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Straight Edge

Straight Edge: Hardcore Punk, Clean Living Youth, and Social Change

ROSS HAENFLER
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hj2jk
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj2jk
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  • Book Info
    Straight Edge
    Book Description:

    Straight edge is a clean-living youth movement that emerged from the punk rock subculture in the early 1980s. Its basic tenets promote a drug-free, tobacco-free, and sexually responsible lifestyle-tenets that, on the surface, seem counter to those typical of teenage rebellion. For many straight-edge kids, however, being clean and sober was (and still is) the ultimate expression of resistance-resistance to the consumerist and self-indulgent ethos that defines mainstream U.S. culture.

    In this first in-depth sociological analysis of the movement, Ross Haenfler follows the lives of dozens of straight-edge youths, showing how for these young men and women, and thousands of others worldwide, the adoption of the straight-edge doctrine as a way to better themselves evolved into a broader mission to improve the world in which they live. Straight edge used to signify a rejection of mind-altering substances and promiscuous sex, yet modern interpretations include a vegetarian (or vegan) diet and an increasing involvement in environmental and political issues.

    The narrative moves seamlessly between the author's personal experiences and theoretical concerns, including how members of subcultures define "resistance," the role of collective identity in social movements, how young men experience multiple masculinities in their quest to redefine manhood, and how young women establish their roles in subcultures. This book provides fresh perspectives on the meaning of resistance and identity in any subculture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3991-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. PREFACE & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  2. CHAPTER 1 STRAIGHT EDGE 101
    (pp. 1-31)

    In early 1989 I attended my first punk rock show with my best friend, Nate, and experienced a night that changed my life forever. The venue was an old cinderblock building at the county fairgrounds, and the bands included the Skrods, from Minnesota; PhantasmOrgasm, from Denver; and locals Painful X-tremities and Limbic Salad. The music was loud and harsh, the dancing was rough, but the entire evening was infused with a positive, supportive attitude. Nate and I “moshed” around the dance floor with the rest of the misfits, relishing every minute. When we fell, the other punks scooped us up,...

  3. CHAPTER 2 STRAIGHT EDGE CORE VALUES
    (pp. 32-57)

    In 1991 I saw Krishnacore band Shelter play in my hometown of Rapid City, SD. For a bunch of punk rock kids in a small Midwestern city this was an especially big event. Shelter was the newest project of singer Ray Cappo and guitarist Porcell, both formerly of Youth of Today and two of the most recognized names in sXe. The band emerged with tulasi bead necklaces and little ponytails (sikha), launching into their set with reckless abandon. Ray repeatedly leaped off the low stage and into the crowd, at times crawling over top the kids supporting him, while Porcell...

  4. CHAPTER 3 STRAIGHT EDGE AS A SOCIAL MOVEMENT
    (pp. 58-80)

    I first met Jenny at a student activist meeting shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when word had spread that the United States would begin bombing in Afghanistan. Jenny stood out from the other students—she had dyed her hair maroon and was wearing a studded leather belt, horn-rimmed glasses, tight pants, a bandana, and Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes. I immediately pegged her as part of an alternative music subculture—probably emo/indie rock, maybe punk, and possibly hardcore. The meeting broke into smaller affinity groups and I made sure I joined Jenny’s group. As we went around...

  5. CHAPTER 4 POSITIVITY VERSUS MILITANCY: STRUGGLES WITHIN THE SCENE
    (pp. 81-101)

    In July of 2001 I attended Hellfest,¹ an annual two-day hardcore music festival sponsored by Trustkill records and held in Syracuse, NY. The bill included dozens of bands, including popular sXe bands Ensign, Good Clean Fun, and Earth Crisis. Thousands of energetic fans attended the event, most from the United States but others from the U.K., Australia, and Mexico. Most were hardcore and sXe kids, though punks and metalheads had a strong presence as well. Some had stretched ears, long dreadlocks, or pierced nipples. An outsider passing by would probably have wondered if the roadside circus freak show had come...

  6. CHAPTER 5 MASCULINITY IN CONTRADICTION: THE TWO FACES OF STRAIGHT EDGE
    (pp. 102-131)

    On a wintry evening in early 2001, I did something I could have never imagined myself doing—I went to a “No Holds Barred” fighting competition, a sport that pits opponents against one another in a fight where virtually anything goes. Imagining a brutal contest with malicious fans screaming for blood, I was sure I would find the event repulsive. However, Kevin, the professional martial artist, was a contestant. My loyalty to him overcame my distaste for violence and I attended the event with a crew of a dozen or so sXe supporters. After freezing in line for what seemed...

  7. CHAPTER 6 GIRLS UNITED AND DIVIDED: WOMEN IN STRAIGHT EDGE
    (pp. 132-149)

    While I interviewed Megan in my campus office, she wept briefly as she described her struggles to feel included in the hardcore scene. Both her love of sXe and her frustrations with the scene ran deep; the interview served as a chance for her to express lingering emotions she’d kept concealed. As one of the few non-vegetarian sXers, she faced ongoing criticism from several vegan sXers whose teasing had become hurtful. “They’re all so righteous. You do one thing wrong, minor, that disagrees with their philosophy and you’re out…. Everything they do isthe way. I don’t agree with it...

  8. CHAPTER 7 LIFE AFTER SUBCULTURE: HOW OLDER STRAIGHT EDGERS REDEFINE COMMITMENT
    (pp. 150-167)

    In 2005 I briefly returned to Colorado and saw the Chicago band, the Haunted Life, play a skateboarding warehouse near downtown Denver, where skate punks flew up and down plywood ramps behind the band. At various points during the set, the singer, Matt, explained the songs’ significance, warning against the casual use of the “N” word, expressing frustration with sexual offenders, and encouraging the crowd to volunteer and mentor children. Each band member is sXe and vegetarian, including three who are at least thirty: Matt, a married, thirty-six-year-old social worker; Shariq, thirty, a married anesthesiologist; and drummer Chad, thirty-three and...

  9. CHAPTER 8 COMMERCIALIZATION, THE INTERNET, AND THE CULTIC MILIEU
    (pp. 168-187)

    When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine punk and hardcore bands making it big. Typical shows had fifty kids, and coloring your hair actually made youdangerousin the eyes of school administrators. Even if the mainstream had paid us any attention, we didn’t want it and we didn’t want other people to likeourmusic. Part of hardcore’s appeal was that members had a sense of ownership of the scene. The scene was small enough that it felt like a community; we believed we were part of an incredible underground secret society that most people had no idea...

  10. CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 188-217)

    I don’t think any of the original DC sXe kids could have imagined what sXe would eventually become, or even that it would still be around twenty-five years after its modest beginnings. Tens of thousands of kids from countries around the world have passed through the sXe ranks, assuring the movement’s place in the history of youth subcultures. Straight edge stretched the boundaries between subcultures and social movements, sharing characteristics of both. As Martin (2002) points out, neither subculture nor new social movement theories adequately explain the complexity of some forms of collective action. This study allows me to draw...

  11. A Timeline of Straight Edge Bands
    (pp. 218-220)