Montreal-based project takes a stand to improve safety and inclusivity in local party spaces
by Jessica Simps
Jessica Simps: How did PLURI start?
Éliane Thivierge: The idea first came to mind was when I was at a festival in Germany and I had just written this piece in Rave Ethics zine, and I had my notes, which were basically like my diary. This festival had open workshops you could just sign up to run, and I was like, I could do a workshop about sexual harassment on dance floors called 'How to flirt on a dance floor'.
Celeste Pimm: [PLURI] was about finding common ground. Pretty much all female and non-binary people, as well as individuals of different racial backgrounds, have had certain experiences [with harassment] . . .
Zoë Christmas: . . . whether they were electronic musicians or in the raver scene or would go to punk shows at [Montreal venue] Casa [del Popolo].
CP: For me, I’m a partygoer and a musician, and a lot of my friends work putting together parties. I’ve seen some of my guy friends who have a little less of a background in feminism accidentally exclude people firsthand. I know that they have good intentions, and they just needed somebody to make the connection for them.
ZC: It [was] important for the project to have a niche interest, not just 'anti-sexism' or 'anti-racism'. it started with the problems inside the electronic music scene.
JS: What does it feel like to be part of an initiative, to always have to be the face of the movement?
ET: In front of promoters, I totally understand the tension between the pressure to feel professional and accessible, but I think it’s good for our image to look human and accessible and flawed — it’s perfect. It’s really part of feminism, but I understand that feeling too, when standing in front of [promoters] . . .
ZC: . . . talking about making out or something (laughs).
ET: When I go dancing I wear crazy clothing and often end up not wearing much because it gets hot. When dancing, I can take up a lot of space.
JS: But that’s exactly the point of doing what you’re doing — so you can feel safe and prove that your nakedness doesn’t deny your right to be respected.
ET: Precisely the point, but you still feel that they may judge you for it.
JS: It’s hard being the naked one. When you’re out in public spaces, and you’re at that party and you’re on that dance floor and you take off your shirt because it’s sweaty, then it’s like, 'there she goes again!'
JS: Can you tell me about the emotional labour that goes into being a witness for women and queer people who are suffering trauma on the dance floor?
CP: We do get people messaging us, like, 'I’m at my wit's end, you guys are the only people I can think of to ask what to do right now. I’m really hurting, what should I do?' For me, I’m not a social worker so I don’t know how to help people with traumatic experiences, but Éliane is really great at supporting people with trauma experiences. It’s also a really important part of our platform to remain neutral and not interfere in personal conflict resolution. We take a preventative approach to harm reduction in events, rather than mediating crises after they’ve happened.
ET: It’s so important in these kinds of things to recognize our limits.
JS: What do you hope to move towards?
ZC: One of our projects is to come up with an information package for bars and DIY spaces, adapting them venue to venue, to train staff and management on how to prevent, identify, and intervene in harassment for people who are at risk — but also, to proactively take notice of harassment, assault, and aggression. it’s subtle sometimes.
ZC: Celeste and Éliane, do you want to talk about your dynamic?
ET: When we talk in front of people, I tend to have the voice of the queer and the women in my head, and Celeste thinks of how the structures work . . .
CP: . . . who needs to implement what and how to make it work and who we have to be nice to.
ET: Exactly! She’s much more well-equipped than I am for that, and this combination makes promoters feel represented as well.
CP: We have our good cop, bad cop.
ET: I feel much more comfortable being direct with people with social capital, because I know Celeste will be nice with them afterwards, so that’s okay.
CP: So far, how it’s going is that if promoters have any worries, I’m happy to deal with it. If they’re like, 'OMG, I heard you might do something risky, I wanna talk to you about it and why it’s a bad idea,' I totally deal with that and consider their perspective so they know it’s gonna be okay and we respect them and have no intention to destroy their lives.
JS: Éliane, you’re doing the labour with the people, and Celeste, you’re doing this labour with the promoters — to humour them.
CP: Making sure they’re good. It’s super important to us to make sure the event creators are comfortable, because we need everyone to work together . . .
JS: . . . so they still feel in control. It’s amazing how people in positions of power can be so oblivious to all the emotional labour that happens in order for them to not feel threatened.
ET: [The first event] was to validate the project, to know the community was behind us, but what happened after this was that we had this problem where our material only treated sexual harassment [as an issue], and we wanted PLURI to be intersectional [in addressing race and queerness].
JS: How did you go about tackling the issue of intersectionality from an all-white team (at press time)?
ZC: We’ve had people reach out to represent black people and POC on the scene, and there’s also the whole francophone scene. There are other demographics where we don’t have a complete team, like recovering addicts, underage people, people with disabilities, people who don’t drink.
ET: We came to the conclusion that it was silly for us to work really hard to get the ear of promoters to let them know what the crowd needs [if we weren’t yet able to] tell them the needs of other people. One of the solutions has been to get funding, so we can pay collaborators of colour who were talking about racism without having to do that emotional labour for free.
ET: At first, we took a lot of time trying to take a sensitive approach to representation. Celeste and I were like, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing,’ and then Zoe came in and was like, ‘Trump got elected, we have to do something,’ and we were like, ‘Yeah, okay, do something!’
ZC: I remember our first meeting all together was the day after [Trump was elected].
CP: And I remember Éliane and I were both like, ‘We don’t wanna do it, we’re too scared!’ But we had to do something, and decided to do it in two weeks.
ET: So Celeste and I were like okay, let’s do this.
Since this interview was published, PLURI has conducted an event around community accountability in Montreal, an event about safer spaces in Quebec City. They are currently working on a panel event that will take place in Montreal in June, as well as starting a “Nightlife Guard” program, which will train individuals interested in helping oversee harm reduction at events in exchange for attending the event for free. They are looking for individuals interested in becoming Nightlife Guards as well as project collaborators. Contact them via Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to keep up with PLURI on Instagram.
Jessica Simps is a tired ass showgirl and queer femme for the people.