HOPE: Hey everyone! So we are here with Rose Rotunda, Devon Hannan, and Diana Buchert and they are the owners of the New Happiness, which is a new show house in Athens, and today we’re going to be talking about how we can make DIY and activist spaces more diverse, specifically with non-male acts, hiring non-male acts, booking non-male acts, having non-males in the space and making non-males feel more comfortable. And since everyone in this conversation is a non-male, we’re pretty qualified to talk about it. So how are y’all doin’ today?
ROSE: Doin’ pretty fine, also I wanted to say Maddie Eaton also lives with us, but she just wasn’t able to make it out today
H: Of course, of course
DEVON: I’m feelin’ peachy
H: So, how has the New Happiness been so far. I wasn’t here for the summer so how have the shows been?
ROSE: I mean we’ve been running shows so far in the summer in Athens, which is more of like a college town, so y’know they have been smaller than they would be for shows during the fall or spring semester, but they’ve always been pretty successful. We’ve been having a good time for sure.
H: So they’ve been pretty big shows, have you run into any problems? I know you went on that Facebook rant, Rose, a little bit earlier in the summer about going back to Akron spaces and realizing that there were how many acts? Like, 20 or something, and none of them or only a few featured non-cis-white males.
ROSE: Yeah, there were a lot of acts, and essentially it was the last show of this show space in Akron that has existed for quite a few years now. And of all of the acts, I think it was 14, there was, from what I saw, one female playing bass in one of the bands and one black male in another band, and then the rest of them were all white dudes. Which was just a terrible — well I guess I was gonna say a terrible representation of Akron’s DIY scene, but from my experience, a more realistic representation of that scene.
H: Yeah, and I guess that’s kind of the argument that like, racist, sexist misogynistic people use too. They say, “Well, where are we supposed to get these non-male, diverse acts when the majority of the scene is comprised of these people.” I mean where do you find them, I mean I guess you’re kind of dealing with that now. How are you going to book diverse shows?
DEVON: I think it’s fairly simple. It’s all a matter of just asking them if they want to play our space, and I think the key ingredient to doing that is simply searching for them. Like, sure they may not always come to you, but you as an activist should make the effort to include them in your shows.
ROSE: Yeah, I mean, Maddie, Diana, Devon and I have these conversations about who we want to occupy our spaces and who we allow to occupy our spaces, and that becomes our responsibility running a space. So, when you have mainly white males running spaces trying to act like it’s this really difficult thing to find male acts when we just started a show space and we’ve already been extremely successful in finding non-male acts, it’s just kinda like, don’t give me that bullshit.
DIANA: I forget who made this post but someone on facebook was just like, hey, comment all the non-male bands in Ohio you know of, and the list was endless. And I’m like, see people, this is not that hard to do, and I found some really cool bands from that list.
H: But now you also have to deal with making those people feel safe. I read in the comments over the summer there were some people who were commenting who weren’t sure how safe the environment would be — that’s a genuine concern. How should you advertise that, you can’t just ignore it. I mean, it’s a genuine thing.
ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, making our space safe for everyone is our number one priority, and just expressing that through social media is probably the best way of doing that, at least to make people feel comfortable coming to our show. And then at our show always just making it apparent that we are there to help anyone who needs help. And I also think that booking non-male acts is a good way of making people feel more comfortable.
DIANA: One thing I wanna point out is that we probably had this conversation, like, two nights ago, so this is very recent. We have these conversations a lot, because obviously it’s really important to keep up with. We were thinking about having a number or some kind of way to reach one of us if we can’t be reached in person. ‘Cause you know the show we just had was pretty packed, and so it’s really hard, right, if anything happens to get to someone. But I think that would be a really essential way for people to be able to realize that they are comfortable being in our space and if anything were to arise. And I’ve offered “Hey, come hang out in my room” at our space if you need to. Even if I barely know you, if that makes you comfortable, like, that’s fine. Like a little rescue, or not a rescue but a kind of escape area I guess? So people don’t have to leave or need a minute to calm down or whatever.
H: Do you think that, I mean there definitely need to be more non-males hosting shows, of course because that’s important to making non-males feel comfortable. I feel like if I were performing I’d trust a non-male far more than some random DIY guy. But how do you encourage people to come out of the woodwork, have you talked about that?
DEVON: I think it all just goes back to asking people. Like you were saying with these male run houses, they so often are pulling these other shitty white bands along, and they never extend that invitation to anybody else. So I think that’s, like you said, where it stems from, and I think giving our hand to somebody else and saying hey, we have a show space this is your platform to perform, say what you wanna say. It’s like “Oh woah, holy, I can actually do this here.” From experience from me, I don’t wanna say raised but I grew up in a hardcore scene, and I remember girls weren’t allowed in the pit, it was just super misogynist bullshit. And I remember I wanted to start a folk band out there and they were like, “Absolutely not.” And I was like, “Excuse me?” And they said “No you can’t do that, it wouldn’t work here.” So it was just so closed off!
ROSE: Yeah, and an important part to creating an inclusive space for non-males is hosting different genres of music. Because while we can all talk about Turnstile and Show Me the Body and other well-known hardcore acts as much as we want and as many times as we can book a bunch of hardcore dudes, it’s not gonna make the space inclusive enough. So, even diversity in genre of music can help create diversity and inclusiveness in terms of who it is that we allow into our space.
H: Oh hell yeah, I totally agree. And we won’t touch upon this here today because I wanna focus on non-males and misogyny in the space, but that also encourages, I think, more racial diversity and stuff.
DEVON: It totally does.
H: Yeah, it definitely does. I mean, listening to white boys sing punk music all the time does not.. it just … there needs to be more diversity overall. So have you guys gotten any shit while you’ve had this house just for being non-males?
EVERYONE: OHHHHHHHH!!!!! There it is!!!
ROSE: I mean, I had to say his name just once, y’know name drop it
H: Yeah, that’s okay … What was that like?
ROSE: Well, I’m not gonna say I have a thick skin, that’s a lie I’m pretty sensitive
H: You Cancer!
ROSE: Oh I know! I know right. Yeah, when you have shitty white dudes who have run spaces where other shitty white dudes play, and you have other white dudes complaining about how you run your space, it’s like, alright, great. Now we’re in an area where we’re more comfortable because we’ve been doing this. We’re experienced and running shows at least for a few months, now you’re telling us how to do it and how to run spaces. It’s like, I don’t care to listen to your opinion because I’m forced to listen to a dude’s opinion in every other aspect of my life … We’re always open to good criticism if we’re running our space in a way that isn’t inclusive or as inclusive as it could be. We always wanna hear that input, but if the input “Get over it, book more white dudes! Not enough white dudes are playing in Athens or anywhere!” you’re just wrong, that’s a dumb opinion.
H: I mean, I don’t wanna doubt that y’all could kick some butt if you needed to, but like, is that kind of scary that you know that there’s a bunch of dudes roaming around who don’t take you seriously or who don’t give a shit about your space or how diverse it is, y’know?
DIANA: I think for sure, as someone who wants to go into the music industry as a career anyway, this is a conversation I have a million times with — quick plug for my club, I’m the president of Women in the Music Industry — so we have these conversations a lot. And it’s just like, any kind of space that women wanna occupy music-related, guys are always so quick to doubt and quick to jump over you and go to someone else. And running a show space, where it’s like, there really aren’t rules to it, ‘cause it is DIY. It’s like, you do it as you want and form your rules around it, it’s scary that they can just, I don’t know. Maybe traditions with the male-run spaces for the most part that’s just kind of a traditional thing. Being an all non-male space though is really cool though that we’re able to do that and people are supportive of it. I mean, it is our house, and we’re all quick and ready to fight someone. I mean — whether physically or verbally — or just literally be like, this is OUR space. If someone tries to demean me in my space, they’re asking for a world of fury. Like, that is not gonna fly. Do you guys wanna expand on it?
DEVON: I think it’s more invalidating than anything else. While I also wanna go into the music industry, but in the journalism sphere, I understand that it’s also very male-dominated. I’m terrified of that. I’m like, shoot, I’m gonna live in a cardboard box maybe, I don’t know. And I’m being totally genuinely honest with you, I don’t know where I’m gonna end up after school … And maybe that’s not necessarily related to how I identify, and maybe that’s just the job field. However, yeah, running a space as a woman is fairly invalidating, but at the same time it’s also very empowering. Like, I’m running the space with three other awesome femmes, and maybe it’s ‘cause we’re running the space how we want to. But in recent history here, I think we’re doing a very, very good job in comparison to a lot of other spaces that I’ve occupied.
ROSE: Another thing that I always do, especially I did this at the last show because it was an awesome crowd, but it was an overwhelmingly large crowd. And so we had a lot of people coming in and out who we didn’t know. Fortunately, with our community we have a lot of non-males and PoC who run so many great spaces here and run different groups on campus and off campus. We do also have a lot of males and male presenting people who are willing to use their privilege, and that sort of, I don’t wanna use the word power —
H: No, power, they have power definitely, yeah.
ROSE: Yeah, they can use that power that they have to help us control those spaces because I’m not even five feet tall. I can talk all I want about beating someone up, but when it comes that chance, I’m probably not going to be able to. So going to people who are just bigger than me sometimes is comforting.
H: Yeah, I guess that’s another thing though, with male-dominated spaces do you ever feel like you get mansplained to by people who use their allyship as like, a tokenization of themselves? In your own space especially, when you are so aware of all of these things and you’re trying to keep people safe and it’s your responsibility to keep people safe and there’s people trying to explain to you what you already know. Devon you look like you have something to say …
DEVON: All the dang time! I don’t know, I’ve only been here for one show, but in that time we’ve had some mansplaining very recently about the complete aura over our space … It’s hard for me to talk about this without opening up even more dialogue that we maybe shouldn’t be having, but this person was fairly problematic in the space, so … And then there’s always, always men in spaces that are like, “Hey, you’re really hot. Give me your number.” I’ve had so many men that I’ve seen in the past, and I go on a Tinder date with them and they’re like “Hey, so you review albums or whatever.” They ditch me, meanwhile, they don’t think I’m cool or whatever. But a few weeks later they’re like, “Oh, my band put out this album, could you review it for me?” And I’m like, no, you dweeb-ass! Like, it’s not gonna happen! And I get a bunch of “Hey, can you book my band, my Soundcloud noise band, tee-hee-hee-hee. It’s really tight, you heard it in my basement.” I’m not gonna do it buddy, it’s done! Like, you screwed me over!
But those are the people who are performing too!
DEVON: Oh, they don’t perform in our spaces, that’s for sure!
DEVON: Oh, they do perform somewhere
ROSE: Somewhere that gimmick works, we don’t know where.
DIANA: The same thing happened to me. So I went to a house show in Cincinnati once, and I won’t say the artist’s name. But I went up to him afterward and was like “Hey, I really like your stuff, I’ve been a fan for awhile. I run a space in Athens, Ohio so if you’re comin’ through y’know, holla.” And we exchanged numbers and I texted him later just to say my name and my space again and he immediately followed that up with “You’re really cute” and then he followed that up with “Sorry I shouldn’t have said that.” And I was with my guy friends at the time and I was telling them like, guys this just happened what the hell is this. And there were all kind of laughing. And I was really pissed off and was like, this is not funny. I’m literally trying to do my job. It’s my job as a promotions person and a bookings person for this space and other spaces to be taken seriously, and that was super frustrating. It really irked me for awhile and I was like, dude, no, stop, no. And it was a really uncomfortable situation and he kept pushing it and was like, “I wanna hang out with you and see you,” and it was just this whole thing. It was really frustrating like, please don’t do that.
H: That’s gross and intimidating and invalidating. I guess it’s more insulting when you’re in a position of power and you have authority in your own home, and you know there’s still people who are going to be doing that. If there is somebody doing that, we’re talking a lot about how we’re going to keep this space safe or how y’all or going to keep the space safe, but I guess it is a community effort. But anywho, theoretically if somebody like this were in the space, how would you deal with that. If it were you how would you deal with it and if somebody else told you about a person, just some creepy dude, some creepy ass softboy was bothering somebody, how would you want to handle that in your space?
ROSE: Something that we really want to come across in our space is for people to feel comfortable to address issues themselves or if they see a situation happening to address that situation and feel comfortable kicking anyone out of our house who is being problematic. Because ultimately it shouldn’t rely on us as space owners just because we want people to feel empowered to address these issues. But with that being said, I think just making it apparent to everyone who runs the space, or like Diana was saying before having some way for people to contact us if they can’t find us and saying this person is being problematic. I always will and I can speak for Maddie, Diana and Devon that we are always willing to confront that issue however the person who’s coming to us with the situation wants us to handle it. So y’know we can make it as loud and dramatic as need be, or we can quietly remove a person from our space. There are multiple different ways that we can handle that situation.
DEVON: Ultimately, it’s all up to the victim, really. We do encourage better bystander things at our house like Rose was saying, but sometimes that’s very, very difficult. We don’t have to tiptoe around these situations by any means, but when the victim is involved we don’t want to put them through any more trauma. And unfortunately in … I guess our community and the community at large, there is backlash for victims who come out with assault stories or creepy dude stories. Let’s say this creepy soft boy was in the hierarchy of the DIY community like, very high up in the DIY community. It’s very intimidating for that victim to come forward, and unfortunately they are gonna have to deal with some of that backlash. While we don’t support that backlash and we will do whatever the victim wants us to do, we think that’s something they should consider.
ROSE: Then I think also kind of make us ask how we can better improve not just our space but better improve the community, because really, I mean, as many times as our community can preach about being inclusive and not tolerating sexism,sexual harassment, assault of any kind, while people can preach that as many times they want, it really shows how comfortable people are willing to confront those situations. Screw hierarchy anyway, but realistically there are people in our community who are sort of bigger voices in the community. If we’re concerned about that backlash, then what does that say about our community?
H: No, I totally get what you mean. Not to just paraphrase what you said, but to paraphrase what you said you just mean, like, why do we have people like that in our community period? Why do we idolize just people? I mean, all of us are creators and all of us are completely valid in the things that we perform, create, host, whatever. And the fact that there is a hierarchy and we all know it is concerning, and it perpetuates what we’re talking about. Like, that’s a big part of it because it perpetuates rape culture. Just having something where somebody feels like it’s a don’t-ask-don’t-tell situation just because the person who assaulted them is well-liked by the community. That’s such a gross feeling to have because you don’t wanna ruin anybody’s favorite person, y’know?
ROSE: Oh yeah, but also not dealing with that kind of shit at all. Dealing with rape apologists just like we would deal with rapists, trying our best not to allow that from the get-go.
H: What is the overall vibe that you wanna have at your house. If you were gonna sum it up in terms of what we talked about y’know, safety, happiness, I don’t know —
ROSE: A new kind of happiness!
DIANA: I would say hopefully inviting for new people. I remember I was very scared to get into the DIY scene ‘cause I, unlike these two lovely people, I didn’t know that the DIY scene existed until I came here freshman year, and even then I wasn’t really a part of it until sophomore year. And I remember how intimidating it was with everything we talked about earlier like, the male dominated spaces or the hierarchy or people not taking you seriously and all that … So I think comfort is number one, also the safety of people involved. Real good tunes, y’know? We’ve had synthpop bands come through, indiepop bands, we haven’t really had any hardcore stuff yet. We have a rap thing comin’ up, so that’ll be tight.
ROSE: Next show on September 9th. Stems, Queer Kevin it’s gonna be good.
That’s the day before my birthday. You’re gonna watch me turn 19, baby!
DEVON: I was gonna say, yeah, I am so stoked for that show! I’ve been stoked for this show all summer, I’m like, this one! Yeah if I could sum everything up, it would be that we try to radiate inclusivity and that sort of thing. As someone who also is trying to perform music as well, I would love to encourage incoming students and incoming members of the community to start makin’ bands. I think something that we have to keep in mind is that our house isn’t gonna be around forever. Who’s going to take over the scene when we’re gone? And who’s gonna keep making it better? So in that respect, we are kind of the breeding grounds for future DIY culture, which is super cool to think about. But we can never just rest and say like, “Alright, this is good. We’re content now.” We can never just be content with where we are.
ROSE: With the platform that we have now, running a space is being able to create conversation about other things. Making everyone feel comfortable, coming and hearing the music but maybe staying after, or, sticking around a lil’ bit and having conversations about other issues in our community and surrounding. Yeah, I don’t know, just using that platform that we have.
H: Okay, so , I think that about wraps things up! Thanks for listenin’ everyone who hopefully listens to this podcast in a week. But this has been great. I’m really glad we had this conversation. If you wanna comment or talk about this, have conversations about this conversation, everyone who is listening! This is not just something that is static and just here. It’s something that is always changing, and we want your input. We wanna know how we can make our spaces better, how everyone in this community can make the community better. That’s what we’re going for here with these podcasts. So, share, like, subscribe, all that jazz.
ROSE: Comment down below!
DIANA: Love reacts only!
ROSE: Gay reacts only!
DEVON: Thankful reacts only!
H: And with that, we are ollie outtie.