Does My T-shirt Offend You? And…How to Handle an Unwanted Butt-Groping

My band likes to play this fun dive bar in the mountains.  The clientele is not the same as downtown Denver.  Perhaps a bit older, whiter, working classier, more male (malier?).  In general.  I get a strange feeling when loading in our gear.  It must be all the eyes.  We’re an all female band in a mountain bar, I get it.  So I just go about my business.  And I’ll say that most, the vast majority, are absolutely lovely and appreciative.  And I’ll write about those ones.  But first, the others.

When we played this bar a couple months ago, I was wearing my “Smash the Patriarchy” tank top, compliments of Girls Rock Denver.  After our first set, a man sought me out to tell me he loved our band.  In fact, we were the best band he had seen at this bar.  But he was worried that I was offending people with my clothing.  “I mean, smash the patriarchy….as a white male…that’s troubling,” and he went on to say that he is a ‘life coach’ by trade, and he didn’t want our band to lose support because people are offended.  To which I have so many things to say:

  1. A life coach?  Are you really??
  2. Patriarchy…I’m guessing perhaps we hold different definitions of this in our heads, which is the

    This bar patron LOVED us. And yes, he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. Can it still be true that music brings us together?

    real issue.

  3. I think if anyone is offended by my tank top…it’s best we split ways now and they don’t ever become fans of Skadi.  It’ll save time and heartache.
  4. Art, music, rock and roll…has always been political.  And I think it should.  Where can we comment on society if not through art?
  5. You’re too old to be offended by a t-shirt.
  6. You’re too white and male to feel this uncomfortable about a small woman in a t-shirt.  You’re ON TOP, buddy!  Act like it (and by this I mean put your energy into defending those without your unearned privilege, rather than complaining about that horribly violent word “smash” being applied to your strange idea of patriarchy).
  7. Please further research the concept of patriarchy and its oppressive connotations.

I didn’t say all this in the moment.  I think I replied with, “Some of us are offended by the idea of patriarchy,” and then had to go play another set.  

Addendum: On another set break, a second white male commented on my clothing.  “I love your shirt,” he said.  He was 15 or 20 years younger than the first guy.  I said, “Really?  Cause another white male was offended by it.” To which is furrowed his eyebrows and said, “No, it’s great.”  

And What Do I Do If A Man Touches My Ass At the Bar?

Short answer: Demand an explanation and stare him down until he’s thoroughly uncomfortable and so is his friend and they leave the bar almost immediately.

Long answer: Ask yourself if you really felt what you felt.  Go through options of reactions in your head.  Go sit down, only to notice the creep and his friend looking your way.  Oh, it definitely happened.  Ponder your options and how you will feel about each one once you’re back home at night:

We will remain in public. You’ll find us on stage. You still can’t touch us without permission.

Reaction A:  Ignore it.  It’s easier now, but I’ll feel like shit later, knowing he got away with it.  Also, what would my fellow ladies say?  I couldn’t be proud of this approach.

Reaction B:  Step 1: Go stare him down and ask, “Did you touch me?” while he produces an unconvincing dumb face and is squirming with discomfort.  Continue to barrage him with accusations and demanding explanations.  Step 2: Congratulate yourself and immediately forget this slime of a loser while you get on stage for a killer set.  Step 3: Watch the creep’s friend leave the bar immediately, followed by the creep a few minutes later (oh yeah, him…).  Step 4: Enjoy performing without a fat, gropy slug leering at you.  

Ah, I can sleep just fine at night with that outcome.  And I’m hoping he can’t…but who cares?  My stare-down at the bar adequately communicated to him: You touch young woman at bars who are not soliciting your attention.  You lie about it.  You are old and fat and touch women’s butts, then lie about it.  You are slime.

And I hope he goes home, thinks about it, repents, and starts treating woman like…like…human beings?  At least.  And maybe he takes it a step further and makes a friend who is female who he doesn’t try to touch.  And then maybe he reads some feminist literature.  And starts donating to Planned Parenthood.  And wearing “Smash the Patriarchy” t-shirts.  And attending Skadi shows, where he will admit his wrong-doing and explain how he has righted his ways and would like to work for free as our roadie in order to rectify his appalling ways.  

Or maybe he just doesn’t touch the next divine ass he sees at a bar.  

But hey, a girl can dream!


Erica Bisbey is a rock entrepreneur, jam enthusiast, musical provocateur, and founding member of Denver’s original jam/pop band, Skadi.  


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