I was probably a little bit too old — or unfit, at least — to be moshing.
Yet there I was last Tuesday getting in the middle of the action at the Reel Big Fish ska show in Vancouver getting out some aggression to the band's originals and, naturally, covers of bygone hits "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Take On Me."
Sweaty and stinky pushing and shoving isn't exactly the safest activity, and I took a few kicks to the shins and an elbow to the head over the course of the show. It comes with the territory.
I was also knocked to the floor late in the opening band's set, out of the circle and away from danger. Still, three people from the pit hopped out to offer me a hand up. During the Reel Big Fish encore, my glasses were knocked off my face. I immediately dropped to all fours, frantically grasping in the dark for my specs, knowing full well my spare pair was back home a 90-minute drive away. (I'll prepare better for any future excursions, I swear.) A human shield actually formed around me to keep the pit away until I was victorious and gave the thumbs up.
It would have been just as easy for each and every one of these people to carry on dancing. After all, you'd have to be pretty dense to not know and accept the risks going in.
People who knock others around for fun can get a bad rap in mainstream society, but hey, these guys unflinchingly reached out to help out anyone who required it. They were being rough and tough when they wanted to be, but compassionate when they needed to be. Ska may not have the same badass reputation as fans of metal or punk, but there's an overlap of the populations. A fair portion of people would probably look at a good number of the show's attendees with some level of suspicion.
It comes at a time where there's an ongoing societal discussion about the definition of masculinity. The chatter was set to come here to Whistler on May 20 with a screening of The Mask You Live In at Whistler Secondary School. As part of the event, all-star CFL linebacker Shea Emry was slated to speak about his struggles with depression — a conversation he felt for years he could not have because of the strict perception of what it means to be a man. The self-imposed silence can lead to living almost exclusively in one's own head.
"Those thoughts manifest themselves in people's lives in all different shapes and forms, and most of them are not positive forms. They're substance abuse, aggression, depression, people acting out physically, violence against women," Emry told Pique in advance of the event.
It can be difficult to keep up with all of the occurrences of the old "Boys will be boys" attitude used to at least explain away and at worst cause some vile behaviour.
Ontario's Hydro One recently fired a Toronto FC soccer fan and six-figure earner who, with a group of pals, hung around after a game hoping to yell "Fuck her right in the pussy!" during a live hit interview with CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt. She challenged the bros, who brushed it off with the "but it's funny" defence, after another fan was successful. In the wake of the confrontation, Hunt told CBC's As It Happens she'd previously cancelled live hits when her spidey senses told her she was probably going to get an "FHRITP" on live television. Other journalists have come forward with stories of harassment from a live scene. Everyone in the stories I've consumed had an array of incidents from which to pick, and the perpetrators were always young men.
Those who stick to the long-standing definition of masculinity will almost certainly have a clear idea of what femininity should be, too. That understanding — generally one of weakness and inferiority — is often used pointedly to cut down other men. A strong segment of Winnipeg Jets fans, much to my dismay, tarnished the squad's first playoff game in 19 long years not only by targeting star forward Corey Perry with a "Katy Perry" chant.
In a Twitter conversation with its self-proclaimed originator, the user claimed the rich and famous pop star was only named because Matthew Perry of Friends fame was passé. Yeah, and every Katy Perry song is about me, I swear!
In that and other "sexist thing is sexist" online conversations, a common reply I'll receive is an attack on my masculinity. I either have small testicles or none at all.
That said, I feel like the trolls are presenting me a fruit basket by responding on some sort of civil level compared to the graphic rape and death threats they'll bestow on the women who challenge them.
Some dudes feel so threatened as to call for a boycott of the new Mad Max blockbuster because Charlize Theron's strong hero will force Hollywood producers to feature an ass-kicking woman in every "guy's movie" from here to eternity if Fury Road is successful. That sounds like the worst thing.
Truly, let's take a lesson from the mosh pit. There's nothing wrong with strength and aggression vented properly in pits or contact sports like rugby or hockey where physical contact within the rules — written or not — is acceptable and encouraged.
But when people are down and vulnerable, use that strength and aggression to help and protect them.
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