This is going to be a somewhat multi-topic post, Snarklings; well, not multi-topic, but two facets of one larger topic.
Part the First: Over on the Gothic Charm School Tumblr (yes, the Lady of the Manners is still on Tumblr, she’s curated her feed into a reliable stream of eye candy, but thank goodness for the blacklist function), someone asked a fantastic question about the goth scene. The Lady of the Manners did answer it in a Tumblr post, but decided to Hold Forth and Deliver Her Opinions in an expanded form.
“Auntie Jilli, I wanted to know if I could get some eldergoth insight here. I’ve been noticing that lately it seems like a lot of the well know goth internet folks have a very similar aesthetic. I don’t really get many opportunities to be in the physical goth scene and I’m still relatively new to the scene as an active participant so I was wondering if to you (or anyone else) if it seems like goth has gotten a little homogeneous lately or if it’s always been this way and I just didn’t see it.
The short (ish) answer is YES. In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, the rise of cameras in everyone’s phones and the ease of putting those photos on social media has strengthened the idea that there is a very specific “goth look” that has to be embraced to be part of the subculture. And to be completely honest, the Lady of the Manners had kinda hoped that easy photos + social media would have the opposite effect: an explosion of different goth styles and looks. But alas, it doesn’t seem that happened.
The basics of the goth look Back In The Day (the 80s and 90s, and hell, even the early 00s) were pretty simple: black eyeliner and black clothes. Big hair was common, as were tangles of jewelry and layers of torn black tights and fishnets if you were really fancy or going out, but not everyone wanted to or was able to indulge in those things. There was also very little in the way of mass-produced goth clothing and accessories. If you were really lucky, you lived someplace that had a shop that stocked things from Bogey’s or Lip Service, and even then, you still hoped something passable might turn up at a mall store, you scavenged the thrift stores for vintage pieces, or you risked getting grounded for permanently staining the washing machine or bath tub with your black RIT dye experiments.
This question prompted the Lady of the Manners to dig out a bunch of her “goth history” books – Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace by Andi Harriman and Marloes Bontje, everything by the illustrious Mick Mercer (the book on The Batcave is especially great), and her stacks of vintage goth and alternative magazines – Ghastly, Bats and Red Velvet, Permission, Carpe Noctem, and Propaganda – and her vague hunch was confirmed. While the photos were predominantly of pale thin people (bah!), not everyone looked the same. You could immediately identify the people in the photos as goths, but they didn’t look like they came from the same mold from a spooky doll factory.
Candid photos ”” true candid photos ”” don’t seem as prevalent as they once were. Yes, cameras in every phone make it easier to capture a moment (and the Lady of the Manners is very VERY much in favor of that), but the flip side is that not only are people aware of what the flattering angles are for when there’s a camera aimed at them, but the ability to retake and retake photos until the “best one” starts becoming the norm. (The Lady of the Manners admits she’s fallen prey to this mindset, and has had to give herself a “three photos and no more” rule for taking selfies, else her own body image demons will drag themselves out of the murk of her brain.)
The Lady of the Manners acknowledges that she sounds very much like an old person railing at technology, and that’s not her intent. But she also feels that the charm of not knowing how a photo will turn out until you get the film developed has been set aside. Because people need to be documented in all their fragile and fallible states, not just in a perfect, FaceTuned presentation.
Which leads to Part the Second of this topic: the Lady of the Manners receives a lot of mail and messages from people who want to know if they can call themselves goth if they’re not “pretty enough”. That most of the goths they see online are thin and conventionally pretty, and the concerned person feels that they themselves are not.
The Lady of the Manners’ heart breaks every time she reads one of these; she also becomes very very angry. Goth isn’t about “pretty”. Goth is about finding beauty in darker ideas and themes – the music, the literature, the art, the fascinating things that can come from the passage of time and strongly-felt emotions. Goth is NOT about putting a layer of dramatic makeup, black lipstick, and perfect pointy nails on top of conventional and mainstream beauty standards.
This insidious notion of “you must be this attractive to be a goth” isn’t new. Back In The Day there were mean bats in the scene who would cattily tell people that they weren’t pretty enough, thin enough, their makeup or clothes were wrong, etc. to be a glorious creature of darkness. But the Lady of the Manners really does feel that this idea has become a poisonous, strangling vine around goth and again, it’s partially the fault of photo-based social media. Getting “likes” and complimentary comments on a photo of yourself makes your brain give you a jolt of dopamine, and you feel happy. And if you aren’t getting that dopamine rush while seeing someone else is? It doesn’t matter how aware you are of the biochemical mechanisms, it still hurts and grinds away at your self worth.
While the Lady of the Manners would like to comfort and assure each and every one of you that you ARE pretty, handsome, beautiful, and that true beauty is who you are, not how you look, she also knows that:
- Not all of you will believe her.
- “Pretty privilege” is a real thing. Society treats conventionally attractive people better than others. It’s unfair, but it exists. (If you’re interested in further reading about the concept, take a look at this article by Janet Mock.)
- A lot of the media around the goth subculture is still focused on the idea of Caucasian beauty, and that you must be oh-so-pale and light-skinned to be adored by other goths. Which isn’t true; there’s a vast world of BIPOC goths, but social media algorithms mean they’re not as likely to pop up in your feed.
Which comes right back to the Lady of the Manners being heartbroken and infuriated that people who would feel at home in our shadowy subculture think they won’t be accepted in it because of their looks.
So to hell with all that. Let’s bring back the “creature” in Creature of Darkness. Fuck flattering. Let’s all swamp our respective social media accounts with true photos of the goth subculture: we aren’t all thin, young, pretty (which mainstream culture genders as feminine presenting), white. We don’t all have perfect makeup, perfectly styled hair or wigs, and immaculate clothes from goth brands. We don’t have to be hot, we don’t have to be conventionally attractive. We have to be ourselves. Because being true to ourselves is an act of rebellion.
Talk to each other and the Lady of the Manners, Snarklings. Should we start a hashtag over on Twitter and IG for this? Because the Lady of the Manners promises to start posting more photos where she tries to avoid the trap of “is this flattering?” if the rest of you do, too. Let’s figure out a tag, promote the hell out of it, and support people who join in. The Lady of the Manners’ friend Rhias suggested the hashtag #thisisgoth (which the Lady of the Manners thinks is great), but brainstorming more ideas is GOOD.
The Lady of the Manners would REALLY like to see photos of goths who don’t fit the stereotypical gloom cookie mold: BIPOC, plus-size, older folks, trans*, non-binary, everyone. Let’s show the diversity in the subculture. That way the next time someone says they’re not pretty enough to join us in the gloom, we can point them to a tag and say “here we are, and you are welcome to lurk with us”.
Let’s have that conversation. Leave comments, drag other goths you know over here and have them comment. Please.
I love that you’re opening up this conversation. Thank you!
I’m glad you mentioned trans folks – not that I’d expect anything less from you. Most of us trans people aren’t conventionally pretty and a disproportionate number of us have found refuge in the goth scene to at least some degree. We need goth, and I would argue that goth needs us.
Maybe you already have the required hashtag in your post…#creatureofdarkness. That is what we all are afterall!
I am so on board with this!
As a poor, Mexican babybat I had issues with gatekeepers in the scene.
I couldn’t afford expensive makeup or boots and corsets bought online. My wardrobe consisted of altered thrift store finds. It was a treat when I was able to save and get something from Hot Topic, which of course lead to whispers of “poser”. Felt like I couldn’t win.
I also had a bit of a journey coming to terms with my tan skin. Feeling sad because I was never going to be the pale beauties I was seeing in Gothic Magazine.
I have an amazing, supportive, and encouraging mother who taught me to basically “ let the haters hate”, to be and love myself.
It wasn’t until I was older with my own money that I realized I actually really like my thrift goth look, that it’s unique and authentic.
There are still times though, especially now trying to be a part of the online community that I look at the goths I see online and get that same feeling from growing up that I just can’t win. They look so polished and put together and then I feel shabby.
So yeah I’m totally on board with supporting a hashtag to highlight more diversity in goth! I want other baby bats to know they’re not alone and gate keeping sucks!
I want to say thank you for reminding me of not just Gothic Charm School(my lil 13 year old bat self found you on youtube and I have to admit life made me forget about the joy Goth brings me) but also for reminding me WHY goth feels right! It’s not abput what others think is pretty! It’s not “nice”, I am learning it can be bright (looking at Pastel or Neon goths, man they really make their looks work in such a way that they are mesmerizing!), that it can be truly whatever you want it to be! As long as you are embracing yourself and lifting up folks who are different, because different is not ingherently bad, and acknowledging “my style of goth is X, and that persons is Y, and we both feel fantastic!”
So until I read up a bit and form some better thoughts/write a better reply, I want to just say:
Thank you! #thisisgoth sounds amazing! Do you think we could do a side by side pictures? In the sense of a “flattering” picture next to a non flattering one? The idea behind it is mostly the whole “ah yes as a romantic goth/royalty goth aestetic, this must be regal and mysterious only”… I say screw that! Silly goths! And not just romantic/royal goths, even the other goth pictures I see usualy fit the same kind of “attractive” expression mold.
(again, I want to form my thoughts better, so I will return once I brush up on my gothy knowledge, and sit infront of a computer screen to *really* pour out my thoughts… But I still wanted to add my two cents now, since this is important and well, it’s about time I get more involved with the community. Can’t stay in the basement of a mansion for my whole life, now can I haha)
As someone who came to the subculture later in life (15 yrs ago prior to that, massive metal head), this hurts. The thing that I really like about Goth is the idea that it didn’t matter who you are, what you look like, who you love, or how old you are, the bond is the attraction to the darker side. You cannot have light without dark, and vice versa, and to NOT acknowledge the darkness, not only in us but in the world around us, I feel, leaves us unfulfilled. I feel Goth is more than music, more than makeup, more than clothing. It’s taking an honest look at the world in all its ugliness, understanding it, and finding a way to handle it, without being overwhelmed. If that means wearing black from head to toe, so be it. If it means only wearing black lipstick and eyeshadow, great. There is no ‘one way’ to acknowledge the darker side.
I’ve always had trouble with this problem. I’m more Addams Family than MCR, more Deucalion than Vlad. And this has made it very difficult to fit in when it has felt, as far back as when people were arguing about whether Boston Ferns were sufficiently goth on alt.gothic.
Good day from a 40+ goth woman who also has been plus size her whole life. I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome in all facets of my life including my level of “gothness” and if I even qualify as a goth. As I’ve gotten older I realize that being a goth (as well as a nerd and Bi+) the only qualifications I need for self identity is myself. Gatekeepers are the WORST and will never keep me out of any fandom or from being a goth. I might not dress like a goth everyday and I might never have fit into the clothes at Hot Topic growing up but in my dark heart I always knew that I was a goth and that’s good enough for me. And it’s good enough for anyone else that wants to be a goth too.
(Linked to this post on my blog and Facebook, with the following comments. Figured I could leave ’em here, too.)
Co-signed (with the recognition that I am thin, white, and generally within conventional masculine beauty standards). I’m certainly not as young as I once was, never was much with makeup (simply never explored it) or styled hair (mine was far too curly and unruly), and aside from my more recently curated collection of kilts, never really pursued goth fashion beyond black t-shirts, black jeans or cargo shorts, and black Doc Martens or similar stompyboots.
There’s a lot more to the goth culture than what floats to the top of the algorithmically curated feeds. And you’re all “pretty enough” to be goth.
On the topic of “not pretty enough” to be goth–
Let me tell you, as another contentious ElderGoth, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AN INTERNET MODEL TO BE GOTH. When I was a wee bat, “internet models” were just becoming a thing. To be “someone” in the scene, there was a sense that you had to have professional photoshoots and qualify for Goth Babe of the Week.
In the years (um, decades) since, the rise of a camera in everyone’s pocket has absolutely had an impact on youth culture across the board, not just in goth. All you have to do is browse Sephora to see the expectation of being camera ready at all times.
But Instagram is a lie. You’re seeing one picture among dozens of takes, with controlled lighting, retouching, and all that jazz. Trust me, the problem is NOT that you “aren’t pretty enough.” The problem is that candid photos are no longer distinct from magazine covers.
It may seem ironic, as a goth, to tell people that they don’t have to wear All of the Makeup 24/7, but that’s the truth. You do you — if you want to spend an hour buffing your foundation to a camera-ready finish, have at it. But make sure you’re doing it because it’s FUN for you. When I go out, I don’t have professional makeup artist caliber makeup, I’m not shapewear’d to bejesus, and I don’t pose for photos, because I have shit to do and I’d rather spend my time enjoying it. And you know what? I get tons of compliments.
The point being, you won’t be punished if you aren’t up to IG code. Lots of times I’m tired and I just drop by in a t-shirt and jeans to see friends, and no one has a damn thing to say about my boring outfit. In some cases, I deliberately dress down just so I can be sure I only talk to people who really want to talk to ME, and not my outfit.
But in NYC, I find that that level of superficiality is actually a lot less common in the goth scene than in other scenes. Fanciness among goths is an opt-in, friendly competition. It’s not the price of admission. People know you’re worth more than your clothes.
I know it’s a cliche, but it’s 100% true that if you’re confident and you do what’s true to you, that’s worth more than anything. ElderGoths at social events aren’t judging you for not looking like a DollsKill model. They really aren’t. If you see us whispering in the shadows, we are probably talking about how cute you are and how we’re glad to see fresh blood. I can think of only a few Established Scene Folks in my area who are judgmental, and I assure you, the reason they have no friends outside of their cliques is because no one likes them. All of the DJs and promoters and band members I can think of, all we want is for the room to be full of people who sincerely want to be there. That’s it.
I only recently saw a Muslim goth wearing a hijab, and that is both sad and annoying. And here I need to tread carefully, because hijabi are not part of my culture, and I don’t mean to imply that they should Convert to our Better Western Ways, because that is both bullshit and racist of the highest degree.
But if *individuals* feel like they want to goth, we should be welcoming, and I think the creative co-mingling of cultures can only be good – if we’re neither gatekeeping nor appropriating.
We find asshats and gatekeepers everywhere, though.
And a celebration of the different ways fat or queer or biracial or other POC or corporate or pagan or xtian goths make the philosophy their own is the best way to encourage everyone. I know that the more non-stansardised-via-photoshop I see in media, the more I am reminded to step off my own built-in assumptions of beauty.
I hope that all made sense.
I love this. I consider myself a T-Shirt and Jeans Goth. I really like the early punky goth and romantic goth styles but don’t have time or energy to get all gothed up every day. I wear a mix of black or graphics Ts and black or faded jeans but still consider my self Goth. Goth is a love of and asthetic of the dark, spooky and macabre. Don’t be gate keeping tools let people like what they like.
Oh, and one thing I’ll add–
In recent years, as conversation around gender identity has opened up, I’ve had a lot of conversations with my ElderGoth friends about how we all gravitated to goth or punk as young’uns, in part, because it was a place that not only embraced but encouraged breaking gender norms. It gave us a place where we felt we could look however we wanted without being questioned.
Yes, there are gatekeepers, yes, there is plenty of conventional femmery in the goth scene, and being a Sexy Deth Chik is rewarded with a lot of social capital. But there is also a lot MORE. That is not true in too many scenes. But it is true for goth.
Whatever the gatekeepers try to do, they can’t stamp out the existence of everyone and everything else in the scene. There are always assholes, and there are always crabs in the bucket who want to hold you back. That’s just life. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. The rest of us are there, fighting the bastards and waiting for you to join us.
Definitely agree – the scene needs to work on uplifting the voices and faces that are all too many times left out and forgotten.
I’m uncertain though that a new hashtag is really the solution – I think there needs to be a direct effort to change, else we’ll just repeat the same issues under a new tag.
It might be better to really look at the content we are indulging in, promoting, and sharing: we need to make considerable effort to support and highlight BIPOC goths, queer goths, disabled goths, fat goths – really anyone outside the curated “skinny white goth” scene. And when we share and support these goths, we really need to *support* these goths. As in reporting users/blogs that actively comment/reblog with transphobia, homophobia, fatphobia, racism, etc etc and sending in positive vibes to combat the negativity. (Not just a callout post to those tearing us down, but working to remove them from the platform so we don’t have to deal with their bullshit again.)
A new hashtag sounds like a good idea, but if left unchecked we’re just gonna see the same thing happen, in my opinion. I’d much rather look at the #goth hashtag and see people who look like me (queer, trans, brown), than have to tack on another, new hashtag.
As someone beginning to take pride in what I call ‘lazy goth’ aka my uniform of dark colored graphic shirts, black jeans and stompy boots, I am here as a trans queer almost 30 year old goth who doesn’t stop being a goth just because I didn’t back tease my hair or paint my face that day (though I do love to do both when there are occasions to do so, which have been so few with the plague around us this year). Goth is in your *heart* first and foremost. You can wear as normal an outfit as you want. Or as outrageous as my choker made with real human finger bones. There’s a seat at my goth table for all of it.
A scruffygoth here, kind of penguin shaped due to lockdown lol and I couldn’t care less – or agree more 🙂 I love to see folks dressed up having a great time, but am generally too busy as an artist drawing on paper to worry about drawing my eyebrows back on. So I don’t except maybe twice a year for goth weekend. I’d love to see better representation online of everything that goth is.
“Let’s bring back the “creature” in Creature of Darkness.”
I got into goth long before I realized I was queer, but the prevalence of androgyny in the goth aesthetic is important to me, as well as the messiness and variety. The music, art, and literature are all over the place; the fashion should be, too. As you say in the post, goth is not and should not be a darker version of mainstream beauty standards. I like the idea of a hashtag for realistic goth looks.
I agree with Gothic-Punk-Haze’s comment above, in which they wrote:
“I’m uncertain though that a new hashtag is really the solution ”“ I think there needs to be a direct effort to change, else we’ll just repeat the same issues under a new tag.”
But I will add a gentle counter, that I don’t think Jilli expects a hashtag to be a solution. It is simply one tool of calling attention to the issue. The overarching problem, as I’m sure most of us realize, is endemic to western society at large. We can address it within the scene, but the problem will continue to exist for as long as society prizes retouched beauty and binary gender norms.
This is why I added to my first comment, that gatekeepers and the capital of conventional beauty absolutely exist in the goth scene, but they are not monolithic. It is a real obstacle that many, especially BabyBats, have to deal with, as they find their confident path in life. I think the goal is simply to be here for them and help them to see around the narrow assertion of gatekeepers.
Or to put it another way, the gatekeepers want you to believe that their gate is the only gate. But in the goth scene, they are simply a gate in a field without a fence. The fence is an illusion. You can just go around the gate. But only if you see through the illusion.
Abusers want you to brainwash you into their line of thinking so that they can maintain control over you, and there are a lot of abuse tactics in gatekeeping. It’s very easy to fall prey to their arguments, because they do everything possible to keep you in blinders. Flooding #goth and #thisisgoth hashtags may be one tool for keeping the field from being artificially narrowed. Because queer – trans – fat – BIPOC goths are all here, being real goths. That is a current reality. We just have to give ourselves the representation that we deserve, instead of relying on gatekeepers to include us.
At Auntie’s request, popping my hashtag suggestions in here.
#ThisIsGoth and #EverydayGoth were two that I thought especially fitting given the themes of the article.
(Also, some accessibility hashtag etiquette: Capitalize each word (as I did in my suggestions) so screen readers parse the separate words. If you don’t, they try to make one big bastard word out of your tag and it’s a big mess.)
Thank you, Auntie Jilly, I love that you’re taking the initiative to start this conversation, and I massively appreciate how vocal you are about supporting folks who need it.
A wee quibble on terminology: you don’t need the asterix on Trans (trans*). I know it was common and accepted for a long while, but trans really is just an adjective (trans, fat, short, non-binary, queer, etc.) and the asterix just sets it apart in a way that’s not necessary.
I’d like to second #creatureofdarkness as a hashtag, it’s simple, catchy, descriptive yet vague, and a phrase that’s already fairly common so easier to remember <3
“Not Pretty” ElderGoth checking in here — one reason I identified so strongly w/the goth subculture as a teen was that folks didn’t place a high emphasis on “pretty” so goth felt like a refuge from mainstream teen life where only ppl who looked a certain way were popular & cool & appreciated. The visual media I had Back in the Day was mostly music videos & of course those looked exotic & wild. DYI-ing your own version of gothic beauty was all we could do or ever wanted.
But today, yeah, social media is full of perfectly turned out pretty goths! There are endless Instagram influencers & YouTube stars & more filled with images of not just rockstars but supposedly folks in the scene who are incredibly made-up & coiffed & outfitted in the finest, fanciest of everything, all elaborately posed & lit from the best angles. These images aren’t aspirational, they’re intimidating! That’s not the goth community I know or want to be a part of.
I want to see the DIY goths, the jeans & T-shirt goths, the just-rolled-out-of-bed goths, the ElderGoths, the BabyBats, the BIPOC goths, the plus-size goths, the LGBTQ goths, the disabled goths, the goths on a budget, the PerkyGoths, the CorpGoths, & all the various & sundry imperfectly lovely goths we have in the world! You’re my people, I want to see all y’all!
And I’ll share my not-pretty self too, now we’ve got some more hashtags to add 🙂
I think about this often too. Especially as someone who presents femme I find the pressure to be pretty and attractive suffocating. It feels like the hot goth gf stereotype has just overtaken the goth aesthetic for femmes. And fuck that I wanna see more monsters.
The other comments have all said what I have to say about parade of photoshop skinny cis white able bodies thats so prevalent on social media. A hashtag would be a tool to collect images that counter that for sure. However, I do worry it might quickly circle back to the same old, as hashtags tend to.
I think its also worth reflecting on the loss of deliberately unpretty goth aesthetics and looks as well. I would love to see more ugly, rough around the edges and creature of the night looks from those of us who love to go big when we go out. Recently I’ve noticed myself feeling a weird pressure to look attractive for goth nights and that’s something I want to start challenging myself with.
Nyxxia Vale, as a Black Goth I can relate SO MUCH. I grew up (and still live in) a VERY poor and ghetto neighborhood (it’s the same neighborhood my parents grew up in). Growing up, I can remember being genuinely shocked when I finally met people who received “allowances”. Until then, I didn’t know that was an actual concept and realized I was different.
Growing up most Black kids have heard our Mothers say, “You live in MY house and eat MY food you gonna wear MY clothes!”. So for a long time I couldn’t dress how I wanted. Oh, how I dreamed of looking like the Goth girls I saw on Jeannie Nitro’s website! But I knew that was totally out of the question. When my Mother took my siblings and I to Montgomery Wards for school shopping I asked to go to Sanrio. My Mother obliged and I headed straight for Hot Topic. This is something I did every time my Mother took me and my siblings to the mall.
I would drool over brands like Lip Service, Funhouse, and Red Balls of London and secretly admire the cool Deathrocker girl folding shirts. I can remember my heart sinking as she watched me through coinslot eyes and the glamourous Vampy cashier’s gaze locking onto me as he struggled to keep from bursting into laughter.
It made me feel like I was too poor, too brown, and not pretty enough to be a Goth. I remember my friend at school (who was Alternative, plus sized, and Polynesian) teaching me how to make a t-shirt out of fishnet tights. Oh man, I was brimming with excitement the day I went to school wearing my homemade fishnet top under my plain black shirt (luckily my Mother was okay with it).
These days I still see this problem when at my local Goth club and see the photographers only taking photos of the “Beautiful-Thin-Pale-Chicks”. Meanwhile 99% of the people in the room are ignored. I can only imagine that the cycle is repeating as Baby Bats look at the club’s Facebook/Instagram page and think they’re going to walk into a room full of Goth Models.
So, heck yeah, I’m totally on board for that hashtag idea. I’m going to get a professional grade camera and start taking photos of your everyday people in the Goth scene. I want to show fat goths, goths with grey hair, Samoan goths, goths in wheelchairs, and beyond. I want someone to see these photos and say, “Wow, she/he looks like me!”.
I feel very much the same. The last time I said something like this I got told off, that I was wrong and I know I’m not goths come in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and hues.
So little of our cultural history has been documented no one has seen it all.
This is absolutely necessary. I am thin, and pale, and look ok. I am not a pretty, glam, Pinterest girl. I wear glasses. I don’t know how to look “right” no matter how many tutorials I watch. I fervently wish for all subcultures to post As Is pictures, so it’s inescapable to know what people really really look like, and you can relate. Pretty is so many things! It is inclusive of all. That’s the normal beauty I want to see everywhere. Please take the step to hammer the goth aesthetic with the Morning Star of real, fun, diverse beauty.
I want to shake the perception of the world to it’s foundations, to the roots of commerce. Let’s start here.
I am fat, in my mid-50’s, and my days of being traditionally attractive are behind me. That does not make me any less goth. I try to think of myself like a gothic mansion, large, fading into ruin, and full of spooky secrets. I admit that I have huge insecurities about how I look – but I’m pretty sure that those adorable, perfectly made-up girls on instagram have just as many, if not more.
Oh wow, this gave me flashbacks to the 80’s and 90’s where even in my
tiny little town, I wasn’t pretty enough OR goth enough to hang out with the other 6 goths in the vicinity, lol. I lurked outside the goth gate for many years, but was never allowed entry. I finally gave up. I will always love the spooky and dark, but gatekeepers are just too much for me. And now I’m old and my mohawk is brown, so whatever goth card I once had is definitely expired! ðŸ˜‚
Yes!!!!! All the yes to this!!! I turned 50 this last month,
I’m still a witch and I’m still a goth and I’m still a Fluffigoth to boot!
Aesthetics is a state of mind…and sadly
It’s all about algorithms.
I’m with you a zillion percent!!!
Thank you for this. As someone who was made to feel Most Unwelcome in their local scene because of my skin color and unconventional looks, it’s so nice to hear the message that goth is for everyone. I agree that the rise of social media has reinforced the tacky idea that goth is only for pale, white, thin, “conventionally attractive” feminine folks. As I mentioned in my own journal, there seems to be only one version of goth replicating itself all over the current internet, and that makes me both angry and sad.
But it won’t do, exactly, to just fume about it. We can and should push back against this idea. I love the idea of creating a hashtag (and immediately followed the two I saw on your Instagram this afternoon). The only way to fight the idea of a monolith is to showcase diversity, and I’m happy to participate in such an initiative!
I love “Let’s bring back the “creature” in Creature of Darkness. Fuck flattering.”
Should #CreatureofDarkness be the new tag?
I think there’s a Gothic meme about “I don’t want to be pretty; I want to be terrifying”, and I figure that’s supposed to have been the idea – that even when we’re made up and in fancy things and putting huge effort into our appearance, we’re aiming for something unnerving, undead, scary… that the accentuated cheekbones painted on grey and heavy black eye-makeup was to make us look ‘witchy’ or ‘vampiric’ the way those things meant before they were sanitised for the YA market. Yes, the vamp is an aspect of the vampire, but so is Nosferatu, and a witch doesn’t have to be seductive to be powerful; I’m all for embracing my inner bog-witch hag (especially living so close to the actual peat-bogs and open moors!).
I think part of the issue with social media is how the algorithm of who is most popular is self-perpetuating; if something gets lots of likes, it’s promoted. Second to that, a lot of people doing the ‘liking’ (or sharing, bookmarking, subscribing, commenting, etc.) aren’t necessarily members of the scene, they include people (mostly men) with a Goth fetish, so the conventionally attractive young women will get the most attention – and a lot of that attention isn’t positive, it is sexual harassment but the algorithm doesn’t care. However, the algorithm shows those same pictures to those who are into the ‘gothy’ hashtags because they themselves are Gothic as those who just want to oggle pretty girls in black. You then get a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of the idea that you have to be young, conventionally attractive and present yourself in a sexualised manner (not that this is bad, it’s just not everyone’s jam) to be Goth.
I definitely think that Goth is looking more homogenous, and I think in part this is due to very aggressive social media marketing strategies by certain brands that mostly specialise in a AHS:Coven or Sabrina-esque witchy Nu Goth look. I’m in a lot of Goth online groups where people bemoan they can’t afford the homewares (decorating groups) or clothing these brands promote, and I’m so glad to see a chorus of ‘thrift & DIY’ each time this comes up.
(Also, inversely there’s nothing wrong in making the effort every day – it doesn’t make you a poseur Goth just looking for Instagram likes because you find getting dressed up fun. People can be authentically fancy.)
Oh I’ve been looking forward to this post since I saw you mention it on Twitter.
Back when I was a wee little babybat of 12 falling in love with everything goth, one of the biggest draws was how it was finding beauty in things that most people didn’t. For example, one of the biggest goth symbols is spiders and spiderwebs. In the gothic view, spiders become elegant and misunderstood weavers, instead of a repellant crawlie. In the same vein we were, and still can be, the ones being shunned for liking “weird dark things”. So this idea of rejecting people for not fitting a narrow, mainstream propagated, mold of what goths “should” be in any way feels so much of an antithesis to the very core of what goth is, and especially to its roots in punk.
I feel like there definitely is a type of gothic beauty to be found in the fleeting, ephemeral nature of that type of “pretty”, sure. And I’m as human as anyone where I can get caught up in admiring it. But the way holding that up as an ideal that everyone should strive for, especially at the cost of wonderful things one has more naturally, has sunk it’s teeth into the community at large is, as you’ve addressed, very troubling. I definitely agree with the points made on Twitter by theweirdautumn and salamandrina73 on this being tied directly into the commodification and fetishization of ”˜the goth gf’ thing.
I think in addition to what was said about how the overarching culture can still affect a subculture, there is also the fact that few to no people are totally immune to marketing tactics. That’s what modern marketing tactics have been designed to DO. And one of the things that they do is lean in on those aspects of the overarching culture that they largely helped build to sell things, and then have applied it towards subcultures like goth in order to make it easier to get more money. Even when you’re on to the tactics, it can be really hard not to fall for it when it’s applied to something you already like. Sure it’s easy to tune out that image of a photoshopped body and face selling “MANLY MAN MANSNACKS FOR MEN” but it’s a lot harder not to when it’s fed to you with “Velvet and Lace batwings cape to swoop mysteriously through the foggy night in”. The lovely swoppy things are the spoonful of sugar that’s letting the marketing poison go down. Especially since historically we have not been a group much noticed by marketing people with no care for the actual community, now that it finally has hit us, we weren’t much braced for it.
I very much love all the tags #ThisIsGoth, #EverydayGoth, and #CreaturesOfDarkness as a start towards promoting our real selves and showcasing that the true community has a wide range of faces that are well outside the mold they are marketing to us. I’ll try to work up my nerve to post in them myself.
Thank you so much for writing this! I am 1000% on board!
Not feeling pretty enough to belong is really something I’ve struggled with all my life. I’ve ALWAYS felt out of place. The more I grew into myself, though, the more I realized my love for the beauty there is in darkness. I wasn’t able to wear all black as a teen (my father, with whom I had a difficult relationship, would have thrown a fit – and nearly did once because he noticed that I wore a lot of black tee shirts one week), but the mentality was still there. It was somewhat of an epiphany when I first realized that this is my “thing”. I came into the goth subculture quite late – in my late 20’s, in fact – and I have indeed questioned several times if I really belong. (The answer was always yes, but imposter syndrome is a foul beast.)
Now I’ve just passed my 31st birthday, and quarantine has simultaneously wreaked havoc on my mental health and also helped me pack on rather a lot of weight. I’ve been feeling rather less than pretty lately. (I do have a mostly conventionally attractive face, but there is quite a bit more of me than there was at the beginning of the year, and I admit that I’ve been feeling self-conscious over it.) My hair needs to be trimmed and re-dyed, my eyebrows are in desperate need of grooming, and just this week I wore some eyeliner for the first time since May.
None of this makes me less goth.
I just posted a photo of myself on my Instagram sans makeup and in my pajamas with my faded hair. It’s the first picture I’ve uploaded. I’ll not shy away from it.
As a dark-skinned Creature of the Night, that’s always in the back of my head. “Am I pretty enough to be a Goth?” I’m in my early thirties and I’m much too old to feel that insecure, but still…
Corporations that market themselves as “alternative” when they’re run by people who wouldn’t be caught dead dressing like us, mass media and *especially* social media are responsible, once again, for unattainable beauty standards. It’s disgusting. I give some props to companies like Killstar for featuring more diverse models, but it’s time we stop giving them too much credit for defining our subculture.
Also, don’t forget that Goth is equal parts aesthetic + MUSIC. Notice that the musical aspect is barely mentioned anymore when it comes to the Goth lifestyle and that’s tragic. I’d rather spend thousands of dollars on concert tickets, music festivals and clubs, than on overpriced “uber-Goth” clothing made in a sweat shop.
(PS…please buy from small, alternative businesses run by people like us.)
I turned 40 this year, and upon close examination came to realize that there are very few eldergoths on social media that I can relate to for gothic style and makeup inspiration. There’s a few well known goth youtubers, bloggers and IG models that are 40+, but mostly it is teens and early 20s. While I think welcoming babybats is important, it is unfortunate that we lack more equal representation in online spaces.
I never felt that goth had anything to do with being pretty or always being made-up but unfortunately, 99% of pics social media are heavily edited and perfectly posed. It makes me sad for the younger ones who come into the scene with so much more pressure to be aesthetically perfect. There are times when “imposter syndrome” rears its ugly head, but then I listen to my records and remember that this is what I love most about the scene-the MUSIC.
Thank you for this. I remember being 18 and feeling like I ‘couldn’t’ enter goth spaces, because I’d be judged by a horde of snobby eldergoths for this or that (Gothic Charm School, I’m pleased to say, was one of the few online spaces that made me feel less anxious).
I got over it when I went to university, found the local goth scene, and realised there weren’t actually gatekeepers hiding behind every tree. But I remember what that insecurity was like, and the things I’ve seen younger people saying online in recent years suggest that the pressure is getting worse. “Can I be a goth if I’m not white”, “I’d like to be a goth but I hate wearing makeup”- it’s honestly heartbreaking, how many people feel like they have to attain this impossible aesthetic just to be allowed in the door.
I’ve also noticed a trend at goth/industrial festivals of photographers ignoring 95% of the (35+, chubby, casually dressed, not conventionally gorgeous etc) people there in favour of a small number of immaculate, elaborately dressed, skinny young white people. This small number of people then get to be the face of the festival, assumed by onlookers to be the default attendant. It drives me mad, because it completely erases the diversity of the scene.
So yes, I’m massively in favour of an active effort to show people that they do not have to be ‘beautiful’ or look a certain way to join us. It’s long overdue.
As a plain jane pudgy elder goth age 66 thank you for this. I am a minimalist goth who prefers black loose fitting cargo pants and black tee shirts to all the fancy dresses I see online. paired with gothic jewelry, nothing too fancy. Just a skull pendant or “vampire” rosary I made etc.
I have been forced to stop wearing makeup due to allergies.. sigh…
The worse thing I have personally been told is that I HAVE to like Gothic Music to be goth. I do not like music most of the time and prefer Thunderstorm soundscapes over any style music.
I started crying reading this post and all the comments. All I can say is thank you.
I got kind of sad reading this post. Back in the day I was really into the literature and music and dressed in a way that was loosely goth because I was a broke kid.
I can afford to pick my own clothes now, but I haven’t dressed even remotely goth for years even though I still love the style. A big part of it was realizing that I “didn’t have the face for the style” – I’m Chinese – and phasing into a more normal way of dressing. I was starting university and wanted to feel “more adult”, so I learned how to do natural makeup and put away the long skirts and dark lipstick.
I still like to visit my old favorite goth blogs and websites to indulge in nostalgia. I still wear some of my favorite accessories from le goth days with “normal” outfits though. I wonder if its too late to make a little return to the subculture.
I know this is an older post, but I found it (late) and felt compelled to reply because this is a topic that hits home with me, and hard!
I just turned 35 this past March. I have always been into ‘darker’ things, in the things I read, wrote, drew, played, listened to, and wore. For whatever reason, it just took me a long time to realize it.
In 2019, my New Year’s resolution was that that year would be the year I FINALLY made the conscious decision to curate my wardrobe to cater to the Corporate Goth aesthetic. I no longer purchased clothes in colours I didn’t like and would never wear because it was ‘in season.’ I donated a great deal of the clothes just taking space up in my closet to our local charity shop and reorganized what I already had that still ‘worked.’ I was very particular about what I bought clothes wise going forward: I wound up with an awful lot of black, purple, and grey. I bought raven skull shaped earrings, I bought gorgeous heels that I love with very subtle skull shapes embossed on them.
After two years, I can finally say I’m happy with my wardrobe for the first time in my LIFE (yes, my LIFE). I worried a lot about what my coworkers would think of me given that I’ve always dressed pretty conservatively at the office, and then I realized so long as I wasn’t breaking any dress codes, who cared what they thought? It’s always been in me, it’s just taken years to come out. This is me.
But, I am a larger girl, and so a lot of the stuff I would love to wear just doesn’t come in the sizes I need, and I do still often wonder if people see me wearing my skull leggings or whatever and think “WOW, that chick is WAYYYY too old/big for that outfit!” I wonder sometimes if I’m ‘goth enough.’
I just want to say this post has helped me a lot and I appreciate both it and all the comments on it. You guys have a wonderful community here and I look forward to reading more!