Through this book, I have learned a lot about the movement called straight edge (sXe), which, on its surface, presents a curious mix of punk rock and abstaining from common unhealthy habits. After the initial dissonance had passed, I understood that there was more to this movement than meets the eye. In this paper, I will describe what parts of the book genuinely piqued my interest.
First of all, the origin of this movement appears as the next stage in being a true punk. Not only do straight edge punks show disdain towards pressure from society, but they also fight against the same pressure stemming from within their original subculture (Haenfler 7). However, their rebellion does not end on the refusal of drugs and unhinged sexual behavior. Straight edge punks often show strong support towards activism and progressive views (Haenfler 52). I think that this willingness to oppose core flaws within society is what is truly important about this movement.
After reading this book, I started to wonder how music, abstinence, and striving for social change may be linked. All these topics are expressions of one’s values and a way to share them with others through activism, as well as setting a personal example. The author argues that social activism is only a logical continuation of a sXe take on life (Haenfler 59). This mature approach to deep societal flaws among punk communities is surprising, especially considering that there are many adults who were sXers during their youth and still live by sXe ideals (Haenfler 151). This deep-seated commitment to positive values is what truly defines a subculture worth getting into.
In conclusion, sXe is a movement that is a complex response to emotional and physical pressure within punk communities that punks were trying to escape in the first place. This culture and its history show that sXe punks may appear as opposing society, yet they are fighting for its betterment. Their refusal to succumb to earthly pleasures is not a limitation but a form of expression of their freedoms.
Haenfler, Ross. Straight Edge: Clean-living Youth, Hardcore Punk, and Social Change. Rutgers UP, 2006.