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You're no rock and roll fun
April 18, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

"From then on, the difference became clear. It’s the male band members who don’t take you seriously, and when you get upset with how you’re treated, ask you if you’re menstruating. It’s the promoters and planners who screw you, then call you a diva when you assert yourself. It’s the kids who don’t talk to you after your set, but talk to your male bandmates because they assume you’re only there for show. It’s the people who think you’re sleeping with the guitarist, the people who assume you’re queer, or the journalists who mention your weight in reviews. It’s every single time a producer has told me I can’t play guitar on my own record because “sweetie, you’re not a studio musician” or “sing it again, but naked.” Mariel Loveland from Candy Hearts and Lauren Denitzio from The Measure [SA] discuss sexism in modern punk rock. For further reading there's Jessica Hopper's classic essay Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t. Previously.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (39 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
So basically, punk rock is just like a professional workplace. Awesome.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:39 PM on April 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Reminiscent of an essay I had to read for "History of Rock and Roll" called "It's different for girls" where it discussed some of these same exact issues. It actually went in length about how in some of the counter cultures drugs are a big part, but drugs and drinking are more taboo for girls because they may get assaulted.

Back in 1994 when the Beastie Boys were on of the headliners for Lalapalooza they wrote mosh pit etiquette for Teeth (the Lalapalooza traveling magazine) and it was mostly "be respectful to the women in the pit, don't take it as an opportunity to grope them, and women should make good decisions.
posted by djduckie at 7:39 PM on April 18, 2011


hal_c_on: “So basically, punk rock is just like a professional workplace. Awesome.”

Worse, it sounds like.
posted by koeselitz at 7:42 PM on April 18, 2011


It's not all negative... bit confusing, but the names are links to their articles.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:49 PM on April 18, 2011


Fascinating reading, thanks.

I'm not super into "punk" per se, but these same cultural problems exist in other subgenres of rock too. A lot of the bands I love have female members, and they can hang with the best male musicians around - Andrea Zollo from Good Health-era Pretty Girls Make Graves could switch from straight beautiful melodies to piercing screams on a dime; Aimee Argote from Des Ark is not only a brilliant lyricist but would also get down in the audience and fucking shred back when she was touring Loose Lips Sink Ships; Joileah Maddock and Amber Coffman from Sleeping People can out-math all but a sliver of a percentile of guitarists around; etc.

But looking around the audiences at the shows I go to, I still find I'm surrounded almost entirely by short bespectacled bearded guys in flannel shirts. I don't know what to do about the situation, but it's good to hear these women's perspectives, to at least remain mindful of the problem and to call out sexist bullshit when/if I see people engaging in it.

I wish Hopper hadn't listed Cursive in the Emo essay right before saying "It is a genre made by and for adolescent and post adolescent boys, who make evident, in their lyrics and dominant aesthetic that their knowledge of actual living, breathing women is tiny enough to fit in a shoebox." I can definitely see that with bands like Glassjaw, but Cursive's Domestica was written in the wake of Tim Kasher's divorce and presents its husband and wife characters both as flawed and complex. If, as some suspect, the husband character represents a stand-in for Kasher, he certainly admits some pretty ugly things about himself and his role in the relationship, instead of just blaming the Bad Woman or leaving her formless, un-fleshed out, defined by absence or misdeeds, etc.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And don't forget, like Neko says, they don't get any either. Previously.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on April 18, 2011


As a flipside to the idea that "punk rock" is part and parcel sexist and backwards, there is the fairly recent case of Drunkdriver being blacklisted after the lead singer was accused of rape. The band broke up in the aftermath, and pretty much instantly disappeared from people's lips.

Also the very recent case of Ben Weasel punching a couple of women at SXSW. Look at the reaction to that (universally decried, needless to say).

That doesn't mean there aren't still idiots who say stuff like "no cock, no rock" or whatever. Of course there are. But punk music is filled with different paths - some lead to gay clubs, glamour, and cross-dressing; some lead to militantly hetero jock-type singalongs with fists punching in the air.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:59 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I made clear the fact that "the scene" really rallied very quickly around the women who had accused Jeremy from Drunkdriver of rape, demanding responsibility, accountability, and action; that's really the point I was trying to make. People spit out that band with a ferocity I don't think I've really seen much precedent for (maybe Gary Glitter?).
posted by stinkycheese at 8:01 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been listening to a lot of Brix Smith era The Fall this last month. Not only did she create some amazing guitar lines, she survived being married to Mark Smith. You can't get more fucking punk rock than that. We're twenty years past that period and there have been plenty of outstanding female punk musicians since that time (and, of course, there were plenty before Brix Smith also), so the fact that anyone would even question the musical ability of women in 2011 makes me want to punch everybody in the mouth forever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:04 PM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


This really doesn't have much to do with punk rock, and everything to do with rock and pop music in general. I mean, I've been listening to songs by Indigo Girls complaining about the sexism in the music industry for decades now.

It sucks, and I wish I could fix it. But I tend to listen to the music that's complaining about the problem not the music which is reinforcing the problem.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amber Coffman from Sleeping Peopl

She's in Sleeping People?! I did not know that! I dig the band but I thought Coffman was just in the Dirty Projectors.
posted by kenko at 8:12 PM on April 18, 2011


Well I learned something today. Apparently "Under My Thumb" wasn't a character study or disapproving commentary on 60s gender roles. Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to give people the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Hoopo at 8:20 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: “It's not all negative... bit confusing, but the names are links to their articles.”

Yeah, sorry I wasn't very clear on this: really fantastic post, Lovecraft. Thanks. These essays are stirring stuff, really well-written, and it's awesome to read them; particularly the last one.
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope it's okay to add Ari Up to this.
"It’s really bad what went on in history, with The Slits. We were cut out of history in many ways. So there is that missing link right there, we should call our album “The Missing Link”. There is that missing link happening with women in punk, with women in music, with women just being the way we were; there is no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of women’s stuff, it is not taken seriously."
posted by unliteral at 8:41 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I stood on the outskirts of the crowd for the entire show knowing I wanted absolutely nothing to do the mass of 15 to 20-year-old boys pushing each other around, but the minute the closing band struck its first chord, I was shoved right into the middle. I immediately tried to look for a way out but was completely surrounded, and no matter how much I pushed, I couldn’t move. I was getting punched, kicked, and pummeled until I eventually fell down, and all I could see was a wave of dust and sneakers kicking and stepping on me. I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t breathe. I choked on dirt and started sobbing until one man, probably someone’s dad, heard me screaming for help. He reached underneath the crowd and threw me over his shoulder. As he was pulling me away, I heard one voice cut through the music: “That’s why you don’t bring your little girl to shows.” I was 15.
I think I may have been at the same Warped Tour. That was the beginning of the end of my interest in punk for me, at least for a good half-decade.

I don't know what to make of this, though: "Our bodies and our choice to have or not have sex are pretty powerful. It’s something that is ours—something that every guy who’s ever wanted to sleep with the girl in the band doesn’t have—and we can do with it whatever we want." What kind of choice is it if she has to cling to the bodies of her male bandmates in fear that the person whose floor she's crashing on might assault her?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What kind of choice is it if she has to cling to the bodies of her male bandmates in fear that the person whose floor she's crashing on might assault her?

It is a choice because "being assualted" and "having sex" are two different things.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:27 PM on April 18, 2011


Threeway Handshake: “It is a choice because "being assualted" and "having sex" are two different things.”

Not technically, no, they aren't two different things in that scenario. Presenting someone with that option – "have sex with someone or be assaulted by someone!" – is basically forcing them to have sex. And forced sex is, well, assault. So: they are, in this instance, the same thing.
posted by koeselitz at 9:32 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Its not just boys fun" - 7 seconds
posted by fore at 10:50 PM on April 18, 2011


Heh, as a female guitarist there are times I wish I could convincingly cross dress. I have a male identity floating around on the internet somewhere for precisely that reason. It's nice to be part of the majority every once in awhile.
posted by majonesing at 12:16 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lemmy got points for losing a bandmate rather than compomise on playing gigs with a female band that he thought kicked arse.

As a fan of metal and a little punk I find the aggro machismo in front of the stage pretty offputting; there does seem to be an element, like soccer hooligans, who are there for the fight - as Evan Dorkin put in the mouth of a character, "I'm not alternative, I'm a jock thug moron who likes to hurt people". And I say that as someone who's male, big, and powerfully built. I shudder to hink how much less inviting it is when changing any of those attributes. Shit, Jello Biafra got hospitalised by arseholes in a crowd.

(And in a world where there is Joan Jett, there is no room to believe women can not rock.)
posted by rodgerd at 1:07 AM on April 19, 2011


Sometimes I wonder whether progressive attitudes hit a high-water mark sometime between the New Left of the Sixeventies and the counterculture of the 1980s and early 90s (hardcore punk, Red Wedge-style leftist indie, Riot Grrl, the likes of Bill Hicks, &c.) before Clinton and Blair and the mass commodification of "alternative" culture. It's things like the Jessica Hopper article linked above, and the polls one sees from time to time showing that young people today are a lot less approving of, say, abortion or flag-burning than their parents were, that give one cause for concern.

OTOH, perhaps "punk rock" and its variants (which includes anybody picking up a guitar and thrashing out vaguely blues-based songs) no longer fulfil the social role of countercultural nucleus or protest medium, instead having become a consumable lifestyle accessory one buys at the greater mall of subcultural identity. And as such, the default stance is to reinforce what Susan Sontag called aggressive normality: traditional boundaries of behaviour, acceptable gender roles, default assumptions. So perhaps looking to rock'n'roll scenes for progressive models is not viable in 2011.
posted by acb at 3:30 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder whether progressive attitudes hit a high-water mark sometime between the New Left of the Sixeventies and the counterculture of the 1980s and early 90s (hardcore punk, Red Wedge-style leftist indie, Riot Grrl, the likes of Bill Hicks, &c.) before Clinton and Blair and the mass commodification of "alternative" culture.
Hardcore was pretty awful for women and girls, and Riot Grrl was a reaction to that. Actually, the standard narrative about DC punk is that women and girls were really active in the very early scene, and then they got pushed to the sidelines with the rise of harDCore, which was all about masculinity in ways that meant that women could only be deficient and second-class. And even though I remember a lot of highly-visible people in the scene being really concerned about the status of women, I think there's something to that.
posted by craichead at 4:47 AM on April 19, 2011


Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t? Well, yeah. They stole our fucking pants, we can't even leave the house!

sidenote: when I was in Williamsburg for a friend's art opening last week, you couldn't go a damn block without counting 15 dudes wearing these with black hoodies, ironic hats and Elvis Costello glasses. I always thought some of the hipster-hating on MeFi was a little overwrought until that very moment.

I miss Bikini Kill.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:50 AM on April 19, 2011


I hung out with a lot of hardcore folks in a smaller southern town, towards the tail end of the scene. I say that to indicate that my experiences aren't necessarily indicative of the DC experience, or larger cities.

But girls and women were definitely not accepted as full members. It was assumed you were there as a girlfriend, or didn't really listen to or like the music, or otherwise weren't worth taking seriously. Honestly, it really turned me off of any indie music scene for a long, long time.

There was a real lockstep feel to the whole thing, which really used to frustrate me, as in someways the scene had been defined as a place "accepting of outsiders". And yet, to participate in the scene I found that people really had to look and act a very particular way. Gender roles seemed part and parcel of that, in my experience at least.
posted by lillygog at 5:53 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought Laura Denitzio's essay was quite good. Thanks for the post.

In my own experience, something I've noticed is that women involved in punk and hardcore were often attributed entirely different motivations for being there. There's an assumption that we're at a show not because we like the bands, but because we're trying to flirt with guys, or because our boyfriends dragged us there, or because we're trying to impress somebody. Our interests and passions are not as genuine and authentic as everyone else's--it's not believable that we'd actually like music. This is just one superficial observation within a wider set of problems, but I think it's symptomatic and worth mentioning. (On preview, exactly what lillygog said).


But you know, it's not always bad. Actually, it's often really, really good. I call the punk/hardcore scene my home and I've usually found it to be an awesome, empowering, and safe space. Especially when you more finely granulate punk into niches that identify as more radical and political, you find a lot of self-policing on sexist/homophobic/racist/other problematic speech; it feels good to have that support, despite the bad attitudes underlying the scene in a lot of cases. The positivity is worth it, and gives one a bit more fuel and leverage to openly combat the crappy behaviour.
posted by 1UP at 6:37 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hung out with a lot of hardcore folks in a smaller southern town, towards the tail end of the scene. I say that to indicate that my experiences aren't necessarily indicative of the DC experience, or larger cities.

Hardcore scenes have a lot of problems, and I wouldn't extend them to the larger punk culture usually. I know in Sacramento, the hardcore scene was very separate and distinct from the punk scene, for a whole host of reasons.

I feel pretty lucky to have grown up around the East Bay where the Gilman ethos was pretty consistent. It's not to say that there were some pockets where women weren't considered full members, or that everything was great, but there are lots of women in the scene doing awesome stuff so that it's not considered so strange.

There have been times when some guys didn't acknowledge right away that I was the sound engineer or in the band, or just assumed I was a merch girl, but I always took that more as them being jerks than anything. I will say that I don't doubt my experience is colored by the fact that I'm not overly feminine. I have seen people get weird or fetishize the women who are more girly than those who are just one of the guys. That's an old trope though.
posted by kendrak at 7:03 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. Hopper's piece in particular is great. The Fireside Bowl (where she saw Strike Anywhere) was where I first witnessed Azita's magnificent terrifying snarl fronting the mighty Scissor Girls, was transfixed by Adris obliterating the drums in Harry Pussy, heavier than any dude, and marvelled at the anarchic joy of the Ex. Aside from seeing a million fantastic shows, it was there and at other venues in Chicago in the mid-nineties that I was lucky enough to see tremendous women perform in anger, joy, beauty and hideousness and thereby destroy any lingering misconceptions I may have had about women in music. It is sad but unsurprising that these worlds which have been or might be sanctuaries are plagued by the same old shit.
posted by generalist at 7:26 AM on April 19, 2011


more like late nineties actually.
posted by generalist at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2011


Support your local Girls Rock program.
(disclosure: my daughter's boots may be seen here)
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


... the standard narrative about DC punk is that women and girls were really active in the very early scene, and then they got pushed to the sidelines with the rise of harDCore, which was all about masculinity in ways that meant that women could only be deficient and second-class.

Ian MacKaye has some interesting things to say about this in his interview in Destroy All Movies, especially RE: the infamous, wildly misinterpreted "no girls allowed" sign on the door of Dischord House.

Over-focus on the small amount of widely available documentation (e.g. Banned In D.C.) has made a scene that was a lot more musically and gender-diverse seem like a jockish boys' club at a distance. It has been nice to see reissues and videos / flyers [BMO] / photos /demos appearing online that go a little ways toward rectifying that.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:44 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can only guess that Mackaye's explanation of the wildly misinterpereted sign is just as cogent as his justification for writing Guilty of Being White.
posted by generalist at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2011


You tell me that you like her
You just wish you did

posted by stinkycheese at 8:21 AM on April 19, 2011


I can only guess that MacKaye's explanation of the wildly misinterpreted sign is just as cogent as his justification for writing "Guilty of Being White".

Per the interview: Ca. 1983, a mixed-gender group of kids hung out at Dischord House, usually watching a lot of TV, w/The Little Rascals* being a favorite. In one episode, Spanky et al have a similar sign on the door of their clubhouse. The sign went up briefly on the door of Dischord as an in-joke, got preserved in "Another State of Mind", and has been blown out of proportion ever since.

* Then in reruns on Baltimore's Channel 45, and receivable by some of us in DC.

RE: "Guilty of Being White" - MacKaye has said over and over in interviews that the song grew out of his frustration with being constantly hassled and threatened as one of the handful of white kids at Wilson High School in the early 1980s, and that it was never intended as a racist anthem. Is it kind of boneheaded? Yes - but he also wrote it as a pissed-off 18 year old. I think it's pretty obvious, given what he's done since, that he's not some dyed-in-the-wool bigot.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:13 AM on April 19, 2011


Ian MacKaye was at my daughter's most recent Girls Rock! DC show, which makes sense, since his sister Amanda was her band coach. He (and Dischord) is a big supporter of the program.

It really is an amazing program.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:29 AM on April 19, 2011


ryanshepard: “I think it's pretty obvious, given what he's done since, that he's not some dyed-in-the-wool bigot.”

With respect to Ian, whom I often admire, that really isn't the point. I think we all know he's not a bigot, nor is he some kind of anti-feminist asshole. We always get distracted by this question, though – the question of whether someone is really as hateful as all that, deep down – so we never deal with the question that's actually important: what's the impact?

The interviews I've seen indicate that he regrets writing the song, which is probably sensible, because it's had a largely negative impact, frankly. And this business about misinterpretation – well, yes, when there are assholes like Steven Blush out there acting as the self-proclaimed spokesmen for hardcore as it was, there's an aggravating amount of nonsense that one is likely to come in contact with.

However, in the end, we have to own our words and actions, and we can't blame others completely when we're misinterpreted. Because it's one thing for Steven Blush to fuck this up, intentionally or not, and make money on his book deal off of it. But what do you say when women, and especially girls, impressionable, looking for heroes (just like boys) and leaders, get caught up in that misinterpretation? So Ian MacKaye's silly little "No girls allowed!" joke accidentally gets immortalized, and I'm certain he wishes it didn't show up in Another State Of Mind, that it didn't get noticed, that it wasn't talked about as much as it is, because it's not exactly something he's proud of. But what do the kids think? What about every boy or girl who misinterprets this and gets the message: "girls are not allowed in hardcore"?

And I don't blame Ian for this, because it's kind of hard to go back and change the past, and all of us make mistakes when we're younger, even if we don't usually become famous enough for them to get exposure like his have. It's just that I think this is worth thinking about. I even have a feeling he's had to think about it a lot.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Ian MacKaye's silly little "No girls allowed!" joke ...

Actually, per the interview (not online, unfortunately) another housemate put the sign up - but MacKaye does mention having to live w/other people's misinformed, self-righteous reactions to it for decades now.

But what do the kids think?

A lot of DC punk kids - me included - got a crash course in gender privilege and sexism from Riot Grrrl, and will always be thankful for that. There was also a lot of cynical egotism and hotheaded finger-pointing going on at the time, though - and the blow-up about the "no girls" sign was, IMO, mainly a product of that. The scene that was being attacked (mainly by people that had just moved to town) was a straw man, and didn't bear much resemblance to the comparatively welcoming, mixed gender shows / bands that I'd seen growing up.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2011


ryanshepard: “The scene that was being attacked (mainly by people that had just moved to town) was a straw man, and didn't bear much resemblance to the comparatively welcoming, mixed gender shows / bands that I'd seen growing up.”

I agree. And I guess I should have pointed more directly to that piece that I linked above that's a response to Steven Blush's noxious claim that the only women who participated in early hardcore were "nasty, ugly trolls," and that few of them were "gorgeous." It's actually a very good attestation to the fact that there were actual, active, living, breathing women involved in hardcore at that point – and their impact should not be marginalized.
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 AM on April 19, 2011


Seriously, that post I linked is worth it just for the hotlinked list of female artists and musicians involved in early hardcore alone. Really a nice thing to see, connecting so many interesting people in one place.
posted by koeselitz at 11:59 AM on April 19, 2011


The first place that I saw Steve Blush mentioned (he'd bowed out as a show promoter about six years before I started going to them) was in Michael Salkind's liner notes for the reissue of No Trend's "Teen Love":

“No Trend was lucky (?) enough to have been picked up and brought under the wing of Steven Blush, an American University student who ... produced many punk shows in the DC area. He became our manager, and we became an opening act mainstay for such bands as the Dead Kennedys and TSOL. We weren't very well liked by the more mainstream DC punk rockers, but developed a weird, fringe, suburban Maryland following, and even some support from the local rock critics (I was one of them, so that connection didn't hurt either). Still despite our rather rapid rise, the association with Steven Blush was one akin to selling ones soul to Beelzebub.”


He goes on to discuss his tear-inducing BO and refer to him as "slimy" - I guess not much has changed.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:14 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


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