The White Party and Club Culture: Is It Really for Everyone?
When asked to write about the White Party, I froze.
To be completely up front, the article wasn’t even written until seven days past its deadline because I didn’t want to think about it. I quietly pushed the assignment aside and shoved out all of the mixed feelings I had regarding the White Party and others like it.
To some men the White Party, and circuit parties in general, conjure up images of absolute freedom and a sort of brotherhood that is only possible while dancing to great music under the flashing lights at one of the various amazing parties. For other men - and I fall into this latter group - the White Party, circuit parties and club culture generally conjure up images of panic, feelings of inadequacy and isolation, as well as memories of rejection.
These are two very real sides of circuit party culture and we often do not discuss them as if they were connected to one another.
I believe it is important to begin a conversation regarding how both experiences with club and circuit cultures are equally valid and are in fact intimately related.
For example, part of the allure of these events is the exclusivity and the revelry that takes place when a ton of conventionally beautiful men get half naked together.
But for that feeling of connectedness to take place, certain men and certain body types must be excluded. While many experience these spaces as safe and freeing, others feel profoundly unsafe and targeted. Indeed, it may very well be that the reason these spaces feel so empowering for some, is because they are surrounded by men of a similar look, a similar economic status, a similar
masculinity and oftentimes are racially similar as well. While similarities at these events can provide a sense of safety and comfort, they rely on exclusions. While these exclusions are by no means an inherent feature of events like the White Party and while the event itself can provide many wonderful things for the people who participate, I believe that we as gay men can do better by our community. We can build celebrations that are meant to include all of us in our varied body sizes, ethnicities, abilities, masculinities and femininities, as well as our diverse class positions.
To make circuit parties and club culture the type of inclusive space they should be, I believe certain aspects of these events will have to change. For one, we could make sure that we are kind to everyone at these events. This does not necessarily mean we need to sleep with everyone or find everyone attractive. It does mean we look out for each other. As gay men we are in this thing together, and every single one of us has a right to feel safe and wanted in all gay male spaces.
We could also push to make these events more economically accessible. Perhaps even create "scholarships" to give working-class men who are unable to afford them, access to these expensive but important cultural experiences. The men who attend the White Party and are a part of club culture are too often overlooked as people who can enact positive social change. Let’s end that image.
Circuit parties, clubs and events like them can be wonderfully inclusive spaces,
where all can be made to feel welcome and expect to be treated kindly. Let’s make sure this year’s White Party is precisely that type of inclusive space.