Smash It Dead Fest goes after rape culture

No joke
By LIZ PELLY  |  March 21, 2012

NON-EXCLUSIVE "It's not just something that happens in mainstream society, it happens everywhere," says Parasol singer and Smash It Dead organizing collective member Lily Richeson about the pervasiveness of "rape culture." 
Smash It Dead Fest happens this weekend in Allston and Cambridge, with three days of punk shows and feminist workshops to raise funds for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. The festival — now in its second year — kicks off on Friday night with two Allston house shows, followed by two daylong events at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square.

Although raising funds for BARCC is the primary goal of Smash It Dead Fest, in a broader context the festival aims to heighten awareness of the rape culture that pervades society — even in the world of DIY punk. That term "rape culture" refers to a social climate in which rape and sexual violence are not only common, but in which the mainstream media normalizes it through trivialization, objectification, and victim-blaming. Such an atmosphere is, in a sense, the pernicious offshoot of more garden variety sexism and objectification of women — from network television's lurid police procedurals to Rush Limbaugh's rantings about "sluts." The workshops at this year's Smash It Dead Fest cover issues that get down to the basics: consent and male privilege.

Smash It Dead wants to bring to light the need to be hyper-aware of fostering safe spaces everywhere — especially in the supportive DIY music-and-arts community.

"In a way a lot of our meetings have been consciousness raising sessions about how this stuff is affecting our community, specifically the DIY punk community," says Lily Richeson, a singer in local power-pop trio Parasol and a member of the collective organizing the festival. Her band plays the festival on Friday night. "And unfortunately most of the time it's not at its best. It's been really important for us to acknowledge that."

Smash It Dead wants to take the first steps towards making things better, by providing information and fostering dialogue.

"In a way we want to take Smash It Dead outside of this weekend and have it be this continuous idea that we talk about, smashing sexual assault and rape culture within our community," said Richeson. "Trying to have an accountability process going within our community. Being aware that it is something that happens in our community, unfortunately. It's not just something that happens in mainstream society, it happens everywhere."

The fest features more than 25 acts from Boston and beyond, bringing together a mix of punk, pop-punk, and hardcore. Some highlights include Parasol and New Brunswick, New Jersey, fuzz-punks Sparkle Shit on Friday night. Saturday's stacked line-up features Brooklyn pop-punk trio Aye Nako, local four-piece Foreign Objects, and eight others. Sunday's bill includes abrasive Allston punk from the Inhalers, DC's Sick Fix, local power-violence trio Curmudgeon, Western Mass hardcore from Ampere, and six more.

"I've been so proud of this group," said Richeson, of the collective organizers. "It's been really logistically hard, and also emotionally hard. . . . But I think it's really important that we're working through it. We're a group of people organizing a music festival and thinking about these things. When does this ever happen? It never happens."

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