Marie Conway

Ņ99% Pizza 99% TacoÓ

 

            In an ideal world, punk is music for people who reject mainstream garbage and its grip on the rest of the world. ItÕs a genre of music free of conformity, materialism, and social hierarchies. In a perfect world, punk shows are places for musicians to play in front of other like-minded individuals, and to find out about bands, art, protests, recipes, venues, ideas, and messages that reflect free ways of thinking. While these are the things that make punk constantly engaging and never growing stale, inequalities exist in the punk scene just as they do in the rest of society. This zine will focus on the inequalities between men and women, and the shortcomings of gender equality in the scene.

        Think back to the 90Õs when GG Allin of The Murder Junkies were writing about rape in the song ŅIÕm Gonna Rape YouÓ.  Needless to say, that kind of stuff set the scene back to caveman status as far as equality goes. Although a song about rape is not rape, sexism definitely still exists. Sexism might not be as prevalent, but itÕs still enough to get in the way of women who want to contribute to the scene.

 

            In the early days of punk, when moshing was still slam dancing, the scene was pretty much a boysÕ club. Shows were booked by men, for men. All-male bands played to almost all-male crowds. Women in the scene were sparse, and it was even rarer to see them in bands or writing about bands, or to hear them on the radio talking about punk rock. Things slowly started to shift because groundbreaking female musicians made music for everyone to strut to. Some early females to do this include Siouxie Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees, and all-female The Slits, both of which were British post-punk bands that began in the mid 70Õs. It was important to see these strong women on stage playing music because they inspired so many men and women musically and artistically.

 

            More bands with women in them started happening. Another influential female in punk was Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, who brought not only vocal abilities but also played bass and guitar for this 80Õs band. The 80Õs was also when straight edge hardcore started to explode with Youth Crew-era acts like Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, and Youth of Today. 7 Seconds notably wrote the song ŅNot Just BoysŌ FunÓ during this time because of their disgust at how women were treated at their shows.

 

Man you've gotta problem, who made you fuckin' king

A macho pig with nothing in your head.

No girls around you, their place is not at gigs,

Don't want 'em on the dance floor 'cos they're weak.

A woman's place, the kitchen, on her back,

It's time to change that attitude, and quick.

...

Showing us your phobias, you're scared to see 'em think,

You'd rather dress 'em up in pretty lace,

All nice and colored pink.

You feel so fucking threatened,

When they stand out in front,

A stupid, passive piece of meat is all you really want

But it's:

Not just boysÕ fun!

There's girls who put out fanzines, others put on shows,

Yet they're not allowed to get out on the floor.

Some make the music, well that you can accept.

Hell, maybe live you'll get some tits and ass

You fucking moron, your brains have run amuck,

A girl's only lot in life is not to fuck!

 

             The 80Õs gave way to the 90Õs and the riot grrrl movement. Most punk fans will mention Bikini Kill was one of the most important first-generation riot grrrl bands because of their feminist lyrics, as well as Bratmobile, with their snotty lyrics and tough, girly edge. If you fast forward to today (I know IÕm skipping a lot), you can find a whole lot of inspiring female musicians. If you want to know about current female-fronted punk bands, the first bands you need to know about are Punch and Suffix. Both of these hardcore bands are fronted by females who write strong, encouraging lyrics for women and have no problem telling anyone else to fuck right off.

            In preparation of this piece, I emailed back and forth with a very creative and respected woman in the scene who is well-versed in punk and feminism. Emily Agustin (currently with the band The Maybenauts) had a lot of informative and inspiring things to say on the subject of feminism in punk rock in general, but she gave me some great advice that applies to all females with an interest in music:

 

Don't be afraid to pick up an instrument. I started learning how to play drums in junior high, but was listening to a lot of metal at the time, and didn't think I could ever play like those guys. I actually didn't play drum set for the duration of high school because I felt so intimidated by dudes who'd been playing since they were little kids, and did nothing but practice and play in crappy Rush cover bands. It wasn't until I'd digested four years of punk and noise that I realized I didn't WANT to sound like those guys! The DIY attitude is key, so don't let anyone intimidate you. Also, know your roots lest you be doomed to repeat them! Read up on Riot Grrrl, learn about the history of women in rock and roll, stick together and support other women in the scene. Be voracious in your appetite for new (or just new to you) music.

 

         Anne from Suffix mentioned she wanted to be in a band for years, but avoided actually doing something about it for a long time because she was scared of failure. It seems that women often seem to feel inadequate and Ņnot good enoughÓ to be in bands. Women shouldnÕt feel this way because itÕs so important for females to inspire other females. (Plus, the way I see it, nothing about punk rock involves being Ņgood.Ó While you can aspire to be a good musician, you donÕt have to be classically trained, or even talented, to be in a punk band. The shittier you sound, the more punk you are.)

            You may be wondering what IÕm talking about when I say Ņgender inequalities in punkÓ. Maybe youÕre asking what actually went so wrong that someone went as far as to make a zine about it. Let me share some stories with you that involve females who came to punk shows to escape sexismÕs grip on society, but ended up just finding it. HereÕs a story I found on the blog site Tumblr that happened over the summer when two of my favorite hardcore bands (all-male Ceremony and female-fronted Punch) toured the together:

 

This is my one and only rant about what happened at the Ceremony show. The reason for posting this is hopefully to get feedback and understand if IÕm overeacting or if IÕm justified in calling the lead singer a sexist scumfuck.

Eva, John, Tim, Wombat, and I went to see the None/Cower/Nails/Punch/Ceremony show at the Satyricon last week. All of the bands were fucking rad leading up to Ceremony. Punch if you are not familiar, are an awesome lady-fronted band from California. Three songs into their set, CeremonyÕs lead singer said ŅThanks to The Punch, itÕs always great to see a pretty lady. Everyone likes to have a pretty lady around.Ó It got awkwardly quiet and everyone was just waiting for something to happen. The guitar player chipped in ŅItÕs nice to have ugly girls around too. We love ugly girls.Ó The lead singer responded ŅWe love chicks, hot chicks.Ó The guitar player laughed and said ŅYeah chicks.Ó

A few womyn responded by yelling: ŅWHAT THE FUCK?Ó and ŅFUCK YOU!Ó

Both of them told me that immediately after making those comments the room turned hostile, and they started getting dirty looks and angry glares.

I was so fucking upset, that in a room full of mostly white males, the lead singer had just brought gender to the forefront and failed to mention anything about the band, the music, or anything else. I walked out. John walked out. We had a long talk about why we were angry. Two days later after posting some details on my Facebook page, IÕm being told that my reaction was over the top, and that his comments are barely sexist and excusable.

            The singerÕs mistake (and the guitaristÕs attempt to help him out) that lead to outrage from females in the crowd was stripping the singer of Punch down to her looks and her gender. Although it needs to be said that his comment was intended to be harmless, and that heÕs not the first man in history to say something regrettable in front of a large group of people, punk is NOT being pretty.

            As a girl who regularly goes to punk shows, IÕve noticed some things on my own that I have felt insulted by or uncomfortable with. IÕm definitely no stranger to being the only female in a room full of males. I understand that when a large group of males gets together to hang out, I donÕt need to take everything I hear personally. But I donÕt think it was ever okay for a guy to push past me and say, Ņout of my way, dyke.Ó Or how about the last time I saw Suffix? A guy yelled, ŅSIT ON MY FACE PLEEEEEASE!Ó at Anne between songs. Of course, it needs to be said that people will inherently seek out people who are like them for sexual partners, and I think thatÕs pretty awesome. So punks will want to be with other punks, right? Yes. But groping and rubbing up against girls in the pit and other creepy acts in which she has not given consent are still not okay. A female does not consent to whatever you feel like doing just by being in the same public space as you.

            IÕve been called a poser for Ņtrying to be like the boysÓ, or Ņgetting into bands just because guys like themÓ, and IÕve witnessed other girls talked about the same way. There have been a lot of occasions where a dude handing out flyers or selling tapes has offered them to every male IÕm standing around with, but has skipped over me. 99% percent of the time, I have to ask for a flyer or tape. Maybe because IÕm a girl, they assume I donÕt have a genuine interest in the music. If I had a dollar for every time this happened to me, I would have enough money to buy every crappy demo tape in the world.

            But the point is not to hate on men; itÕs to get people to re-evaluate their actions and remember that sexism isnÕt welcome anywhere. And ladies: remember to have boundaries about what youÕre okay and not okay with. If you hear something offensive, do something about it. Emily Augustin put it very well in one of her emails:

When boys say girls are only into punk for the boys, prove them wrong by going to the shows, buying the records, starting a band, supporting female bands, knowing your shit, etc... As far as when a guy yells something obscene at a female singer, yell back. If you see girls getting hassled at shows, whether she's onstage or in the crowd, and whether it's physically or verbally, support her. Block the creeper who's trying to grab her ass, shout down the asshole who thinks it's really clever to say "show us your tits."

 

            My own advice is to be the girl that says or does something. Remember that girls should stick together, and that itÕs important to back up other women. If you hear something you donÕt like, call people out on it, or else theyÕll just do it again.

 

            Males should remember to encourage females to have a place in punk. ItÕs easy to single out somebody thatÕs different than you as someone that doesnÕt belong- but donÕt do that. Encourage and welcome everyone. Excluding others that arenÕt like you, like females or people of other races, or people with different interests, is what a bunch of jocks on a sports team do, and thatÕs not punk. Punk isnÕt just about an aesthetic, itÕs about thinking for yourself!