Battle of the Milks; Or, How To Keep Your PR Crisis Off the Internet

“Everyone’s right and no one is sorry. That’s the start and the end of the story.”

You guys, get your Sunday-best pitchforks out and shine them up real nice, because have I got a story for you! This story has EVERYTHING: fighting! Betrayal! Women on the edge! MEN on the edge, even! Gather round for the public execution you’ve been waiting for.

Oh, also, ATTENTION SCROLLERS: there are no shows listed today because our music scene needs a good talking to. 

During the late hours of Saturday, March 25th, something happened at the music venue Empire. I was at Empire when this thing happened, but I didn’t see it - I was busy enjoying An Anderson and Johnny Cremains. The details of the story have been HOTLY DEBATED on the internet, but we’ll get into that in a moment. For now, it’s enough to know that a Local Woman entered the single stall restroom marked with a “Men” sign, was confronted by a Male Bouncer for using the "wrong" bathroom, **SOME STUFF THAT IS UNCLEAR HAPPENED** and then Male Bouncer used physical force to remove Local Woman from the venue.

How you feel about the above is going to depend, I suspect, heavily upon your politics and your age.

If you’re a younger liberal, socialist, progressive or any left-leaning thinker with a feminist bent, you probably got upset reading that the man used force on the woman, and you also probably feel that bathrooms should either be ungendered and/or available to be used by anyone who feels comfortable using the bathroom of that gender. 

And you’d be right if you thought that.

If you’re older and more of a right-wing thinker or, in general, a man who hasn’t really been exposed to much feminist narrative in a way that’s relatable to you, you probably feel that a venue is private property and can be run any way the business feels it should be run, bathrooms included, and that if a patron is violating your company policies, then that patron should be removed from the premises - with the use of non-violent and non-injurious force if the patron refuses to leave.

And you’d also be right if you thought that.

And this is where things glitch out in the American Psyche. In this moment, in 2017 in the United States, if A exists, then B cannot, and vice versa. But this kind of thinking is about as logical and useful as saying “if cow’s milk exists, then almond milk cannot.” The old school thinker, the cow’s milk drinker, he’s like, “ALMOND MILK ISN’T EVEN REALLY MILK IT’S A DISGUSTING WATERY FAKE BEVERAGE FOR HIPPIES AND COFFEE TASTES LIKE SHIT WITH FUCKING ALMOND MILK IN IT” and the almond milk drinker is like, “COW’S MILK IS UNHEALTHY AND CAUSES ACNE AND MOST OF THE POPULATION IS ALLERGIC TO DAIRY ANYWAY BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONLY MAMMALS WHO DRINK THE MILK OF ANOTHER MAMMAL ON PURPOSE, ALSO: PUS.”

And, of course, if you’re “woke” and have read things about the dairy industry, you’d know that the almond milk person is right, but then also because tastebuds and tradition exist and hippies are often vegans but are also ridiculous about so many other things, you’d also know that the cow’s milk person is ALSO RIGHT. And you could make a choice that works for you while also acknowledging that both opinions have truth to them. And, hopefully, you’d get respect for your choice, and you could then respect the choices of others, even if they’re not the same as your choices.

But if you take that debate to the Internet? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got doxxed and had death threats levied against them if you dared discuss such a thing on twitter or reddit. We want to be right SO BADLY, we are so addicted to the self-righteousness and schadenfreude of being RIGHT and GOOD on the internet, that we will absolutely pursue that correctness and rightness at the expense of logic, at the expense of reality and truth, and, ultimately, at the expense of one another and often our own emotional health.

You know, like the president does! What a role model!

In the aftermath of the Incident at Empire on Saturday night, Local Woman and Local Woman’s Husband took to Facebook to complain about what had happened. Many of their friends came out of the woodwork to support Local Woman, and both Local Woman and her Husband called for Empire to apologize and do something about pointless bathroom gender enforcement and the use of what was identified as excessive force. This is totally reasonable customer behavior, by the way - the fact that we live in a small town and everyone knows each other doesn't change that. Anyway, things really picked up steam, because Local Woman is popular, and she and her Husband are/were in popular bands, and people like them and either want to support them or align themselves with them publicly.  

And I hate to say it, but if it were me? If I were Local Woman (I’m not, for anyone wondering - this story is actually about someone else but I don’t have her consent to use her name)? My ego would have been hurt. Hey man! I’m in a fucking righteous rock band! I’ve (probably?) played here a few times! You can’t do this to ME. The hit your emotions take in moments like these is huge. But also as a person who has experienced violence perpetrated upon me in a public place, I would have been very frightened to have been confronted by a bouncer. Scared to death.  

At this point, the folks at Empire should have had a meeting to inform owners/upper management about what had happened, and then made a plan to make good with Local Woman - issue a legitimate and heartfelt apology, implement disciplinary action on Male Bouncer, and, if I were in charge, Local Woman would have gotten free admission to any non-sold out show for a year. It doesn’t matter if Local Woman was right or wrong or any combination thereof. You have to assume that Local Woman isn’t lying and that the situation happened. Any “investigation” into the whole thing takes place with Male Bouncer ONLY, internally, to see how severe the disciplinary action needs to be.

But instead, Venue Manager started posting security footage videos and refuting Local Woman’s story on Facebook, and things really went downhill from there. BECAUSE WHY WOULDN’T THEY GO DOWNHILL? This is fucking 2017, a post-Gamergate, post-Bill Cosby, post-Brock Turner world. Have we not been here already? Are we STILL publicly questioning women about their own violent attacks? Even if Venue Manager knew for a fact that Local Woman had not been confronted or touched by the bouncer (he couldn't have, at that point), something happened to her and upset her. STAY OFF THE FUCKING INTERNET ABOUT YOUR REFUTATIONS AND "FACTS" JESUS GODDAM FUCKING CHRIST.

At this point, Venue Manager’s friends come out of THEIR respective woodworks to defend him, Male Bouncer and the venue itself, while friends of Local Woman come out in stronger and even greater force to refute what Venue Manager is saying, and people start getting fucking MEAN. Really, really mean. Everyone starts jumping to conclusions. Everyone start spewing vitriol, to the point at which Local Woman first changed her name on Facebook and took her photo down, and then deactivated her account entirely. The narrative was COMPLETELY taken out of her hands by the angry mob.  

Did you read any of the stuff on any of those posts? I was shocked to find that many of the men I encounter frequently on the mean streets of Portland are actually kind of alt-right Pepes when it comes to gender politics, though they’re hiding in plain sight in the clothing of a woke bae, or as they called them in my day, a “Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man.” And on the other spectrum, it was really upsetting to see people I had considered intelligent progressive folks lose the thread of the matter entirely, focusing on trans rights issues, which - while hugely important and I cannot even BELIEVE we still have to have a national discussion about treating trans people just like, you know, fucking PEOPLE - have nothing to do with what happened to Local Woman at Empire.

And then there were the fake feminist bros who decided it was incumbent upon them to message Empire about what happened, and then POST THEIR MESSAGES TO EMPIRE on their Facebook page. Like, “This is what I sent to Empire. This is unacceptable bla bla bla bla.” Ok bro, like, nobody is going to suck your dick as a prize for standing up for a woman. You want a cookie for your moral outrage about someone being a violent asshole? Get in line. It’s going to be a long wait.  

Look, do I believe something happened to Local Woman that was inappropriate at Empire? Absolutely - the way that Venue Manager handled the aftermath leads me to believe that his bouncers have never gone through one single fucking day of training on customer service or safety. Do I believe I know what really happened though? No, not at all. Things have gotten too out of hand. Our community saw a woman standing there with a nugget of truth in her hands, and we ran right up to her, kicked her over and started grabbing for any scrap of the nugget we could get and started running wild, none of us holding the full truth, and none of us remembering that this wasn’t about us. Like so many violences inflicted upon women, the woman became incidental to her own story as (mostly) men made grand proclamations about their Very Important Opinions on the matter. Nobody fucking cares about whether or not you’ll go to a venue again because you don’t like the way they treat women. You know how you prove that you won’t go there again? DON’T GO THERE AGAIN, EVER. Yes, even if Scissorfight or whoever your favorite band is is playing there. Just don't go. Stop talking. Do something for fucking once.

your ego: "ooohhhhh but I like the atteennnnntttioonnnn sooooo muccchhhhhhh....!!!!"

What struck me and truly, actually hurt me in my core was how vicious everyone was willing to be toward each other. We sit and judge and are shocked when violence happens in a public place like this, but what is less violent about fighting online? That there are no fists involved? That you can delete your comments and hope nobody remembers (someone always has screenshots, btw, so don't bother)?

That you can’t see anyone’s face when you say something so vitriolic that it makes them cry, so you don’t have to face how dark your behavior is in that moment?

This music scene is incredible, and I still believe that. I am still in awe of the talent that is here every time I go see something new. But it is NOT a supportive scene. There is so much jealousy and competition among musicians, bands and venues that it is actually hurting us, in real ways. Watching people get involved with the conversation in order to "take down" Empire was really disheartening. Isn't this the same scene that complains about a lack of good sized venues?  

I get so hurt when I overhear someone talking about my musician friends, making a snide remark that does nothing but create anger and hurt in the world. When you think of any of the truly great musical movements of the past 50 years, they were all driven by strong relationships and communities of musicians who played each other’s music, honored each other’s art - the room-sharing, freeballing revolution of 60’s folk and Americana, the working class muscle of Seattle in the 90’s, the groundbreaking (and ultimately, heartbreaking) collaboration and invention of east coast and west coast hip hop.

When we spend time tearing each other down instead of offering our compassion to each other (what we SHOULD have done for Local Woman, instead of heading off into the night with pitchforks to fight a battle she didn’t ask us to fight), we set ourselves back. We self-harm. We are not taking care of each other. And now, more than ever, with a world and a government that is actively trying to force us into poverty and suffering, we need to be there for each other. We need connection, it is actually killing our music scene that we are so fractured. We lose each other every day to drugs, anger, fights and unresolved differences. Why are we doing this to each other on top of all that?

We’re so fucking mean to each other all the fucking time. I hate it. I’m so bummed out about it. Aren't you sick of it? What can we even do about it? 

As far as Empire goes, Venue Manager fucked up, it’s true. Have you never fucked up? Royally? Oh, you’re perfect? I’m not. One time I drove a Volkswagen bus into a house while tripping on mushrooms and there were people in the car with me. What kind of a person does that? An asshole, yes, but a human person. I didn’t mean any harm, I just wasn’t thinking straight. And I suspect each of us has our own “drove a bus into a house” story. As for Bouncer, I mean, I would have fired him, straight up. Don’t touch people, douchebag, find a new line of work. And as for Local Woman, girl, it’s fucking scary being a woman out there, and like I said, I was victimized myself in the bathroom of a venue, so it’s possible for something bad to happen, and you did the right thing. Protect yourself.

Women, ALWAYS protect yourself no matter what anyone says. Remember: FUCK POLITENESS. FUCK THE RULES. FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE.

We only get a slice of the truth. Don't use it to cut people down. 

Look, I love you. I want you inside of me metaphorically, I told you that last week! How many times do i need to say it before you'll start believing it! Maybe it's because you've been burned, you've been dogged! But there is still a world of love and faith and compassion and it is available to us all whenever we want it! Just reach out! Hello? How are you? Have you been alright? Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights. That's what I'd say, I'd tell you everything if you'd pick up that telephoooonnnnneeee.