26 July 2009

I'm so angry 'Violent Femmes' is already taken. By dudes!

Just so you know, this one isn't so much gin & tonic as break-your-arm-in-the-mosh-pit & break-someone-else's-trying-to-get-out. Which is great if you like that sort of thing. Which I do. I love it.
If you don't just skip to about 2:30 for the breakdown.

I found Walls of Jericho while compiling my Hottest 100 Women list this week. I've been going out of my way to find and include female-fronted hardcore and metal bands. Not just the punk Riot Grrrrls (that I love), but bands who are making music now or have been in the past few years.

I love this kind of music. I love bands like Parkway Drive, Norma Jean, Gallows, Carpathian, Refused and Enter Shikari. I love the shows they put on (when I can be fucked to get to them). I especially love the aggression and energy these bands bring to songs that are technically complicated and require a lot of leet skilz (oh, I went there!) While it's not something that ever made me feel unsafe, this scene is pretty dude-heavy and often actively marginalises female fans and musicians.

I think it's due largely to physicality and aggressiveness still being seen as not ladylike, or something that women can't pull-off convincingly. In my experience there's an assumption amongst the people who listen to this music that girls who go along to shows are primarily interested in dressing up and catching themselves a boy with lip piercings and a fringe rather than the music.* It's not exactly an innovative to try an exclude women by telling us that we're fundamentally incapable of appreciating or participating in an activity. It's the same excuse that's been used historically to dismiss women from engineering, maths, formal logic and, yep, Triple J's Hottest 100 of All Time. Neither is it surprising that female screamers are dismissed as poor substitute for a person with a big, swinging dick. Our society has a proud history of telling women to fuc of back to the kitchen and let the boys deal with things. I'm not suprissed, but I am angry.

I wanted to find more angry, screaming front ladies for a couple of reasons. One- contrary to a lot of the excuse-making that went on just after the Hottest 100 list was released, women don't just make pop music and cutesy indi love songs. Women rock the fuck out. We've got a lot to be angry about and that anger ought to be listened to and honoured, not caught at the 'bitch filter' or dismissed as over-emotional crap.

- Telling women to sit, waiting for the opportunity to catch a husband, on the side line of any activity is not on. Ever. The heteronormative, narrow definition of womanhood restricts us all even if we don't adhere to it and every single person we interact with knows we don't adhere to it. In our world, our sex and gender precede us and shape our experiences. It doesn't matter if we manage to escape it as individuals, it' still there on an institutional and systemic level.

- Telling women to play by a different, more restrictive set of rules than the boys becasue we're wired differently or need protection is not on. Ever. As a young woman I'm insulted when I hear people saying that I don't have the brains or balls to appreciate or participate in something because I'm too fragile/ vain/ passive (which would be that pesky sex/gender thing preceding me, btw). There are some things I need protection from, like rape and unconscious bias or systemic inequalities in hiring practices. I don't, however, need protecting from my own taste in music, or from my anger.

I fully appreciate that some people (male or female) won't be into this noise. I get it. It's all loud and confusing and the vocals are basically (well controlled) screams. that's cool. I'm not saying women who rather heels to hardcore are dupes of the patriarchy. I'm saying that drawing the line between people who can appreciate hardcore and metal and people who can't along gender lines is sexist, problematic, annoying and makes me wanna front my very own aggressive metalcore band.

*As an aside, the implication that hardcore dancing is used as a way for girls to pick a dude is kind of disturbing. The undertones of ye olde "women like a violent man", whether intentional or not, don't help the fight against rape culture. Especially when there's an attitude, from some, that girls ruin the pit and ought to hang back an be eye candy/ groupies.

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