Having studied Russia for many years, one of the topics has gripped me the most is that of the way Russia relates to subcultures. Though they existed underground throughout Soviet times, and the punk and rock scenes thrived despite state censorship, they are still very much that today despite the supposed openness and increasing westernisation: subcultures.
The Streets Are Ours?
One thing I love about studying and living in Nottingham is the sheer quantity of members of alternative subcultures that are visible on the streets - black and neon clothes, spiked belts, brightly-dyed hair. It makes me feel at home, and like I live in a welcoming city where these people don't fear being bullied for their fashion sense and music taste. I have had abuse hurled at me for being an 'emo' or 'goth', though I identify as neither, and I really appreciate that was long ago now, and I haven't had any truly bad reactions to my dress sense for a long time. In 2010 when I had bright pink hair, I thought that was what was stopping me getting a job in my gap year, so I had it dyed a much more natural shade of red. So I came to the conclusion it wasn't prejudice against punk that prevented me getting a job, but my total lack of experience!
I noticed on my visit to St Petersburg that there are very few obvious punks, metalheads, goths and emos (or other rock and metal based subcultures) wandering about. I presume this is similar in Moscow from what I have heard. In my studies I came across many reports of the Russian government's intention to "ban emo and goth" in schools, government buildings back in 2008. I have not yet found confirmation that this legislation was introduced, but I'm given to understand by one of my lecturers that for all intensive purposes it has been, even if word didn't reach the UK press. This intolerant legislation based upon misunderstandings and prejudice may in part account for the lack of obvious members of rock-centred subcultures on the street.
Fear of prejudice
Most days I'm wearing a band t-shirt and jeans or a skirt plus some trainers and some black eyeliner. Roughly half of all the shirts I own are black - it's just a popular colour for bands to print their designs on, and it goes with everything. I often can't buy the shirts I want in my size so I buy a men's size and cut it up so it fits me. I like shiny, neon skate shoes and Dr Marten boots - I'm drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Why am I telling you this? Because one of my main fears about my year abroad in Russia is that I will face prejudice if I dress like I have done since I was 14. I don't identify with any specific distinct subculture, and I don't believe I dress like one, but I also don't think an ignorant, prejudiced oaf on the street is going to care much beyond 'Black + neon clothes = "Oi, you f**king emo!"'. Should it bother me? No. Why does it? I don't want people to assume, because of their misinformed idea of what 'emo' is, that I'm depressed, or a self-harmer. I don't want people to assume if I'm a 'metalhead' or 'goth' that I'm angry or aloof or unfriendly. I have yet to meet an unfriendly metalhead or goth by the way, which is why I find this so funny/stupid.
The sad part?
I actually am changing the way I dress. Yup, I've banned myself from buying anything predominantly black, or anything neon or pink. Yes, I am drawn to these items, I do find them the most attractive, but I also don't want to suffer abuse, mistreatment, or just people making negative assumptions about me because of the way I dress. So I went out and bought a load of brown, dark red, and navy clothes yesterday, and today I'm going to go find more. I know it's a good thing - my new clothes are more flattering and colourful, and I imagine more appropriate for the internship I would like to work in 2013. I no longer feel like I need to dress in a way that directly reflects my music taste, because I'm more secure in my own identity.
I'm not throwing out the black band shirts yet - there's a time and a place for looking like the ska-punk-metal-rocker I am, and that's when I'm at a gig, festival or Rocksoc event :D
That's all for now folks!