Is Your Band Sexist, or Are Womxn Just Annoying?
February 1, 2017 12:28 PM   Subscribe

As we are two ladies with music criticism jobs, we’ve spent years of our lives working in the industry (no need to mansplain its complexities to us, nor the innate tautological structure of this sentence, designed especially for you, dear reader). We’ve crossed paths with just about every kind of band name that exists, including many of the “chick shit” variety, by which we mean any band name capitalizing on the use of terms originally deemed only necessary to describe womxn, ladies, chicks, bitches, sluts, whores, and girls.
posted by josher71 (117 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Indeed, a tool of sexual violence seems ripe for novelty. But when someone doesn’t directly experience the theme from which they’re profiting, it becomes a sort of social tourism—commercialization of a real source of violence for the sake of one’s hobbyist music.

I suppose Joy Division is right out too.
posted by sukeban at 12:39 PM on February 1 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised Cherry Poppin' Daddies isn't on the list.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:44 PM on February 1 [9 favorites]


My response to the Doug Stanhope argument (and I love Stanhope as a comedian while virulently disagreeing with him.) is that the 'my words are just words, your offense is your own' only holds water if words mean whatever you want them to. Which would rather undermine the point of oh, comedy and a lot of songwriting, just off the top of my head.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:45 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Hey! I googled a thing. “Why are people using the terms ‘womyn’ and ‘womxn’ instead of ‘women’?”

Now no other unhip people will need to google this mysterious new word.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:45 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


No mention of the Violent Femmes.
posted by curiousgene at 12:48 PM on February 1


Yeah, Stanhope's argument might be funny in a comedy bit, but it holds like negative water. If words are just words and it's on the listener how they react, no comedian ever can take credit for making an audience laugh.
posted by tocts at 12:48 PM on February 1 [14 favorites]


I suppose Joy Division is right out too.

Well, I would argue the point isn't to say "that was wrong, don't listen to them", but to say "lot's of people are doing this right now, and they shouldn't". For a band like JD, you can recognize what they were trying to do, while still understanding that it's recognized as problematic enough that if you're going to name your band "Rape Squad" you shouldn't justify it by pointing at Joy Divison.

No mention of the Violent Femmes.

You're assuming the Femmes are Womxn.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:51 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to stop liking Joy Division, it's one of my favourite bands ever, but the voyeuristic exploitation of the suffering of others *is* right there. We all knew our fave was problematic since the cover of An Ideal for Living.
posted by sukeban at 1:02 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


You're assuming the Femmes are Womxn.
I... was I?

I suppose my comment was lacking any real commentary. From paragraph 1, though, I was wondering what her comment on them would be. And then they weren't there.

I remember when I was in a band in college and we had to pick a name. We had a huge list of names, most of which were awful. What we settled on was one of our singer's contributions. He was a big Fight Club fan, and he had suggested "The Hindu Cows", referencing Tyler's description of airline passengers accepting their fate under the influence of oxygen.

At the time, we didn't give much thought to anything other than the Fight Club reference, and that the initials were "THC". We lasted about 2 years, and then we all graduated and went our separate ways. Looking back on it now, I can see how that name was problematic. I would hope that, at some point, the members of (for instance) Black Pussy might look back and think "wow, we were idiots". The members of (for instance) Hymen Holocaust or Cunt Grinder, though, are probably after causing offense wherever possible.
posted by curiousgene at 1:03 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Hey! I googled a thing. “Why are people using the terms ‘womyn’ and ‘womxn’ instead of ‘women’?”

For signaling purposes! It serves to show how woke you are for one; I'm not sure if evolving word choice has implicitly exclusionary designs but you're obviously throwback if you're back a trend or two. I get the choice of "x" but dang its not exactly immediately approachable. It seems to be a trend and perhaps one as we go more textual: I find latin@ an equally vexing pronounciation problem and USian is Ican'teven.

posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:09 PM on February 1 [10 favorites]


The authors might have deliberately avoided the Violent Femmes because their name was taken from a local pejorative specifically for men, a la "sissy." So however it reads to people who weren't in high school in Milwaukee in the 80s or listening to pop band hagiographies, the band weren't appropriating anything.

NB: this is all with a thick layer of IIRC
posted by The Gaffer at 1:12 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Thanks for that link, Going to Maine. These respellings seem curiously ignorant of both the history of the word "woman" and of how language works in general. I think I get what they're going for, but to me it just serves to reinforce the dogma that feminists see boogeymen everywhere, whether they are real or not. (Which is not to say that I agree with that bit of received wisdom, but for every shall we say "frivolous" attack on the establishment, the rhetorical force of pointing out very real injustices becomes weaker.)
posted by simen at 1:13 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


[It'll probably be best if we don't get hung up on this spelling issue, since that's way, way not the point of the article.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:21 PM on February 1 [21 favorites]


As a womyn, womxn, chick, chiquita, babe, hot tamale, gal, lady, and on one memorable occassion "purtier than a spotted pup" (hand to heart, a human being from this planet said that to me) - it would be nice if I could dictate to other people how they use the experience of womanhood in their artism. Unless I'm banging the drummer, I doubt any band guy will notice or care.

Even further, the desire to make the world inoffensive is a great theory, but a crappy creative practice. Who can we put on worst of the year lists if not badly out of tune guys in black shirts with a vaguely NSFW emblem on it?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 1:23 PM on February 1 [8 favorites]


My beloved Twisted Sister wasn't on the list. I'm relieved, I suppose.
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on February 1


I'm confused my including the extreme metal band names, because as a metal head that plays frequently in Portland I can promise you people in or into underground metal could give a fuck about local alt-weeklies, let alone a passionate critique of 20 yr old death/grind naming conventions. Its just a completely different community/scene. I guess for me questioning offensive and disgusting names or lyrics in extreme metal is like questioning misogyny in rap. Although the answers from Boob Rub or whatever are hilarious in their inability to comprehend the fucking point.

On preview, lay off the Womxn derail its not for 'signalling purpose' its an intentional spelling meant to convey inclusiveness. I'm sure the specific way that intention is conveyed will change with time but there isn't some dastardly ingroup signalling going on meant to make you feel uncool.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:48 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


After much consideration, my new band will be named Mrrrrmph.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:54 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised C----- P------ Daddies isn't on the list.

Good god, but this band name has been giving me frissons of PTSD-esque feels for like 20 years. UGH. WORST. I can't even bear to retype it to quote you properly! I was in high school when they had their big hit and I'm sure this sounds dumb as shit, but when I was 14 and trying hard to make it through adolescence in a world that fucking hates adolescent girls -- unless they want to have sex with us, obv! -- it was one of the things that made me realize that I couldn't even escape the onslaught of grossitude via my preferred form of escapism: shitty 90s music.

for every shall we say "frivolous" attack on the establishment, the rhetorical force of pointing out very real injustices becomes weaker

Trust me, men have been helpfully informing concern trolling women about this since time immemorial. I kind of wish y'all would just get together and let us know once and for all what we need to consider "frivolous" and what we're allowed to collect under the umbrella of "very real injustices."

Speaking for myself, stuff like band names that include female-directed slurs come off as nothing more than reminders that women are less people and more objects/concepts, and those reminders are especially exhausting when you're expected to let them all roll off your back in favor of worrying about more ~important~ stuff no matter what.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 1:55 PM on February 1 [91 favorites]


I guess for me questioning offensive and disgusting names or lyrics in extreme metal is like questioning misogyny in rap.

Perhaps we should do both.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:56 PM on February 1 [30 favorites]


Even further, the desire to make the world inoffensive is a great theory, but a crappy creative practice. Who can we put on worst of the year lists if not badly out of tune guys in black shirts with a vaguely NSFW emblem on it?

I kind of get where this is coming from, but when the offensiveness flows only one direction then I think it's reasonable to try to get the upstream party to consider what they're doing. Sure, you're generally not likely to get through to pornogrind/goregrind/brutal death purveyors of the Nun Fuck Ritual variety, but it would be nice if dudes in occasionally more socially aware genres (hardcore, punk, noise, etc) would at least consider what the fuck they're doing. Music in these genres has a particularly shitty boyzone mentality (just see the example of fucking Black Pussy), and I'd love it if a few of these d-bags would at least think twice before naming their band Vaginal Barf or whatever.

An example of a band doing it right would be Baroness.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:02 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


I had another though re: band names. The statement from Black Pussers in the article indicates that the band doesn't think the name is offensive and they don't want to offend anybody and its just words so why are you being so emotional? On the other hand if you asked Cunt Grinder if they knew the name was offensive and if that was their intention I believe you would get an emphatic "yes, I hate all humans, fuck you. " Which is an entirely different type of problematic but waaaaayy different than pretending they don't understand why you are offended. I also don't mean they shouldn't be confronted, just that its a different conversation.

Going to Maine, please check out this recent post about Young Thug.
posted by kittensofthenight at 2:02 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I'm not going to stop liking Joy Division, it's one of my favourite bands ever, but the voyeuristic exploitation of the suffering of others *is* right there. We all knew our fave was problematic since the cover of An Ideal for Living.

I'm not sure the use of thing like this to deliberate artistic effect should be automatically... disapproved of, but I think if you're going to do it you are presumably aware that people are going to react to it and you (i.e. the band) ought not to act offended when they do.
posted by atoxyl at 2:05 PM on February 1


Going to Maine, please check out this recent post about Young Thug.

As somebody who was defending the artistic value of Young Thug in that thread does it seem to you like there's any clear conclusion about criticizing rap lyrics to be found within? Perhaps that we shouldn't let that dominate every discussion about the genre (which I would agree with) but this is a thread specifically about band names so this is the place to do it if you wanna do it.
posted by atoxyl at 2:10 PM on February 1


Fun Fact

The C----- P-----' Daddies are from Eugene, Oregon. At one point in the mid-90s they were looking for a new saxophone player, and liked my style. At the time I was playing bari with another small group, named the Métropolitain Sax Quartet, and we were killin' it on the freestyle sax quartet scene, being, um, the only freestyle sax quartet. Anyway. The CPD knew one of the guys on the Métropolitain and asked him if I'd join the group. "Are you fucking kidding me?" was my flat response. This was at a time in my life in which I did not use the f-word. "I kinda figured you might say that," said my woke quartet mate. Yeah – you want a kickass woman sax player, maybe you shouldn't have a rapey band name.

One of our less woke sax classmates took the spot. He was a dude. Decent guy though. A year later they had their big breakthrough. I felt bad for that classmate. He left the band not long afterwards and never talks about it.
posted by fraula at 2:20 PM on February 1 [41 favorites]


Aside from the obvious part ("don't call your band Sweaty Snatches, that's rude") I thought it was fascinating that the thrust of the complaint was that all male bands are naming themselves in feminine terms as a kind of marketing ploy or, less commercially, because it makes them seem cool and is on trend.

Partly this feels kind of stupid like "you can't do this because it is MY identity" in a selfish sort of way, like freaking out when Mom bobs her head to the Weeknd and you JUST CAN'T EVEN... But on the other hand there is a vague echo of white groups in the 50s stealing from black musicians and re-releasing songs to make things more "comfortable" for white listeners. So I can see that side of it for sure, but this is definitely, definitely more watered down. I think this is something that is interesting to talk about and think about from a broad cultural standpoint but I think getting so prescriptive about what everyone can and can't do is a little overbearing and undermines the argument. Maybe framed as a "consider this first, BROSEPH" would work, because this is only (at best) going to inform people arguably already trying to be on your side.

Let's first recognize male bands trying to push femininity is probably a POSITIVE trend, all things considered. It reminds me of how things are in SF now... The Castro is the famous gay neighborhood and it has become a cool location for families and young straight singles which is pissing off gay people to no end (which I understand, gentrification) but please also take a step back and consider the much worse problems that existed in that neighborhood 20-30 years ago. These are better, lesser problems! Still problems, but keep them in context or alienate potential allies/the old guard because you sound like a career complainer rather than someone actually trying to move things forward.
posted by lubujackson at 2:21 PM on February 1


omits Her Majesty's Secret Cervix, in the "Anatomy" section
posted by thelonius at 2:24 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


What an incredibly sanctimonious article.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:28 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


What an incredibly sanctimonious article.

go on…
posted by Going To Maine at 2:29 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


It all serves to make me super appreciate No means no and me, mom and Morgentaler even more!
posted by chapps at 2:29 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


(especially since my friend went to a Me, Mom and Morgentaler gig that was a fundraiser for the morgantaler clinic post bombing, and Morgantaler was in the house. (No word if Mom came too.)
posted by chapps at 2:30 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


"don't call your band Sweaty Snatches, that's rude"

is Snatchy Sweaters okay, if the band shows up in ruined, thread-picked cardigans?
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:34 PM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Shout out to my Eugene OR (former or current) neighbors. I recall the big fallout when the CPD's started getting big in the city. I vaguely remember a protest on campus (Erb Memorial Union y'all) that was well attended by musicians/students....and it fell deaf on the Band's ears.
posted by pipoquinha at 2:44 PM on February 1


No mention of the inimitable anal cunt?

FYI that link, which goes to a list of song titles, is NSFW and is collectively more offensive than, possibly, anything you've ever read before, because they find it funny.

And to be fair, having a song called 'I respect your feelings as a woman and a human and I want to grow old with you' amongst the rest did make me smile.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:45 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


I think these bands should just name themselves HEY! HEY! PAY ATTENTION TO ME PLEEEEEEEEEZZZ!!!
posted by jfwlucy at 2:48 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Still problems, but keep them in context or alienate potential allies/the old guard because you sound like a career complainer rather than someone actually trying to move things forward.

Yes, because there are a finite number of 0s and 1s and we can't possibly discuss more than one thing at a time.

The guys in "Black Pussy" are not "potential allies." They made it clear they don't care that they are punching down. Knock it off with respectability politics, they don't work. Women have been nice and polite for eons and they're still getting shit on. Any progress that has been made was made by "overbearing" "career complainers."

I think getting so prescriptive about what everyone can and can't do is a little overbearing and undermines the argument.

Here's what the article actually says: "Examine your latent prejudices that may lead you to make or uphold oppressive choices. Acknowledge that language is powerful, and that your position as a cis man (even more so if you’re white) is neither neutral nor objective."

Where does that say "you may not do X"? You make it sound like bands full of white cis dudes are somehow being oppressed. The writers are not the government, they can't force anyone to do anything. Their argument is "hey, your band names are offensive, check yourself and rethink them" and if you read anything "overbearing" into that, it's on you.
posted by AFABulous at 3:04 PM on February 1 [47 favorites]


No mention of the inimitable anal cunt?

Grind/Goregrind/Death Metal stuff was mentioned in the thread and I guess alluded to in the article but it's not really as interesting to discuss bands that mainly exist for the "offensive" gimmicks - versus the phenomenon of normal-ass bands with sexist names, or bands trying to make some point in a questionable way.
posted by atoxyl at 3:12 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Seth Putnam was pretty boring, and now he's dead.
posted by atoxyl at 3:15 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


For me it's also this: Band names of rank misogyny are boring.

It's insulting, it's annoying, and it's boring. If you want to stand out, racist and misogynistic insults and phrases are the oldest in the book. It was trite and unfunny centuries ago. Yawn.

If you are named that way, you are boring by definition in addition to what it says about your personal politics. "I'm so creative I'm going to go with something that's old as BCE! Aren't I original?"

Yes, dear. So original.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:24 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


This thread doesn't need to turn into a list of "hey, you know what else is an offensive name?"
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:24 PM on February 1 [14 favorites]


And to be fair, having a song called 'I respect your feelings as a woman and a human and I want to grow old with you' amongst the rest did make me smile.

IIRC AC had a whole album with very inoffensive and ironic sweet song titles.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:28 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Somebody I know is dating one of the dudes from Black Pussy. Much ado has been made about their band name here, and a lot of ppl hate it (understandably). She is convinced that it's not racist or offensive at all, while being the quintessential "SJW" herself. It's weird. I hate the name.

Likewise, I actually hate my metafilter name, because I'm a white guy in Portland. I picked it bc I wanted to post on here without my abusive roommates knowing it was me (shoutout to you guys if you're still on here! Hope defending rapists in the activist scene is going well for you!) but now it really bothers me.
posted by gucci mane at 3:54 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


Oops for clarification, I picked this name bc I happened to be listening to Gucci Mane in my room at the time. Ahhh to be 23 and stupid again.
posted by gucci mane at 3:56 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


You make it sound like bands full of white cis dudes are somehow being oppressed.

Band Full Of Oppressed White Cis Dudes has actually talked about this in interviews.
posted by naju at 4:01 PM on February 1 [12 favorites]


My friend's band is on this list and I will go on record as saying it doesn't make me comfortable and yes, he knows.
posted by Kitteh at 4:17 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I actually was half interested in Girl Talk because I thought it was a woman or women doing the making-music-with-a-laptop dude thing. Then I realized it wasn't and so spent my money elsewhere. I don't have time for more white boys.
posted by amanda at 4:27 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


I don't have time for more white boys.

I don't know if I'm getting old or just more woke or what, but I have felt this way for the past 3 years now. Basically all the media I consume - Music? Movies? TV shows? Books? Facebook discussions? Blogs? - which I used to take in indiscriminately and love to pieces, now just makes me go yeah, I just don't have time for more white guys.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:35 PM on February 1 [36 favorites]


Boys are stupid, throw "Bricks Are Heavy" at them!
posted by comealongpole at 4:37 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


Nobody is going to mention Queen? Queen is so ubiquitous that as a band name it's completely overwhelmed all indications of otherwise being a word that belongs to a female person.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:51 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


"No Girls Allowed!" from the list is at least truth in advertising
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:06 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Music? Movies? TV shows? Books? Facebook discussions? Blogs? - which I used to take in indiscriminately and love to pieces, now just makes me go yeah, I just don't have time for more white guys.

So, quality work that you admit you used to like based on the work itself you no longer do because of the race of the creator? Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?
posted by unknownmosquito at 5:07 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Yep, unknownmosquito, it's because for chainsoffreedom, the white male perspective is an artistic seam which is close to mined out. So they're going for richer seams where there's more new perspectives that apply to more people about how people work.

The thing about interacting with art is that you have to make assumptions about what it's going to give you before you do the interaction, so you have to discriminate and choose what's likely to give the highest reward to that interaction, just on the basis of the superficial facts you know about it.
posted by ambrosen at 5:13 PM on February 1 [29 favorites]


>So, quality work that you admit you used to like based on the work itself you no longer do because of the race of the creator? Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?

Because one can, once exposed to works that incorporate diverse points of view, find oneself insanely bored by the comparatively repetitive stories of White Men Doing Things In Worlds Designed For Them.

On preview, what ambrosen said
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 5:14 PM on February 1 [32 favorites]


I actually was half interested in Girl Talk because I thought it was a woman or women doing the making-music-with-a-laptop dude thing.

Is this the place for me to vent about how irritating I find the popularity of Swift on Security (which I'm pretty sure is written by a man but please correct me if I'm wrong)? "Let's take a picture of a blonde woman pop singer and write about computer security, and it will be such a contrast because she's probably really dumb about anything having to do with computers!"
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:14 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


> Nobody is going to mention Queen? Queen is so ubiquitous that as a band name it's completely overwhelmed all indications of otherwise being a word that belongs to a female person

I've always (well, since I started thinking about such things) presumed it was a reference to Freddy Mercury being bi -- reclaiming an insult.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:16 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


Is this the place for me to vent about how irritating I find the popularity of Swift on Security (which I'm pretty sure is written by a man but please correct me if I'm wrong)? “Let's take a picture of a blonde woman pop singer and write about computer security, and it will be such a contrast because she’s probably really dumb about anything having to do with computers!”

No, this is entirely correct, but I think the dude feels a little guilty about it. Not enough, which would entail killing the account, but a smidge.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:17 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I'm in a band named M*ternal Gr*ndmother (asterisks so search engines don't ping it) It was suggested by a well-known musician, and we liked it. It's an ambient-drone-noise sort of act and I saw the name as evocative of that particular sound, the womb, familial warmth, a grandmother's embrace. And maybe connoting, yes, a refreshing lack of testosteronal attitude in genres with too much of it. We are not all clear-cut cis men, but if we were I'd call it a stretch to say the name is sexist. The article doesn't seem to allow for much interpretive latitude though. Talk about the poetry/intent/sound and it sounds like an excuse. I don't disagree with much of it but think there's potentially much more to a band name than meets the eye.
posted by naju at 5:18 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I actually was half interested in Girl Talk because I thought it was a woman or women doing the making-music-with-a-laptop dude thing. Then I realized it wasn't and so spent my money elsewhere. I don't have time for more white boys.

Yes ok but all of Girl Talk’s albums are legit free and they are totes great, tho.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:18 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


So, quality work that you admit you used to like based on the work itself you no longer do because of the race of the creator? Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?

First, she did not say she no longer liked the work. She said "no more white guys" (emphasis mine). It's not racism to want to consciously incorporate different points of view into your life. White men are vastly overrepresented in media (BECAUSE RACISM) and it takes work on the part of the consumer to balance that out.

If you don't see why other points of view are valuable, or how one's race and gender can affect storytelling, I don't know what to say. I don't have the time to explain that to you.
posted by AFABulous at 5:36 PM on February 1 [35 favorites]


It is weird to me that giving all-male bands feminine names (even better, misogynist names!) is a common and on-trend thing to do, while I would bet real money that all-female bands with names like Spitboy and Shonen Knife and Uncle Earl have gotten dumb interview questions asking why they want to be boys so much.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:43 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?

The explanation is, you're being very disingenuous, Mr. "I'm just sayin'". The explanation is, look up an actual definition of institutional racism, and sexism while you're at it- but then you don't have to, because you already know those answers, don't you? The explanation is, we don't really owe any explanation to someone pulling false equivalency shit.
posted by happyroach at 6:20 PM on February 1 [37 favorites]


My band (of three white men) was named Teen Mom. We were about to change the name but split up before we did. It was a reference to the show, Teen Mom, but as the show faded in popularity, the name was less and less seen through that lens. I feel for the Violent Femmes - words change underneath you sometimes. My sister boycotted it, we got an unfavorable mention or two from a local art blog, and so on.

The name was a mistake, and everyone in the band copped to it. I still apologize for it, more than a year since the thing ceased to exist. I have heard the character judgments and, heck, some of them were true: we weren't very wise at 23.

In terms of intention, hours, and meaning, band names are the smallest part of bands, the decision you make in a few hours. And then you send a few hundred hours making music with no thematic relationship to that name. Just choose something neuter, catchy, and unobjectionable, so the music part can be the centerpiece. If you choose a silly offensive name you'll spend valuable time defending your personal character to strangers on the internet when you could be practicing.

Luckily, band names are not only the dumbest part of bands, but they're also the least original, so they come in trends. Many of the most mainstream-successful on this list - Women, Girls, Cheap Girls - were all founded in 2007, and Pitchfork's 2017 lineup shows few women-inspired names on the rise, except for, you know, women.
posted by tmcw at 8:39 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


This reminded me of this older article about Sophie a (male) dj/producer and co-opting femininity in electronic music more broadly.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 10:03 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


So, quality work that you admit you used to like based on the work itself you no longer do because of the race of the creator? Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?

The concept of racism depends on a context of existing social bias. The current social/cultural landscape is that white men, cis and straight white men in particular, are centered and elevated even when (one might argue especially when) appropriating the material of people unlike them.

This is ubiquitous in music, where it takes about 10-15 years for white men to dominate a musical style developed by less privileged people than them, and is a frequent topic of conversation within Hip Hop and white men began doing what they do. Keep in mind this happened with jazz, the blues, rock and roll, and is currently happening with rap and hip hop though there are a few black creators becoming dominant enough to push back (I thought Beyonce's ownership of Country style music was particularly pointed, for example).

An expression of distaste for rewarding that kind of behavior with attention and money isn't a form of racism, nor is consciously trying to counter white and make supremacy by focusing on women and people of color. Further reading on Racism 101 is a click or a search away.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:08 PM on February 1 [12 favorites]


This reminded me of this older article about Sophie a (male) dj/producer and co-opting femininity in electronic music more broadly.

This thread gave me pause about Sophie being default-labeled cis male by the media, let alone accusations of them co-opting femininity.

I think people need to be more thoughtful around this. The FPP article included.
posted by naju at 10:25 PM on February 1 [8 favorites]


Then there's the phenomenon of “girlface”; of male artists adopting female or feminised identities, and wearing them as a cipher standing for the male perception of the feminine: triviality/vapidness and sexual desirability, usually. The PC Music pop artist SOPHIE (a guy whose name is Sam, I believe) is one example that comes to mind.
posted by acb at 1:32 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


:/
posted by naju at 1:52 AM on February 2 [9 favorites]


The PC Music pop artist SOPHIE...is one example that comes to mind.
oof
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:25 AM on February 2


art, music, poetry, comedy etc. should be free to offend AND deal with the consequences...
posted by judson at 7:31 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


When you're a deeply judgmental, obscure music-obsessed dude who is a teenage girl and eventually becomes an adult woman, you learn that a) far-out grossitude is often a very popular shtick in your peer groups, and b) you will be rewarded for expressing that same disgust toward your own sex, which is unavoidably disgusting unless or until a man deems it otherwise. You have to be ready to ape a grin and be like, ha ha, yeah, cunts are so fucking gross! bitches are so annoying and uptight! or whatever, because that's how you earn your not-uptight points. And then you get the "not like the other girls" cookie, which is very tasty indeed when you have been roundly rejected by other girls for precisely that reason.

Ironically loving the aforementioned AxCx became one of the things I used to signal my desire for the cookies. I sewed their egregiously disgusting patch on my pyramid-spiked hooded sweatshirt and wore it to school and work every day, I mail-ordered their t-shirts, I went to their shows. They have a song(?) called "Women: Nature's Punching Bag," and omg wasn't it always just like ~so cool~ that I was a girl and I could laugh at that?! I was the only woman at their show the first time they came to my town umpty million years ago, and at one point I owned probably 1/3 of their total 'musical' output including Picnic of Love, which is the acoustic falsetto album with all the cutesy song titles, and the eponymous 7" from Impaled Northern Moonforest, which was Seth Putnam's legitimately hilarious Norwegian black metal side project (cover art, sample song title: "Transfixing The Forbidden Blasphemous Incantation Of The Conjuring Wintergoat"). Shit goes deep.

So while I get that dudes are always gonna be like "wahhh, don't get in the way of me enjoying or creating art that's disdainful or hateful toward women," let me tell you, women and girls are encouraged to pick up that misogynist art and use it as a cudgel to beat each other and ourselves, and it's a real goddamn bummer. The "alternative" media scenes that are supposed to be safe havens for awkward, greasy weirdos are not very safe at all if those awkward, greasy weirdos happen to be female.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 7:40 AM on February 2 [35 favorites]


"I suppose Joy Division is right out too."

You know, come to think of it, I'm wondering how many people know about joy divisions after looking up the origin of the band name.
posted by I-baLL at 7:47 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


hardcore / punk / noise scenes are no saints, but Black Pussy is boring '70s rock and nobody would know who they are if it wasn't for a prolific vandalism campaign.
posted by idiopath at 8:01 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


If words are just words and it's on the listener how they react, no comedian ever can take credit for making an audience laugh.

I don't think that follows. It's just means that comedy is a cooperative endeavor. It has to be consensual to work. Comedians are obsessed with the issue of "likability" (especially in LA) because it's the key to success.

That doesn't mean you can't be edgy -- it just means edgy comics need to find the (smaller) audience that wants to laugh at that material. You can tell when a crowd is fighting you, and it's very difficult to get them to laugh.
posted by msalt at 9:11 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Whoops, my comment should read:

You know, come to think of it, I'm wondering how many people learned about joy divisions after looking up the origin of the band name.
posted by I-baLL at 9:28 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


So, quality work that you admit you used to like based on the work itself you no longer do because of the race of the creator? Can someone explain to me with a straight face how this is not simple racism?

Yeah, I mean I still like the work I used to. I just don't need to read/watch/listen to it over and over again. It's to the point now where I can watch a show and 5 minutes into it I can detail not only the plot, but the main characters' emotions, backstory, thought processes, the places they'll go, the ideas they'll discuss, the incorrect preconceptions about the rest of the world...

Sidenote: Misconceptions about pregnancy and menstruation bother me the most. Like, I've never been pregnant but I do have a uterus and even I know that most of the way pregnancy is depicted in popular culture is bullshit. Like, most of the time if the writer thought about the process for even 5 seconds he would realize that his plot point is impossible.

Anyway, yeah, this is kinda a derail, but the upshot is I still love me some Dashboard Confessional but I would really like to not hear their ilk anymore right now. Sorry if you think that's racist.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:37 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I feel slightly bad now that I had a band called "the PMS Boys." It was over 20 years ago, but we meant it to be puzzling, not offensive. It was the era of alphabet soup band names!

Band names are always out it grab attention and then fade away. They are almost always stupid, if you give them any thought. These are more stupid than most, but since they grab attention, they are doing what they are designed to do, sadly.
posted by rikschell at 9:48 AM on February 2


I've found Childbirth's ripping anthem has escalated for me to Bikini Kill-eqsue levels of "White Boy/don't laugh/don't cry/just die!!!!!!" internal rage-scream. Helps with catharsis and motivation, A++ would scream again.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 10:01 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Band names are always out it grab attention and then fade away. They are almost always stupid, if you give them any thought. These are more stupid than most, but since they grab attention, they are doing what they are designed to do, sadly.

They ARE doing what they are supposed to do, but I'm not sure you are seeing the second half of what that intention is-- they grab the attention of a male audience, and they make the female audience immediately aware that they are not welcome in male spaces unless they are willing to be the subject of mockery and misogyny.

I mean, I don't think you had malice in your heart when you named your band "the PMS Boys". But I do know that if I had heard that a friend had named his band that, I would have felt like I had been slapped in the face.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:02 AM on February 2 [10 favorites]


A fiendish thingy, I see that putting down the female audience is the effect, but I disagree that it's always the intention. Most of these band names were made up by teenage white guys who desperately want to sound clever. That's a recipe for cluelessness. It follows a long tradition of white male supremacy. It's definitely a bad thing. And there are a lot of perpetrators who should know better. But I don't think all these guys are trying to be assholes.

I do think articles like this and drawing attention to how shitty these names people feel will eventually cure that cluelessness. Patriarchy is enduring and non-obvious to a lot of guys, but many of us do learn. If I'd realized at the time, I would've been just as happy with something equally stupid but non-offensive, like "the Soviet Onion." You'll still be stuck with the bands who really want to be offensive, but that's just Rock and Roll (or Hip Hop, or adolescence).
posted by rikschell at 10:29 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


But I don't think all these guys are trying to be assholes.

Sorry, I should have been clearer. I don't think this is the intention of individuals-- many of whom, as you say, are young and clueless when they choose these names.

But I do think that when living in a patriarchy, the global and pervasive habit of mocking and denigrating all things female means that this naming practice is larger than the individuals who unthinkingly participate in it. It acts as a cultural signifier, whether the individuals coming up with dumb jokes are aware of that fact or not.

(I would pay money to see The Soviet Onion in concert.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:39 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


Then there's the phenomenon of “girlface”
If there wasn't already a band named "Girlface" there will be soon.
posted by curiousgene at 10:41 AM on February 2


Reading the article and this thread makes me feel better about the flash of annoyance I have at the end of every StartUp podcast when they mention that their music is by Hot Moms Dot Gov.
posted by gladly at 10:41 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I see that putting down the female audience is the effect, but I disagree that it's always the intention.

I certainly agree with you, but that's the thing about living in the world. Despite what every child's story tells you, we care less about what's in your heart, than what's in your hand. In other words, outside of fodder for a bar argument, I don't care what you believe, I care what you do.

Full confession, years ago I played a show with Black Pussy. My band didn't book it, it was the return night of our tour, and we just jumped on it, but it was booked by a woman I really like. When they played I thought "Yeah, they sound good. But that name..."

And saying "Oh it's a reference to that totally racist Rolling Stone song about rape" is a pretty piss poor defense as you've just incriminated yourself for racism, misogyny, and playground "They did it first!" behavior.

I think the reason this article rightly focuses on current bands is that talking about this stuff shouldn't be a reason to go down through a list of every band you've ever listened to and condemn them (see my comments about Joy Division above). Instead, it should be a way to start a conversation that people who are working in the world now can see and think "Yeah, maybe we shouldn't do that", or people who are about to start bands can think "Huh, maybe we want some genuine female fans who don't have to hate themselves to love us."
posted by lumpenprole at 10:55 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]


I see that putting down the female audience is the effect, but I disagree that it's always the intention.


But the effect on women/girls/femmes is obviously understood, because it's the gradient that directs these bands to choose these names, from pop to metal levels of offensive.

There's no way to say that the effect isn't the intention without admitting that women/girls/femmes don't matter at all to the namers, and that's just as assholish as caring what women think and choosing to offend them.
posted by clew at 11:15 AM on February 2 [6 favorites]


It is some Mitch McConnell-level of ridiculously brazen hypocrisy to choose an "edgy" name for your band like "Black Pussy" and then start crying about freedom of expression and when people tell you why they think it sucks.
posted by straight at 1:35 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]


This article is a bit glib IMHO. Do the authors realize Louis CK is Latinx? There's no sign they do, and two young white middle-class writers trashing a guy from Mexico City is not a good look. I'm going to take the opinions of Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle about Louis' wokeness over theirs any day.

And dismissing Doug Stanhope because he supported Gary Johnson is... something. I didn't like Johnson but he's not exactly Steve Bannon.
posted by msalt at 1:35 PM on February 2


Oh, and I love these dudes who can't tell the difference between the government putting warning labels on your records and a woman on a website explaining why she thinks your band name is terrible or why responding with "FREEDOM! STICK IT TO THE MAN!" is a principled stand in first case but asshattery in the second.
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


Louis CK is Latinx? There's no sign they do, and two young white middle-class writers trashing a guy from Mexico City is not a good look. I'm going to take the opinions of Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle about Louis' wokeness over theirs any day


They're all men.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:52 PM on February 2 [9 favorites]


Now seems like a good time to give you your periodic reminder that Calvin Harris was born Adam Wiles and chose the stage name Calvin Harris because it sounded racially ambigious and FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK HIM.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:53 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


amnesia and magnets speaks the truth and the amount of "oooh we don't mean it" in this thread is foul. unsurprising, but foul, foul, foul.
posted by beefetish at 3:08 PM on February 2 [9 favorites]


"Partly this feels kind of stupid like "you can't do this because it is MY identity" in a selfish sort of way, like freaking out when Mom bobs her head to the Weeknd and you JUST CAN'T EVEN... But on the other hand there is a vague echo of white groups in the 50s stealing from black musicians and re-releasing songs to make things more "comfortable" for white listeners. So I can see that side of it for sure, but this is definitely, definitely more watered down. I think this is something that is interesting to talk about and think about from a broad cultural standpoint but I think getting so prescriptive about what everyone can and can't do is a little overbearing and undermines the argument. Maybe framed as a "consider this first, BROSEPH" would work, because this is only (at best) going to inform people arguably already trying to be on your side."

See a couple posts back on horizontal hostility.

"And dismissing Doug Stanhope because he supported Gary Johnson is... something. I didn't like Johnson but he's not exactly Steve Bannon."

It's not a surprise that Stanhope supported the only candidate too high to answer questions.
posted by klangklangston at 8:13 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Do the authors realize Louis CK is Latinx? There's no sign they do, and two young white middle-class writers trashing a guy from Mexico City is not a good look. I'm going to take the opinions of Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle about Louis' wokeness over theirs any day.
They're all men.
Yes, and the authors of this piece are all white. They're calling out LouisCK (who they describe as "white") for his comedy bit "Offended by the ‘N-Word’". Are you privileging their opinion on that subject over Chris Rock's and Dave Chappelle's? That the glibness I'm talking about.
posted by msalt at 11:40 PM on February 2


They're calling out LouisCK (who they describe as "white") for his comedy bit "Offended by the ‘N-Word’".

It's very important to you that these women are wrong in some way, isn't it.
posted by Etrigan at 3:14 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Louis CK would rip you to shreds for standing him up in America in our world today as above reproach because his father is Mexican.
posted by amanda at 6:59 AM on February 3


Louis CK self-identifies as white so I really don't think it's anyone else's place to go around telling people that he's not.
posted by Jairus at 7:13 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Not to derail this any further, but it seems to me that no one here - including the authors of the article - has actually listened to the Louis CK routine in question. It has some decidedly not-OK language, but it's definitely not "Edgy White Guy™️ Tells You What Not To Be Offended By" and instead is an observational bit about the phrase "n-word" as a euphemism.

ANYWAY, interesting article - my old band was called "Ella Says" ("Ella" as in Ella Fitzgerald, "Says" as in the Lou Reed, "Caroline Says" approach to songwriting), and it would never in a million years have occurred to us that that might be questionable.
posted by tantrumthecat at 8:54 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Others have expressed this, but put me in with those who are grossed out by the amount of men here saying "oh I had a band name like that but we didn't mean anything by it." Yes, you meant SOMETHING by it, unconscious or not. Know that.
posted by agregoli at 8:55 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


> Are you privileging their opinion on that subject over Chris Rock's and Dave Chappelle's

I'm privileging their opinion on the subject of sexism in band names, which is what this piece is about. The point in the article is that the band appeals to other men to defend their use of sexist terms, instead of listening to women (or finding women who agree with them, and using them as their authorities).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Yes, really weird to make this about race when we're talking about sexism.
posted by agregoli at 9:06 AM on February 3


The authors are the ones who brought up race. They constantly dismiss people they disagree with as white and used LouisCK's bit as the evidence against him. Like tantrumcat, I have heard the bit, and it's not what these white authors imagine it is.

>Louis CK self-identifies as white

Yes. I never said he didn't (or wasn't). Latinidad is complex, isn't it? My point was the authors' glibness. This is in my hometown alt-weekly and I agree with pretty much everything in this article; I just wish the writing was more rigorous. /derail
posted by msalt at 11:05 AM on February 3


> Yes. I never said he didn't (or wasn't).

> They're calling out LouisCK (who they describe as "white") for his comedy bit "Offended by the ‘N-Word’".

So what's the problem?
posted by Jairus at 11:20 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I agree with pretty much everything in this article; I just wish the writing was more rigorous.

This is pretty much the sample sentence under "Concern trolling", you realize. Maybe you don't have to wistfully demand a PhD level of rigor next time.
posted by Etrigan at 11:23 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


Others have expressed this, but put me in with those who are grossed out by the amount of men here saying "oh I had a band name like that but we didn't mean anything by it." Yes, you meant SOMETHING by it, unconscious or not. Know that.
posted by agregoli at 8:55 AM on February 3
[3 favorites +] [!]


I can only speak for my own (formed in 1996, long since defunct) band, but I can say with confidence that all we were trying to evoke was our love of jazz standards and late 60s/early 70s rock, as those styles had a heavy influence on the songs we wrote.

I put the anecdote about my band in my original comment upthread because I was all set to write something along the lines of "as per the article, I tend to give d00d bands with woman -signifying names the side-eye, because I can never tell the motivation behind the name". And then I remembered that, 20 years ago, I was IN a d00d band with a woman-signifying name. So, I kinda felt the need to call myself out a little???

Anyway, I'd like to believe that "Ella Says" was fairly innocuous as these things go, but I'll leave that for others to judge...
posted by tantrumthecat at 12:18 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


So what's the problem?

Lazy, unreflective writing. Are we not allowed to agree with someone but note flaws in the writing any more?
posted by msalt at 12:25 PM on February 3


> Are we not allowed to agree with someone but note flaws in the writing any more

It feels less like you're offering writing tips, and more like you're trying to dismiss their argument.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:58 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


but I can say with confidence that all we were trying to evoke was our love of jazz standards and late 60s/early 70s rock, as those styles had a heavy influence on the songs we wrote.

You really missed my point, I think. Your band name was not as problematic as some here, for sure, but what I'm trying to say is we're all living in the same toxic sexist soup, and no decision about something like this is made without that influencing it. There's way too many guys here saying things like, "we didn't mean it to be sexist." And yet it can be anyway. Intent isn't really that relevant to me.
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


we're all living in the same toxic sexist soup

I agree 1000%.

Intent isn't really that relevant to me.

This is where we differ. Sussing out intent has been a recurring theme in my life, and something of a personal survival tactic. (Long story, won't bore everyone here with the details.)
posted by tantrumthecat at 4:00 PM on February 3


Intent might be ok but things can still sting that weren't meant to...and honestly, what we're talking about here? It's a goddamn FEATURE of the patriarchy that men DON'T realize their stupid fun band name is sexist and hurtful as hell. And there's a sense of a "we were young" justification in retrospect here that's annoying.
posted by agregoli at 4:59 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


The task of figuring out "is this deliberately sexist or did the artist do it unintentionally ?" gets wearying after a decade or two.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:05 PM on February 3 [7 favorites]


It feels less like you're offering writing tips, and more like you're trying to dismiss their argument.
Well, I'm sorry if my writing was unclear. I chose the word "glib" precisely because it doesn't say anything about the ideological direction of an argument. I also said straight out that I agree with pretty much everything in the article -- all these sexist names ARE bullshit -- and I never disagreed with or raised objections to any substantive point, so I don't know why you would think I was dismissing it. (Could you be conflating me with other people who've commented here?)

LouisCK is a very famous person with a long and much-discussed engagement with racial and sexual politics. The authors blithely wrote him off as an old prejudiced white guy, clearly knowing nothing about him. It doesn't require PhD level writing to do better than that; it's journalism 101. Not even googling him was just lazy.
posted by msalt at 7:25 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


You've called them privileged, unreflective, glib, blithe, lazy, not rigorous, and not up to journalism 101 standards. That's not actually better than agreeing with most of their argument.
posted by Etrigan at 7:52 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


How did a thread about how men use women's identifiers to stand out among other men while excluding women become all about defending rich white men a-fucking-gain?
posted by Deoridhe at 8:37 PM on February 3 [10 favorites]


[One deleted. Let's please put a cap on the "the writing is not rigorous enough" argument now.]
posted by taz at 4:45 AM on February 4


Intent might be ok but things can still sting that weren't meant to...and honestly, what we're talking about here? It's a goddamn FEATURE of the patriarchy that men DON'T realize their stupid fun band name is sexist and hurtful as hell. And there's a sense of a "we were young" justification in retrospect here that's annoying.
posted by agregoli at 4:59 PM on February 3 [4 favorites −] [!]


Serious question for you - what if we're mentioning this stuff as a form of repentance? Like, here's a messed up sexist thing I did when I was younger, I like to think I've learned since then?
posted by tantrumthecat at 5:43 AM on February 5


Comes across here more as justification than repentance, for me.
posted by agregoli at 10:10 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Comes across here more as justification than repentance, for me.
posted by agregoli at 10:10 AM on February 5
[+] [!]


Fair enough. Again, I can only speak for myself, but in my case I can honestly say that it was not justification but rather realization.
posted by tantrumthecat at 10:41 AM on February 5


It feels like the thing that always happens...men hear about sexism, and NEED to speak up about how they participated but they didn't mean it. I'm tired of hearing it. This thread isn't for men to absolve themselves of their past sexist behavior.
posted by agregoli at 10:46 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Heard loud and clear. Chastened. Will try to do better next time.
posted by rikschell at 6:41 PM on February 5


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