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  • Topic: Article: Punk Has a Problem with Women. Why?

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    • July 4, 2014 10:44 AM CDT
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      I'd love to get a conversation going about this... Read the article and post your thoughts!

       

      From: http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/jul/03/punk-has-a-problem-with-women-why

       

      Punk has a problem with women. Why?

       

      For all its supposed celebration of diversity and inclusivity, punk doesn't allow women the visibility they merit

       

      The Slits
       
      The Slits … Nearly 40 years on, female punk musicians still struggle to be recognised. Photograph: Julian Yewdall/Getty Images

       

      Earlier this week, the BBC aired a Culture Show special Girls Will Be Girls about the “female punk spirit”. Next week, Amy Oden’s documentary From the Back of the Room– a celebration of women in punk – is screening in London. It’s shown with a telling regularity here in the UK, and not just because it’s an excellent piece of film-making. It addresses an issue that punk just can’t seem to shake: female visibility, or the lack of it.

       

      For all the films and programmes about women's role in punk, their recognition has been a problem since the 1970s and it looks like very little has changed. Women were a part of punk from the beginning – as musicians, promoters, venue heads, artists, provocateurs, community organisers, documenting their local scenes in zines, films, books and photographs. As LA punk veteran Alice Bag has pointed out, punk started out as an inclusive and diverse movement, but was quickly annexed by white dudes. Women have had to fight for space and recognition in punk ever since.

       

      Even as the Sex Pistols and the Clash began their noisy quest for world domination, the radical all-girl punk band the Slits faced opposition at every level of industry, as chronicled in guitarist Viv Albertine’s excellently sharp memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. In the 90s, riot grrrl rose up in protest at endemic punk scene sexism, while bands like Bikini Kill fought to reclaim the stage and the mosh pit. Two decades on, Alanna McArdle of Joanna Gruesome battles with sexist online trolls, Laura Jane Grace calls out the macho punk culture and both Syracuse, New York’s Perfect Pussy and Vancouver’s White Lung rage openly against the sexist boy majority. Same shit, different decade.

       

      So why the groundhog day? Well, partly because the industry bros with power and influence aren’t doing all they can to change this inbalance. When Megan Seling interviewed Warped tour founder Kevin Lyman recently, challenging him over the persistent lack of female artists on the festival’s line-up, Lyman blamed women, saying there aren’t enough female bands out there to book.

       

      Maybe there really are fewer women making punk music. But if that's the case, maybe it's because they see so few examples of female visibility at festivals like Warped that it doesn't occur to them that being in a band is an option. Maybe it's because men are more likely to have the time, confidence and disposable income necessary to make a band happen. Maybe it's because men don’t have to face constant objectification in the pages of guitar magazines, or the archetypal patronising music-shop dudes, or the steady line of snarky stage techies who prompted Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker to write her 1997 Hey Sound Guy zine. Maybe it’s because women on the road face a set of obstacles that men in bands will never have to consider: sexual harassment, gendered violence, isolation, rape (and the subsequent blanket of silence and victim smearing that happens if the accused happens to be a punk hero). Maybe it's because the men who enjoy the freedom of the road aren’t worn down by the exhausting, pervasive sexism of promoters, venue managers and – should they garner the gaze of the music press – a media that is still, by and large, made by, for and about men. Maybe it's because the women who challenge the male hegemony in punk tend to get left out of the history books, prompting film-makers like Oden to retell the story.

       

      Or maybe we only think there are fewer women out there because we only ever get to see the lucky few to whom industry gatekeepers deign to give a platform. Warped’sShiragirl stage – set up guerrilla-style by musician Shira in 2004 in response to Warped’s disproportionate boy/girl ratio – was a well-intentioned move, a way of ensuring women were present. But it's time that Warped – and others – change the way they support women in punk. As AbsolutePunk writer Kelly Doherty has pointed out, women-only stages, however benevolent, effectively ghettoize women:

       

      The Shiragirl Stage is a way of the scene patting itself on the back and feeling super progressive when, really, it's yet another way of suggesting that women do not have a role to play in the important parts of the festival. The Shiragirl Stage will never, ever change the opinion of a young individual who believes that the touring circuit is something women should not participate in, as they won't look twice at the stage. How you change opinions is by giving females the chance to be in the same position as men and by showing people that they are just as capable.

       

      Jennie Russell-Smith, musician and co-organiser of Rebellion festival, the UK’s biggest annual punk festival, agrees wholeheartedly. “This is the first time I’ve heard of the Shiragirl stage, and I’m appalled that someone would feel the need to have a stage where the girl bands are kept away from the male bands. Its ridiculous.” And the idea that there aren’t enough female bands out there? Bullshit, says Russell-Smith. “Years ago, I actively sought out women bands [for Rebellion line-ups]. Nowadays, because there are so many girl bands out there, I don’t even think about it.” Having women at Rebellion is important to Russell-Smith, but it’s not a quota thing, she says – its about diversity. This year’s Rebellion line-up includes Maid of Ace, the Duel, Vice Squad, Glitter Trash, the Ramonas, Louise Distras, Efa Supertramp, Healthy Junkies and Meg and Mog. “There are so many women getting out there and doing it, and it makes my heart sing.”

       

      Russell-Smith grew up in north-east England, in a democratic local scene. “Us women were never made to feel inferior – but I know that’s not everybody’s experience, and I can’t speak for the women in London, or other parts of the world. I’ve been toying with the idea of a one-off Rebellion girls’ night out, a London gig, which would [celebrate] all-female or female-fronted bands. Everyone would be welcome audience-wise, men and women.” But ultimately, says Russell-Smith, there is a thin line between celebrating women and keeping a divide between the sexes.

       

      So how do the punks with power ensure women are given equal footing? “The global punk family should stand together,” says Russell-Smith, “because some of us have opportunities that our sisters don’t. I’d also encourage women to contact Kevin [Lyman] in a proactive way about this. He’s welcome to come to Rebellion any time, and he can see how it works over here.”

      This post was edited by køpper at July 4, 2014 10:45 AM CDT
      ____________________________________

      "Go read a book and flunk a test." -Iggy

      Listen to SHOCK THERAPY on RADIO MUTATION if ya know what's good bad for ya!

    • July 8, 2014 8:30 PM CDT
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      Interesting article. I would lean more towards Russle-Smith's argument though. First off, I wouldn't even consider Warped or Guitar hero or whatever the mag is called punk. So no girls in that doesn't equate to no girls in punk. Secondly I would say there are not as many women in punk because not as many women play punk music, simple as that. Maybe some of the more mocho hardcore scenes push women out, but who wants to be involved in that shit anyway? There are lots of hardcore bands (White Lung mentioned above, Pretty Boys, Disgusting Body, Anti-Vibes, Libyans..etc) that are all female or female fronted hardcore. 

      As for the history of punk, I've always loved X-Ray Specs, Slits, Bags, Neo Boys, Runaways, Eve Libertine in Crass..etc. They seem to be prominent in the books and films I've seen on punk. I've seen the Slits in several documentaries. All LA scene books talk about the Bags. For the record, Alice Bag is one of the most bad ass punk singers of all time. 

      I'm all for more girls being involved, the more the merrier, I love girls. However, I don't feel they are overlooked or pushed aside. I do think some bands are overlooked, like Girlschool. I feel they don't get the credit they deserve for the amount of awesome music they put out. However, I could probably name dozens of groups that are all guys who don't get the credit they deserve either.  

    • July 10, 2014 3:47 AM CDT
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      Punk's not the only genre of music guilty here. While driving to work yesterday listening to a jazz show, it spawned on me how few women, other than vocalists, there are in jazz. Lil Armstrong, Alice Coltrane ... Who else?
    • July 10, 2014 4:41 AM CDT
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      Hmmmm. Got a few years for this one? I guess I'd sum it up by saying why should music be any different than any other public field of endeavour. Music and its biz-ness isn't any more or less sexist than any other field. One could argue it is less so on some counts -- think of all the divas who've made squillions compared to CEO's and sooner, like Diana Ross, etc... I dunno. As for punk, I'd argue punk made way for far more women in rock than not if not for the DIY aspect of the whole 'endeavour.' Fuck it, let's just dance.

    • July 10, 2014 9:06 AM CDT
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      When was the last time anyone saw any kind of formal commemoration specifically highlighting males in the music industry? Especially white males? Other than satire, probably never. Because it's a given. Imagine stuff like "Top 10 Dudes in Punk" or "The Most Underrated White Males in Music History." Also, other than the actual "genre" of "boy bands," does anyone ever refer to a "guy band" like they do a "girl band?" No... because when men make music, it's just a BAND!

      This conversation is too heavy for an article or a forum to do it justice. However, this hilarious Twitter exchange happened between Neko Case and Playboy recently. It's worth 5 minutes of your time. 

      What Playboy's Sexist Article About Neko Case Really Says About Women in Music


      "IM NOT A FUCKING "WOMAN IN MUSIC", IM A FUCKING MUSICIAN IN MUSIC!"
      - Neko Case

      This post was edited by saurus Rex at July 10, 2014 11:15 PM CDT
    • July 10, 2014 9:15 AM CDT
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      Matt said:

      Interesting article. I would lean more towards Russle-Smith's argument though. First off, I wouldn't even consider Warped or Guitar hero or whatever the mag is called punk. So no girls in that doesn't equate to no girls in punk. Secondly I would say there are not as many women in punk because not as many women play punk music, simple as that. Maybe some of the more mocho hardcore scenes push women out, but who wants to be involved in that shit anyway? There are lots of hardcore bands (White Lung mentioned above, Pretty Boys, Disgusting Body, Anti-Vibes, Libyans..etc) that are all female or female fronted hardcore. 

      As for the history of punk, I've always loved X-Ray Specs, Slits, Bags, Neo Boys, Runaways, Eve Libertine in Crass..etc. They seem to be prominent in the books and films I've seen on punk. I've seen the Slits in several documentaries. All LA scene books talk about the Bags. For the record, Alice Bag is one of the most bad ass punk singers of all time. 

      I'm all for more girls being involved, the more the merrier, I love girls. However, I don't feel they are overlooked or pushed aside. I do think some bands are overlooked, like Girlschool. I feel they don't get the credit they deserve for the amount of awesome music they put out. However, I could probably name dozens of groups that are all guys who don't get the credit they deserve either.  

       

      I hear a lot of similar words and opinions about women in the tech industry. Specifically that not many women pursue a technical education and therefore not many women apply for technical jobs. But why is that? Is it because we are all raised with the notion that tech is a more male dominated field? Yep! Whether you realize it or not, we're primed for that from an early age. I was always encouraged to take classes and participate in extracurricular activities that are more stereotypically feminine, like language arts or crafts, as opposed to my male peers being encouraged to take high level math and take computers apart. The girls that do, are often outnumbered, met with resistance, and have a rough time in the "boys club" from this early age and if they actually make it to pursuing a related career. 

      This also happens in the music scene. I guarantee if there are less women present in any kind of field or scene, it's because of a combination of many things that make them feel inadequate or less welcome. 

    • July 10, 2014 12:09 PM CDT
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      I guess I could see your point in tech industry as I hear the same things about history majors, it too, being a male dominated field of study—though I think more and more women are becoming respected and renowned historians, which is nice. And not just in female-focused historical topics. I have about as many female profs as male, but I do believe that had I attended to school ten years ago, things would have been different. 

      However in "punk" music I don't notice this as much, or at all to be honest. It could be just the local scene I am involved in? I recently completed a zine which I interviewed three bands, all female singers. This was not intentional, in fact I didn't think about it until I started the third interview, then I realized they were all female fronted bands. It just happened to be three bands I've been into recently. Shows I attend seem to be about 50/50 as far as attendance in concerned. I have so many girl friends (not girlfriends) that are in bands I can't even begin to name them all. Its never even a discussion, it's just a scene we all enjoy. Maybe this is a regional scene.

      Thinking back to when I lived in the states, I don't recall, as many women being involved, but this also could have been a regional issue (not an American issue). It could be that there are so many females in the punk scene here in Toronto/ Montreal that it inspires other girls to get involved. As it is now, I don't think anybody even thinks about female involvement, cause it's just not an issue. 

      I do realize it has not always been like this. Rock 'n' Roll has historically been a male dominated field and I have much admiration for the trailblazers from Etta James to Joan Jett. And I don't think that sexism is NOT an issue. Much like having a black president did not end racism. That's obviously an ignorant way of thinking. I do think that women today have lots of other women playing punk to look up to and any scene worth being involved in is fully supportive of female involvement. 

       

    • July 10, 2014 1:21 PM CDT
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      Matt said:

      I guess I could see your point in tech industry as I hear the same things about history majors, it too, being a male dominated field of study—though I think more and more women are becoming respected and renowned historians, which is nice. And not just in female-focused historical topics. I have about as many female profs as male, but I do believe that had I attended to school ten years ago, things would have been different. 

      However in "punk" music I don't notice this as much, or at all to be honest. It could be just the local scene I am involved in? I recently completed a zine which I interviewed three bands, all female singers. This was not intentional, in fact I didn't think about it until I started the third interview, then I realized they were all female fronted bands. It just happened to be three bands I've been into recently. Shows I attend seem to be about 50/50 as far as attendance in concerned. I have so many girl friends (not girlfriends) that are in bands I can't even begin to name them all. Its never even a discussion, it's just a scene we all enjoy. Maybe this is a regional scene.

      Thinking back to when I lived in the states, I don't recall, as many women being involved, but this also could have been a regional issue (not an American issue). It could be that there are so many females in the punk scene here in Toronto/ Montreal that it inspires other girls to get involved. As it is now, I don't think anybody even thinks about female involvement, cause it's just not an issue. 

      I do realize it has not always been like this. Rock 'n' Roll has historically been a male dominated field and I have much admiration for the trailblazers from Etta James to Joan Jett. And I don't think that sexism is NOT an issue. Much like having a black president did not end racism. That's obviously an ignorant way of thinking. I do think that women today have lots of other women playing punk to look up to and any scene worth being involved in is fully supportive of female involvement. 

       

      Just an FYI, I wasn't arguing as much as adding perspective from this angle. 

      That's really awesome that you interviewed those women AS musicians and not "women musicians." Normalizing it with things like that is a great step to it being normal for everyone. It sounds like you have different scenery and that's cool. I've seen womenin music treated pretty shitty though. 

      This is a super cool article that both men and women and musicians and not musicians should read. (I mean everyone.)

      Not All Women: A Reflection On Being A Musician and Female

       

      This post was edited by saurus Rex at July 10, 2014 1:22 PM CDT
    • July 10, 2014 7:40 PM CDT
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      You don't need a penis to play a guitar. Well, not if you're playing right anyway...

    • July 10, 2014 8:39 PM CDT
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      My sad old carcass has seen a lot of trends change , sometimes for the better. In the early 80's , I started seeing more women getting involved , as Musicians  (Not just tambourine beatin' Singers.) in "Punk" , and/or Underground music that , maybe , did'nt fall under that banner.  But , there were always women involved , even if there were also men , extremely uptight about their masculinity , that stood in their way.....People seem a lot less put off , today , by seeing and hearing female musicians in postions of prominence. 

      But , I agree with the idea of being a Musician , first...

      At the height of the Riot Grrrl movement , Chris Horne from The Brood ( Not only one of the best Garage bands of the last 30 years , but one of the best GARAGE bands .) told me  , " They pair us off with other female bands on these bills , and sometimes,  it does'nt work.  I have to tell people we're not an all - woman band , but , an all - girl band. It's all right to be an all - girl band. Some of these bands that put being women first , you can't listen to them , they're that bad....

    • July 10, 2014 8:47 PM CDT
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      BTW:   I meant to say , The Brood were not only one of the best all - female Garage bands , but , one of the best GARAGE bands (In general).....   However , they did'nt sound like ass , so , I guess , like Girlschool (Whom I would'nt really call "Metal" , even if some of their songs bore an E chord overkill pattern.) , they'll go largely ignored or forgotten , but , they did their thing , and seemed to really enjoy it.

    • July 10, 2014 11:13 PM CDT
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      melissa scott said:

      You don't need a penis to play a guitar. Well, not if you're playing right anyway...

       

      Maybe that's been my problem

    • July 10, 2014 11:18 PM CDT
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      Maybe the newly released White House tapes featuring the ageless wisdom of Richard Nixon explains why not many women are drawn to punk:

      http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/that-time-richard-nixon-didn-t-know-women-were-allowed-to-swear-20140710

      Nixon: I mean, you've got to stop at a certain point. Why is it that the girls don't swear? Because a man, when he swears, people can't tolerate a girl who is a—

      Haldeman: Girls do swear.

      Nixon: Huh?

      Haldeman: They do now.

      Nixon: Oh, they do now? But, nevertheless, it removes something from them. They don't even realize it. A man drunk, and a man who swears, people will tolerate and say that's a sign of masculinity or some other damn thing. We all do it. We all swear. But you show me a girl that swears and I'll show you an awful unattractive person. 

    • July 11, 2014 12:25 AM CDT
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      You know why Richard Nixon saw "Deep Thoat" six times?

      So he could get it down Pat.                        

       

      Nixon struggled , I believe , to understand the counterculture. By that , I mean , to understand what the Hell it WAS , not to empathize with it.

       

    • July 12, 2014 9:14 AM CDT
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      Thanks for posting the article Dear-Rex. Interesting read. I'd never heard of any of the bands listed there, but my class mate was looking over my shoulder while reading it and she knew of all the bands mentioned. Of course this was before class, not during lecture ;)

       

    • July 12, 2014 9:36 AM CDT
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      Matt said:

      Thanks for posting the article Dear-Rex. Interesting read. I'd never heard of any of the bands listed there, but my class mate was looking over my shoulder while reading it and she knew of all the bands mentioned. Of course this was before class, not during lecture ;)

       

      I'm also not familiar with most of those bands. Thanks for reading it! We need more guys that can listen!

    • July 12, 2014 9:42 AM CDT
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      melissa scott said:

      You don't need a penis to play a guitar. Well, not if you're playing right anyway...

      Like Cole of the Black Lips? ;)

      ____________________________________

      "Go read a book and flunk a test." -Iggy

      Listen to SHOCK THERAPY on RADIO MUTATION if ya know what's good bad for ya!

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