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Culture, Music

Moshpit Politics

by Kati Auld / Illustration by Dan Witz / 26.04.2012

There’s a certain type of chick who loves a moshpit. Sure, sometimes this is just about plumping up a hardcore image that needs a bit more authenticity than can be provided by two black-rimmed eyes and issues with authority. And it can also mean fluttering vaguely on the sidelines and giving the odd anxious shove to an alluring male interest. Or an opportunity for an “embittered feminist” to inflict some pain on the symbols of her oppression. Whatever. For me, though, the cheerful physicality of a good mosh gives me a high I can’t find anywhere else.

See moshing taught me the difference between being physical and being violent. Everyone loves the freedom of a moshpit, a sanctioned space where, by joining in, you accept the risks and bruises for the chance to lose yourself for a while. Most of the time there’s an instinctive understanding that the point is not to hurt anyone. That bashing into each other is just an overflow of enthusiasm for music, life and booze. In the sweaty break between songs when you catch your breath and have a smoke, there’s an occasional “no-hard-feelings” jostle and grin exchanged with the person who just left a bruise on your back. Despite the fact that it’s also the best arena for fucknuts to truly shine, I’ve made some good friends in chance mid-thrash encounters. When you fall over there’s usually someone who’ll help you up, unless folks are too involved in their own worlds to notice you’re down in the first place.

Moshpits look like they’re exclusively about destructive urges more than anything else and girls are supposed to keep those tucked deeply away. Only to appear in cutting or weeping or suicide. There’s an enduring belief that girls are fragile. You don’t (often) see chicks wrestling on a drunken night out, not in the exuberantly (non-sexual?) way that male first-years are so fond of. Girls are taught to stick to less physical modes of glee. Something between kissy-faced emoticons and extended no-speaks. Despite years of feminist teeth-gnashing, you’re still more likely to see a female body gyrating than testing its strength. A moshpit is one of the few places where we can lose our shit, just like everyone else, and exert some sort of physical presence without fear of offending people.

Guys (especially, in my experience, Afrikaans ones) tend to get confused by a chick in the pit. They’re suddenly unsure how to reconcile moshing with flickers of unconscious residual chivalry. Some get pissed off at me for ruining their fun as if the presence of boobs is a magical catalyst that turns a rough-and-tumble into a pillowfight. Men: women are not made of glass. We are quite capable of taking a knock or two in the moshpit. Some of us have been looking forward to a stress-relieving mosh for weeks. Please don’t be an asshole and make exuberant appreciation of music into a little boys’ club. I promise, if it gets too intense, we know where the door is, and we’ll point it out to you. Now get out of the way.

*Opening image © Dan Witz, Big Mosh Pit 2007. Oil and mixed media on canvas 46×70. You can purchase a print of this painting here.

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