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Gatekeeping gets a bad rap, and understandably so. The act of limiting access to certain topics, gatekeeping, is often used as a way to keep something “exclusive,” frequently at the expense of those who are being denied access. Yet, there's this strange instinct to gatekeep, to keep something as your own even when sharing might bring everyone joy. A popular motto that flooded the internet went “Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss,” a toxic sibling to “Live, Laugh, Love.” Gatekeeping is not a virtue, but then why is it so tempting?

If I’m going to philosophize honestly, I have to admit it: I’ve had a nasty habit of gatekeeping, particularly when it comes to musical artists. With age, I’ve gotten better at keeping it at ease, but I remember my middle school years where I’d fume at my mom for complimenting Harry Styles’ voice. I remember sifting the internet for underground bands just to anxiously hide them from the world, simultaneously wanting cool points for listening to them yet hiding my adoration so no one else could claim them.  I’ve been thinking more about this topic as an artist I love becomes increasingly successful. 

His name is Dermot Kennedy (can you believe I’m sharing this?). I stumbled upon him on Spotify when he had nothing but a few singles out. I have live audio recordings of him downloaded from a time when these songs were only available live. Now, most of them are recorded and placed accordingly on albums. This man was the soundtrack of magical moments of high school. The long morning bus rides, the twilight walks with my dog, the moments when his music made life feel so much bigger, so much more important, than just a simple day-to-day. I support him, I want him to succeed because he deserves it, but it pains me. 

Dermot Kennedy performing in St. Louis
Original photo by Madeline Brand

More than anything, I think I’m gatekeeping the world I made in my head to his music. To me, it was such a sacred and beautiful thing. I was a teenager who felt that no one understood me besides this underground singer-songwriter from Ireland. His music felt special and like it was mine. This is where I empathize with my fellow recovering gatekeepers; it’s not always an act of superiority or exclusivity, sometimes you truly just want something of your own, something that can’t be tainted by public consumption or critique. It’s weirdly painful to see something that was once only yours (though, it never really was yours, was it?) become a commodity.

I’ve only been able to shake this ache in a way that sounds so counterintuitive but hear me out: share what you love. I know, it undermines the entire experience of gatekeeping. But as I’ve torn down my walls and shared things that are sacred to me, like Dermot Kennedy, I’ve found like-minds. I’ve felt more understood. I feel safe in the fact that my love for an artist is still something special even if thousands of people love them too. Your experience is solitary even when the source is shared. And it becomes a way of supporting artists as humans, not ideas. 

So, I challenge you to open the gates. Find a healthy balance where individualism does not equal gatekeeping. We don’t need to keep gatekeeping, girlbosses. 

Hey all! I'm Madeline, a senior here at USF. I'm a lover of all things astrology, Taylor Swift, crocheting, and cats. When it comes to writing, I enjoy covering topics regarding pop culture, activism, and interesting finds. Feel free to reach out to me via Instagram @madelinereign
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