Whether it’s because of excessive boozing and very often drugging, lowered inhibitions or cover of night, maybe even social expectations or bro-on-bro insanity, the list goes on– people can act like total shitheads at shows, dance parties, clubs, and bars.
Anuradha Golder knows this. She’s been partying for “a while now,” she laughed. “And I always thought, how can I make this better? How can I make this experience more enjoyable for myself?” Her zine, Club Etiquette, aims to answer those questions. Issue No. 3, which dropped in October, looks specifically at sexual harassment. “I understood the zine was eventually going to comment on bigger issues, but it got there pretty quickly,” Anuradha explained.
I first came across Club Etiquette after receiving an invite to the issue no. 3 release party at Elvis Guest House last month. Anuradha started the zine, which she hands out for free at the release gatherings which feature DJs and drinking and dancing– because, naturally. All three issues are also available online for your viewing pleasure. “I need to find a place where I can hand it out free all the time,” she explained. “I want to keep it as free as possible, but printing and card stock costs are there– so I’m putting out a donation link for anyone with any amount to contribute. But I feel like this information should be available to everyone without a price.”
Which is exactly what I thought when I first read Club Etiquette. There’s fascinating stuff in here– some of it is new to a quickly aging party girl, but most of it seems like it should be required reading for college students, or anyone at the start of their “going out” years. Anuradha and the people she recruits to contribute (her friends, DJs, bartenders, and longtime club-goers), all told, probably have about 100 years of combined experience going to (and working at, for that matter) clubs, raves, bars, and shows.
Anuradha was born in Bangladesh and moved to the Bronx as a kid, where she still lives today, and despite at least an hour-long commute, her favorite place to party and go see shows is Bushwick. “But getting back takes forever,” she said. “So when I go out, I like to stay the whole time.” Her favorite place to go dance or see a show is Palisades. “I think they’re really holding it down in terms of the shows they book and, at least in my experience, I’ve probably had some of the best times there. I really like Trans-Pecos as well, it’s a little farther out, but I really like their space and it’s worth trekking out there for.”
While Anuradha admits that these venues are certainly comparatively safer from the issues she raises in Club Etiquette (it should be noted they’re not totally immune either), the discussion of safe spaces for everyone is still important to her. “Sometimes when I’d go to certain venues, it was really difficult to find your own personal space,” she said. “I feel like it’s getting better now— the crowd that comes through is definitely more conscious of it, but there are still places that I definitely think could use these guidelines.”
She and her friends have spent time partying all over the city (and even the world in some cases), and it shows. Issue one, as more of a dos-and-don’ts manual to going out, is one that would be seriously, seriously useful for the 18-24 set to get a copy of asap, what with its basic run-downs of things like “bartender communication,” “respect the bouncer,” and “predatory behavior.” Issue two is where things get a little more complex, and where Anuradha seems to have hit her stride.
In the introduction she promises a deeper look at “club culture,” and the zine does not disappoint. There are some fun suggestions like “Post-Party Food Essentials,” which includes some obvious ones like Veselka and Great NY Noodle Town, but then a couple of unexpected zones like Bubby’s Pie Company (an all-night diner in Tribeca), and Zaragoza Mexican Deli and Grocery in the East Village. But beyond the fun (but still quite useful) fluff, the zine includes discussion of how clubs and party promoters can avoid pitfalls like “musical appropriation,” and provide safe spaces for LGBT and “non-gender binary folks.”
One testimonial from a club patron reads: “Reprinting hierarchies on flyers is counterproductive and only preserves positions of power. Using ‘queer’ or ‘radical’ in descriptions of music, parties, etc. has become some sort of identity politics insurance. Stop doing it for a co-sign from people who live it.”
Issue no. 3 only expands upon the idea that, even though the underground and party scenes are places where people who are different, feel like outsiders, or are oppressed in some way can engage in some alternative form of activism (as we saw with this really fascinating exhibition Party Out of Bounds), the people who run the show these days are still mostly white men, and therefore these spaces more than likely reflect the values of that set (i.e. the patriarchy) unless they’re consciously struggling against it.
In classic, black-and-white zine style, the issue includes typewriter font, and a flowing, collage-like style (as opposed to a perfectly straight, right angles, and typography vibe of Graphic Design– capital letters intended– which if you think about it, is a super male sort of thing). As with most zines, there’s an overarching sense of informality which offers contributors as much anonymity as they please and encourages writers to write in an approachable way and allows them to write as they speak. All of this creates a comfortable space for sometimes gut-wrenching but other times just perfectly frank stories and opinions that make Club Etiquette a confessional, meandering, deeply personal little samizdat.
This issue of the zine includes input from a DJ, techno fans, even a girl who’s been sober for two years but still goes out. Topics range from harm reduction and safe drug-taking to a sci-fi rendering of bug-filled club and even a playlist. But the most striking parts of issue three are the accounts of sexual harassment and assault, written by Anuradha’s friends. If you’re a woman, or identify as one (but, as Anuradha points out in her introduction, there are many different types of harassment, which is not only sexual and not only experienced by cis-gender women, obviously), most of these experiences will be all too familiar.
A contributor who goes by Helen begins a list of various gross things that have happened to her with: “I can’t tell you the countless number of times I have been…” These include “screamed at with derogatory terms by some guy just because I’m not interested” and “literally had to push guys away.”
Most of the contributors, Anuradha explained, are people close to her, but some of them are people she’s met over the years going out. “You start to see the same people over and over again, but it’s people who I feel comfortable asking about their experiences,” she said. “Obviously there’s a lot of sensitive information I don’t wanna mistreat, but if they seem really comfortable with it, I’ll put it out there.”
Rape and other kinds of sexual violence are all too common at party spots, bars, and clubs. Often sexual violence is dismissed as a singular act– the exception rather than the rule– or is sometimes even attributed to the victim’s behavior. Women are often told they were not being “careful” enough. There was, of course, the recent case of a woman who, back in August, told the police she was dosed and raped at Happy Ending, a bar on the Lower East Side– the cops not only were dubious of her account, but one of them reportedly suggested: “Maybe you’re a party girl.”
As Helen writes: “I do not stay until 5 or 6am because I’m looking for sex. I stay and dance for the music. I stay and dance for me.” Another contributor, N., who recounts her multiple experiences of sexual assault at clubs and bars– starting with an incident when she was just 15– confirms in Club Etiquette just how very rampant is the idea that rape and sexual harassment are the victim’s fault. “It was a while before I learned the definition of sexual assault included non-consensual touching. It took me even longer to realize that what I wore or drank was not the cause of the harassment I received.”
While the response as a woman might be to change your own behavior, maybe the more sane reaction is to change the environment or whatever is inspiring to make people inflict this kind of grossness on others. As Anuradha acknowledges in the issue’s intro, “There is a lot to be done outside the club to unlearn toxic masculinity and its effect.” But, in the mean time, a lot can be done to create “sustainable safe spaces, both interior and exterior.” The zine, she writes, “Is an attempt for the creation of those spaces.”
Club Etiquette acknowledges, in an entertaining but also deeply serious way, that it’s important for women to not feel as if they’re restricted to certain spaces and not allowed inside others. It’s clear from these pages that many women (and other groups, too) feel that in order to enter a certain club or other type of party environment they have to prepare themselves for aggressive behavior from men who assume their very presence is indication of an open invitation for sex.
“The reasons for going out can be different,” Anuradha said. “I didn’t want to make the zine preachy or anything or like a rule book, because that’s not what going out to the club is about– but hopefully people can be a little more conscientious of other people’s space. We all go out because we want to have a fun time, but that doesn’t mean we should disrupt anyone else’s time while we do. I’m just trying to make it as convenient as possible to go out.”
Follow Anarudha Golder on her blog for news about the next “Club Etiquette” issue.