomfortable if people are intoxicated around me, especially straight men, especially in safer spaces). Although I’ve identified as straight edge in the past, I’m torn about continuing doing so. Straight edge culture is fucking stupid. Most people who claim edge are straight white rich boys who have never had to deal with the pressures and oppression that frequently drive people to use in the first place. The “kill your local drug dealer” mentality does nothing to address the root causes of drug use. Straight edge, as practiced by most of its adherents, is just another way to wave around one’s class privilege. I’ve never been in a financial position where I’ve needed to sell drugs to get by, or felt that my situation was so bad that I needed drugs to cope. That’s a fucking privilege, and it’s not true for a lot of people.

From the time I quit using substances until I moved away from Vermont, straight edge was really important to me. When I lived on a farm 2 hours away from any friends and I was the only one in the house who didn’t drink or get high on a regular basis, that straight edge identity helped me pull through and not cave in. When I lived in a rural town of 1200 people and I sat alone in my room on weekends because all my friends were getting wasted, straight edge kept me strong. If I hadn’t set up that fear of being shamed for “breaking edge” (you know the rhetoric - “it’s a life-long commitment!”), I’d probably still be using.

But I don’t need that fear of shaming to stay sober anymore. I have friends who are sober (and friends who aren’t always sober but respect my need to not be around intoxicated folks) and I can find plenty of things to do that don’t involve getting wasted. Sobriety is both more important to me than it was when I first claimed edge, and easier to maintain. I don’t need the label of straight edge to live what I believe. At one time I did, and there are plenty of people who still do. By all means, do what you need to live the life you want. I just don’t think straight edge is relevant for me anymore.

Yes, there are ladies, queers, and trans folks who claim edge and are reclaiming it as something positive (especially sex-positive). There are people without class privilege who are straight edge. That’s awesome. But that’s not what most people think of when you say straight edge - most people think of the sexist dudebros who use straight edge as a purity contest, who engage in slut-shaming because Ian MacKaye said “don’t fuck” in Out of Step, who have no class analysis and think that because they managed to stay drug-free, everyone else can and should. I don’t want to have anything to do with those dudes. I don’t want my identity to endorse that behavior.

We need new models of radical sobriety that aren’t based on propping up systems of oppression. Making people feel shitty for wanting distractions from being oppressed or choosing a particular coping mechanism does nothing to address the root causes of that need for distraction. We need to attack capitalism and racism and sexism and homophobia and every other kind of oppression, not targets of oppression who need a coping mechanism.

I’m probably going to receive a proverbial firestorm from people who think I’ve misrepresented straight edge. I really don’t care if you think “we’re not all that bad!” (and duh, not all straight edge kids are shitheads). Yes, straight edge can be liberating and empowering. For a while, it meant a lot to me. If claiming edge is keeping you sober, by no means am I telling you to stop claiming edge. But we also need to consider the broader implications of identifying with a scene in which the most vocal adherents actively perpetuate the systems of oppression they claim to be fighting.

This is something that I was talking about with my tattoo artist yesterday, admittedly on a much smaller scale. I have been straight edge for 11 years, and unless you count half a wine cooler at 13, sober and free of all substances my entire life. Straight edge is an unfriendly place if you aren’t a rich white dude. I was never accepted into the straight edge community where I lived, even when I was among the last people who hadn’t “broken.” I am not really a part of it where I live now. I have a few friends who are straight edge or sober, but most of them drink. I feel way more alienated at a xvx hardcore show (even with feminist bands, because dudebros still show up) than I do at regular shows. The sense of elitism with no class analysis is terrifying. The pointless violence (what up weekend nachbro show). Most of these kids are just regular jocks who stumbled into a new arena where they can feel even more superior than other people.

Even here, most of the straight edge people are extremely judgmental and scary. I have wanted to get X’s tattooed on my hands for a very long time but I’m not so sure about that anymore. It’s not because I want to do drugs/drink/smoke, because I don’t want to and I never will. It’s because sometimes I don’t feel like I want to be a part of a scene that does more harm than good, that is more hateful than positive, that is extremely misogynistic and slut shaming.

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