Pin It
Rave Ethics
Courtesy of Catherine Hilgers

The zine teaching people how to rave safely and ethically

This international zine works to create safer spaces, encourage responsible drug use and call out the dickheads who threaten great clubbing

Clubbing is endangered: we’ve seen nights for marginalised people targeted in the Orlando shootings, spurred on for hatred of the LGBT community. We’ve witnessed the erosion and ridicule of safe spaces, threatening how minorities rave, and our governments threaten the most important cultural institutions with closure. But Rave Ethics is a zine that’s setting out the guidelines for something we could all contribute to, with safe, ethical raving: because after all, safe spaces make better parties.

Rave Ethics was born from the want to celebrate, as well as the need criticise. Clubbing, as many of us know, provides the opportunity to socialise, and find one’s own identity among sweaty bodies on a sticky dancefloor, to one syncopated beat. Nevertheless, the clubbing enclave isn’t always smooth, good vibes. Netherlands-based editor Catherine Hilgers explains what influenced the zine’s creation: “It was inspired by the good raves: comfortable, free to dance, looking at the smiling faces of my friends with their eyes closed around me, euphoria; and it was made urgent by the bad raves: disrespectful behaviour on the dancefloor, groping, bad drugs with unknowledgeable and messy drug-takers – or worse, drunks – commercialism, boring ‘stacked lineups’, out of touch white male DJs, promoters, and club owners.”

The zine was originally inspired by a quote from Oprah – maybe the most non-clubby cultural figure out there: “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into the space”.

“We took control of how we're represented and made ourselves heard in a scene that often gives us little say but still expects us to show up and dance” – Catherine Hilgers

It really reflects how I want to approach and how I want others to approach a rave: carefully,” says Hilgers. “Raves aren't just a place to forget yourself, they can also be community, culture, home, family, and an introduction to alternative or anti-capitalist lifestyles. They can be instruments of tangible social change! To produce any effect, raves have to be a place where everyone – women, queer and trans people, PoCs – can feel comfortable, relaxed, and above all respected. I wanted to make something to reflect this.”

Though not overly familiar with the culture surrounding zines, it was a medium that afforded the message something that was shareable and portable. And with just the title, Rave Ethics, to riff off, Hilgers invited a team of mostly women contributors to interpret it for themselves. I think it's meaningful that in making this zine we took control of how we're represented and made ourselves heard in a scene that often gives us little say but still expects us to show up and dance,” she explains.

Rave Ethics explores behaviour in the club environment, and the factions that surround rave culture: drugs, incidents of harassment and personal safety all being taken into account in its pages. Contributor Anabasine explains that, because a blind eye tends to be turned towards the subject of drugs in the club, there's a serious lack of safety measures and general misinformation.

“In the spirit of harm reduction – and sure, also the spirit of valuable and fun experiences – it seems that just opening up a few topics, to think about inside the complex, highly subjective, and personal world of drugs is one idea to hopefully start a bit more open communication between friends or strangers about these things,” says Anabasine. Exploring the parallels of drugs and raving, the guildelines are a “conceptual strategy”, made up of thoughts along with important resources for people to educate themselves.

Anabasine continues: “Somehow talking about drugs is a lot like talking about ourselves, as we wonder about or notice things being different than ‘normal’ and react to and ponder on that. At raves, there’s a looseness to experimenting with new versions of things, of experience, of self, dance, sound, light… there will never be a one size fits all approach to anything.

“Sharing whatever knowledge we have with those around us, not only about drugs, but about things we think we’ve learned from being in these environments is the sweetest way to support dance communities and keep each other safe.”

A hugely important aspect of the zine is the concept of the safe space; what’s threatening it, who benefits from it, how we can protect it. Éliane Thivierge, the author of the ‘Safe Spaces Make Better Parties’ section who's based in Montreal, defines it as somewhere “where no one would have to spend energy protecting themselves or others from any attack, intrusion or disrespect coming from others”.

“Sharing whatever knowledge we have with those around us is the sweetest way to support dance communities and keep each other safe” – Anabasine

“They articulate themselves around a culture of caring, listening and respecting other people. Some people prefer the saying ‘safer spaces’, since the ‘safe space’ is mostly a common goal for a community to work towards to, while acknowledging that it will never be perfect.” The concept of a ‘safer space’ should make an effort to be free of transphobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist conducts and promote the inclusivity of minorities. Thivierge continues: “I see safer spaces as an opportunity for people who have to justify their existence everyday to finally take a break and focus on other things, like dancing or learning code or talking about their feelings.”

Thivierge asserts that every participant in club culture has a responsibility. Rave Ethics calls out the lax club promoter who’s letting things slip, or the imposing guy who doesn’t understand personal space with the ‘How to Hit on a Girl’ segment. Personal perspectives also make the reachable reality of the safe space something we should all strive for, as clubbers detail “I can’t close my eyes while I’m dancing” and “I quit parties way before I wanted to”.

“In the context of a rave, people on the dancefloor should try to establish a clear communication with the people they are hitting on to make sure they’re comfortable with what’s happening. I also think that organisers have a great impact on what the experience they create will feel like and they should be held accountable for that,” she continues. Whether this is challenging oppressive behaviours with Facebook event descriptions, posters on the walls, sensibilising staff or putting more women in positions of power. Thivierge observes: “It really is a matter of collectively asking ourselves: What can I do to help?”

Since the zine’s release, responses have been positive. Inspired by the Antisexismus techno Berlin collective, meetings among the electronic music scene with women and non-binary people in Montreal are planned to discuss and establish guidelines for local promoters and clubs, to encourage safer clubbing. Hilgers says that women in Brazil have expressed interest in translating the zine into Portuguese to see it distributed there, as well as a local university’s sexual assault campaign. Sparking a hugely important conversation, the dialogue is far from over. Hilgers explains the direction of their second issue: “I want to go more into the influence of rave spaces, the effect of representation in the music itself, and how to change the negative attitude of the general public toward raves and healthy nightlife. There is a lot more to say!”