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About a week ago, a band played a gig in a pub here in Gothenburg, Sweden. This in not particularly shocking, considering that bands, gigs and pubs are a rather common occurrence here. People pay to see musicians play onstage. What happens is that musicians play and people listen. The musicians play such instruments as guitar, bass and drums. The music tends to be rather loud, and people jump around in a funny way and move their bodies to the music. It might get a bit sweaty at times. It might get a bit chaotic. This is all rather normal and it’s expected when a band plays onstage. It’s called “rock’n’roll”, and it’s been around a few years. It’s a bit wild, it’s a bit naughty, it’s often also kinda angry.

99.9% of rock’n’roll gigs in Western democracies do not end up in musicians and members of the public being dragged out of the venue by personnel and questioned or arrested by the police.

But, about a week ago, this very scenario actually happened. The gig was interrupted, chaos ensued, police were called. First, one of the musicians was forcibly dragged offstage, followed by some individuals in the public. What the hell happened? Did the naughty rock’n’roll rascals rebel against the non-smoking law and light up a ciggie? Or did they perhaps do something more sinister? Tell a politically incorrect joke? Worship Satan? Strangle an innocent bat?

No. On this particular night, none of the regular rock’n’roll sins was in fact committed. What dark and evil sin could have resulted in chaos, confusion, violence and no less than four (4) police units rushing off to the little pub to round up the suspects?

Well, one of the band members got sweaty.

So she took off her T shirt.

She chose to take off her T shirt and stand onstage with her breasts exposed.

Some individuals in the audience then followed suit.

First, the musician was dragged off the stage by the personnel.

Then, some (note: some) of the topless individuals in the audience were dragged off the venue. Can you guess which individuals?

I’ve been to a few gigs in my life time; I’ve never once seen a male band or male audience members being dragged off the venue for daring to expose their upper body. In actual fact, sweaty male upper bodies are a rather common sight at rock gigs. The only time one tends to see female breasts at rock gigs is when someone from the stage yells “show us your tits honey”, and someone in the audience meekly obeys.

But, when women take off their clothes not as sexual objects but instead as active subjects (and sweaty individuals), and female nakedness is presented not as an erotic aesthetic but as an individual right, when women are women by women’s own terms, the misogynist society reacts with anger, nervousness and ridicule. In the case of the now infamous gig about a week ago here in Gothenburg, the pub in question reacted by wanting to stop the terrible female nakedness by not only manhandling the musicians and the audience members, but by calling the police. In the media aftermath, some people defended the pub by referring to “common decency” and the fact that when it comes to women, “it’s just not the same thing.” Funnily enough, the same people do not say a word about decency when the topless woman onstage happens to be a stripper. In fact, the pub in question, the pub which so courageously fought to save their clientele from female nakedness and indecency, actually held a strip night only a few days after the chaotic evening. Needless to say, the strippers were female.

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “… when woman is given to man as his property, he demands that her body shall appear as pure facticity. Her body is not considered as something which emanates subjectivity, but rather as a thing embedded in its immanence; this body is not allowed to give its surroundings an impression that it might be something other than a promise of itself: it has to consolidate this demand.”

Unfortunately, even in 2014 Sweden, de Beauvoir’s words are as relevant as ever. In the 21st century Western democracy, when the female body refuses to consolidate the demand of patriarchy, it gets dragged off stage.

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Sources:

Article in GP (Göteborgs-Posten) (in Swedish): http://www.gp.se/nyheter/goteborg/1.2366828-bara-brost-stangde-goteborgskrog

Article by Kajsa Poidnak describing the events (in Swedish): http://www.svt.se/opinion/nar-kvinnokroppen-sjalvmant-star-naken-kommer-polisen

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