Fucking Heroines! From unfuckable to unfuckable WITH Autobiographical writings of women in punk/rock

“I’m the only one who knows anything about me!” – Lou Andreas-Salomé

“I’m realizing that putting myself in the center of the narrative was what people were most interested in instead of approaching it from a theoretical perspective.” – Carrie Brownstein

Introduction: Is this even allowed?

Writing about MYSELF? Singing? As a woman? In the spotlight, at the front of the stage and most definitely not there to satisfy the male gaze, but to be fierce, brash, unpretty and maybe even irate? Striking back at structures that exclude me, that I’m not meant to be a part of, and flagging up shortcomings to maybe, just maybe, find people of like mind? Committing the ultimate cardinal sin for a female: being unfeminine and becoming unfuckable? Is this even allowed?

If there’s one thing that has defined so many women’s lives and shaped us down to the core over countless generations, it has to be a lack of self-confidence and no sense of mission.

Even when being wild or free or loud or, quite frankly, ‘different’ as a woman started to be a bit less life-threatening, when people stopped burning witches at the stake, we still continued to play possum and sacrifice our self-confidence time and time again. The field of sciences was a particular hotspot in which subjectivity, especially that pigeon-holed as unorthodox, was an absolute no-go for a very long time.

The self was not the done thing, and if it came from a woman, the frowns were particularly stern.

An example: back in 2008, my boss at a literary studies institute downright rejected my request that he support my planned postdoc thesis on the autobiographies of female artists. His reasoning: “No one will ever take you seriously with such a girly topic.”

Back then, you see, it was taken as read that the self went hand in hand with being male, white and hetero – and not just at my place of work but anywhere where power played a role. The objectivity advocated as the absolute gold standard was about as hypocritical as it comes, and that is why nowadays, it is only logical that female, queer and non-white individuals are more than welcome to consciously express and embrace their identities – and should damn well keep doing so: writing, screaming, raging and letting it all out. With this empowering attitude, they can use their actions to encourage their fellow ‘others’ and give them the green light to come to the forefront too.

Against this background, this essay is by no means guaranteed to be complete, scientifically objective or in line with any traditional values.

This here is an emotional snapshot of outrage,

of indignation with no holds barred, based on my subjective experiences as an active musician and music-lover, my perceptions and the impressions left on me by the stories of some of my role models. Given the nature of my article and limitations in terms of its length, I’ve decided to focus on one specific genre: punk/rock, so I am reluctantly leaving out other important female pioneers and heroes such as Peaches (electronic music) and Betty Davis (funk/soul straight from the Parliament-Funkadelic collective). If you’re looking for a more comprehensive historiography, I highly recommend taking a look at the important book Revenge of the She-Punks (2019) by Vivien Goldman. In a case of bad timing, this outstanding “Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot” unfortunately wasn’t published until I’d already submitted this text, and it wouldn’t make much sense to simply provide a summary of the book here. So be prepared; it’s time for me to walk my talk.

And watch out: things are going to get subjective!

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the pioneers – first and foremost Viv Albertine (*1954). Why? That’s an easy answer: because however unusual or even provocative people may consider this to be, I am quite simply a big fan of hers. Or, as Jens Peter Jens Peter Jacobsen puts it in his novel Niels Lyhne:

“Don’t treat him according to his deserts; after all, how would even the best of us fare if we got our deserts? No, think of him as he was in the hour when you loved him most…”

For many people, the word “love” is four simple letters that can send shivers of fear down their spine. People who want to be taken seriously in intellectual or academic discourse in particular steer well clear of it. This is surprising given that love leads to knowledge and emotional cognition, which may well go deeper than (the illusion of) objectivity, especially in the case of a love of music or, indeed, love resulting from music.

Forget cock rock; cog rock is where it’s really at!

With its connotations of absolute subjectivity and even obsession, the big L-word is without a doubt the perfect way to describe the phenomenon better known as Viv Albertine. Her art is the absolute personification of Rilke’s definition and standard as stated in his Letters to a Young Poet:

“A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. This nature of its origin is where its judgement lies: there is no other.”

Viv Albertine’s music – and if you ask me, above all her lyrics – clearly stem from necessity. This is why she inspires strong emotions and, what’s more, actions. Her lyrics and presence have that special performative impact that can only be achieved by great art and great artists. In fact, a visit to just one single concert performed by her band can change an entire life, and reading her lyrics can be a truly revolutionary experience. Sounds like pathos? Well, you’re actually not far off the mark: “pathos” is the Greek word for “passion”. And come to think of it, passion is something that we all desperately need to have.

So who exactly is Viv?

She was the guitarist of the British punk band The Slits back in the late 1970s, a band comprised of four women that was just as important as the Sex Pistols at the time but has now faded into the background of the mainstream and is just as unknown as Lou Andreas-Salomé compared to her fellow greats such as Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud. Although she was one of the key figures on the London punk scene back in the 70s, Viv begins her first autobiography, Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys (2014), with an apology, stating that: “Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I’m a bit of both” (2016, p. ix). If you’re wondering why she referred to herself in such derogatory terms in the very first sentence of her book, you’ll be glad to hear that she revealed the reason four years later:

“There’s a part of me that thinks, as a woman, I didn’t have the right to write about myself, my life, my poxy life. Even though I’d been a musician, I’d done lots of different things. And a man probably would think nothing, and men do think nothing of writing about themselves, with much less of a life lived than mine.” (The Pool, 2018)

It wasn’t just a lack of a sense of mission, an absence of female role models or an underdeveloped ego due to the influences of family and society that nearly prevented Albertine from writing this instant classic of modern literature and “best book about punk” (as stated by Greil Marcus in an interview with her in 2018). She initially told herself, “That was the past – and punk isn’t interested in nostalgia” (interview with m4music, 2016). But when she reached the milestone of 50, she picked up her trusty guitar and performed at open mic sessions and believe it or not: “I had all the same responses as when I was a punk: You’re a girl, you can’t play, you can’t sing, you’re too old” (ebd.).

And why was that the case?

Because the standards of what is considered to be art or deemed to be good music and of who is or is not allowed to do something are still very much shaped by a traditional male perspective that people often fail to question.

We need to observe and experience the status quo of sexual stereotypes before we can do anything to change it.

Viv shows us how: when the hecklers kept on disturbing her at one of her open mic nights, despite being asked to pipe down so that the other paying guests could actually hear the music, she grabbed their pints of beer and slowly poured them right over their heads. Although punk and riot grrrl certainly did exist, it is a fact that these movements are now a thing of the past (despite occasionally being revived in a more marketable and watered-down form as short-lived trends such as the squeaky-clean Spice Girls and their girl power).

There is currently a severe lack of role models for us as female musicians (especially of the middle-aged variety), for concertgoers and above all for our daughters.

Want to hear an example?

Support your local Punk scene – and let’s empower our girls!

Not long ago, I experienced something in provincial northern Germany, where I’ve been living for more than ten years, that gave me a nasty shock and reminder of this dismal scenario. An event at the local Haus der Jugend venue set the pulse in my feminist heart racing – and not in a good way. The Musikbüro music organisation had invited me to be a member of the final jury for Rock in der Region, the largest local band contest, and so along I went to join around 30 other old hands, singing stalwarts and young movers and shakers from the local music scene. The positive news: my fellow jury members did indeed include a few other women. Yeah!

But then things turned sour: when the five bands that had won their respective preliminary rounds took to the stage, their musicians were all young white males, all evening long. It was bad enough that I’d been really looking forward to having a good dance only to be met with what was quite frankly far too boring music, but this really took the biscuit and left me feeling furious, sad and actually shocked. What really left me flabbergasted wasn’t the lack of ladies and/or non-Kartoffeln (despite being German, I totally get why this is the perfect nickname for us!) on the stage, but the way most of the audience members (and even some of the organisers) simply shrugged their shoulders when I asked them about it.

I was certainly relieved that I hadn’t brought my (drum-playing) eight-year-old daughter with me to the concert: after all, she might have got the impression that women simply cannot, or do not want to, make rock music

as a (female!) friend of mine once said in all seriousness. This belief also seems to have been firmly in the minds of the organisers of the Hurricane music festival when they naïvely decided on a solely male line-up in 2019 (and, quite rightly, then had to deal with the mother of all shitstorms).1 One thing’s for sure: there’s a different way to go about things, and there are plenty of good female musicians around. This was promptly demonstrated by the Benicassim Festival in the same year, where precisely 50% of the acts were female. And on a local level? A whole lot of support and promotion and a completely new approach are needed to ensure that our kids receive the right signals and have suitable role models when it comes to diversity. We all need to focus a bit more on whether it’s really a fact of life that some privileged positions are almost exclusively reserved for the male half of society – and whether we want to do something to change this.

Because it’s really important, I’m going to take this opportunity to repeat myself: although women on the music scene like to … well … ‘undress’ their individuality on stage and are instantly subsumed under the umbrella term of female (think female-fronted, all-female and the like – but what about male-fronted or all-male; wouldn’t that be weird? Right?!) and that being a woman AND OVER 40 is seemingly a no-go on stage when it comes to certain genres and scenes,

tales of experiencing being different can and, indeed, have to be extremely subjective, especially in the male domain of punk/rock.

It is a well-known phenomenon among most female rock singers to frequently be sorted into a category by fellow musicians of the male kind or concertgoers virtually the moment they lay eyes upon them. What’s more, they are usually also compared to one of a maximum of four figures (Siouxsie, Björk, Gwen or maybe even PJ Harvey, although some she-rockers, myself included, have instantly been classed as a groupie or roadie without being asked) – just to be sure that any ounce of individuality or hint of personal artistic identity is suffocated right from the word go.

This is definitely what I can say based on my own, naturally subjective, experience of the punk/rock scene during my 27 years in the USA (1989), London (1994–2003) and Germany, with all-female bands (Pristine from Dortmund), mixed groups (A Tennis Drama and, currently, Jetsun from Osnabrück) and, unfortunately typically, as the frontwoman of a bunch of blokes (all in London and my home region, Rhineland-Palatinate – where the epicentre of Kaiserslautern, aka K-Town, was known throughout Germany for its impressive empowerment climate at the start of the 1990s thanks to its flourishing hardcore scene headed by the Spermbirds) who was always very quickly encouraged or persuaded to leave the guitar-playing and/or loud singing to the guys. Of course, I should have, and could have, put up more of a fight, but back then, my socialisation as a lovely little angel of the provincial Palatinate region in the Seventies and Eighties – sweet, quiet and uncomplicated – initially had a lasting impact. Nonetheless, I’m now one of the “Girls Who Play Guitar” (Maximo Park) and a “Girl in a Band” (Kim Gordon) and have been since 1989. Throughout this time and wherever I’ve been, I’ve always had to deal with prejudice, and it’s left me dumbfounded time and time again and continues to do so in the present day.

Thankfully, however, I’ve never had to experience anything nearly as shocking or even dangerous as what Viv Albertine describes in Clothes Music Boys when recounting her beginnings on the punk scene in London in the 1970s, in the world of the Pistols, the Clash and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX boutique. In a similar account to the future memories of the riot grrrl manifesto-writer (and the inspiration behind Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit), Kathleen Hanna, who received regular murder threats and was a victim of attacks, Viv writes about the knife attacks she experienced in broad daylight: “We were often spat at and verbally abused. Ari was stabbed on two separate occasions by angry men” (Guardian, 2018). The aim of such attacks is to get the victims to shut their mouths using whatever means possible, even bodily harm or attempted murder – and why? Just because The Slits dared to take to the stage with full-on power: loud, wild and brash. They dared to empower women. In Thatcher’s England!

“It was so dangerous to be a punk and female. And the way we looked and acted made it more dangerous (…) We had to be together because it was too risky not to. That took its toll. We fell apart because of the pressures we got as women, for sure. A male band would have lasted much longer.” (Guardian, 2018)

Time and time again, parallels with the present day also crop up, starting with Viv’s time as a woman in her fifties who set off to perform at open mic events in small pubs in middle England only to constantly be confronted, albeit in what may have been a more thought-provoking way, with unsolicited mansplaining on her amp settings plus complete disapproval of her existence as a middle-aged woman who likes to make music (and is, ergo, unfuckable). She counters this in her memoirs, stating that she does indeed sing, play the guitar and write lyrics in a way that strays from the dominant norm, partly intentionally and partly due to a lack of role models. She is brash, bizarre and more emotional, with lyrics that relate to feeling bored-to-death as a provincial housewife and to hearing that once she hit 40, her life as she knows it should have been over, with her feet never touching a stage again (as once suggested by her very own husband). Albertine, on the other hand, believes that it is men who are now past their use-by date.

Entire millennia have been shaped by male perspectives on history and happenings, so much so that nowadays, only women can actually come up with something new and really create works of art.

Although they are actually virtually the same age, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (*1953) names Albertine as one of her most important role models and emphasises the power and empowerment involved in being a fan. She also refers to the importance of dynamics, not only between the individual members of a band but also between the band and its audience – although it’s the people IN FRONT of the stage who really have the power. Traditionally, many girls and women tended to find themselves in front of the stage rather than UP ON it, or better said, towards the back of the concert venue, at least until Kathleen Hanna (*1968) came along with Bikini Kill and the riot grrrl manifesto and declared “Girls to the front!”:

“Punk rock was almost an intervention. It drew attention to consumerism. It brought a lot of people into music that wouldn’t have necessarily thought that they could be in a band…It empowers you as a fan, to go up to someone and say ‘I really like your work’. My heroes growing up were people like The Slits, The Raincoats, Suzie…I looked up to them. The Runaways. They were a fabrication, but a kick-ass band.” (Interview mit Lauren Laverene für The Point, 2015).

By the way, all of these female musicians are still friends or at least in contact in the present day, as well as still being musically involved: Hanna, after Bikini Kill and Le Tigre (together with the gender-fluid JD Samson, who went on to work with Christina Aguilera thanks to her connections with Sia Furler), worked with The Julie Ruin; and Gordon, after the break-up of Sonic Youth (her partner Thurston Moore left her, in what she calls a very normal and clichéd situation, for a younger woman, a fan of the band) with bands such as Body/Head. After her solo success with the album The Vermilion Border, Albertine is now a popular author, and Gordon’s memoirs Girl in a Band also attracted a great deal of attention among critics. And Hanna, who has been married to Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys (who, inspired by her, drew attention to sexual violence against women at the MTV Music Awards long before the #metoo movement, and was met with awkward silence) for a long time, is even the focus of the film The Punk Singer, which is well worth a watch. So, what else is empowering? Communication. Networks. Collaborations. These are the aspects that these biographical details aim to underline. Women (and feminist men), it’s time to team up!

One of the punkest things I have ever seen

Carrie Brownstein (*1974) from Sleater-Kinney, nowadays better known to younger readers from her comedy series Portlandia (featuring mentions of or cameo appearances by several of our heroines), a wonderful spoof of the hipster lifestyle, has a similar view. In her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, she also refers to the worth of being a fan and the importance of female role models, as well as the need for a feeling of togetherness to develop a healthy self. The book is all about the scene in Seattle, Olympia and Portland and being queer at the heart of the grunge movement. After experiencing Viv Albertine, whom she now refers to as a strong influence in her life, live at one of her solo gigs as a “middle-aged mum” in 2009, Brownstein stated:

“I realized I hadn’t really witnessed fearlessness in a long time, at least not at a rock show. As one of my friends put it, more succinctly: ’This was one of the punkest things I have ever seen‘.” (Monitor Mix 2009).

And after all, what is punk if not empowerment with a capital E? It’s the DIY ethos, that revolutionary notion that everyone can simply get on with doing what they want and nobody, be it male, female or anything in-between, is better than anyone else. “I miss that unprofessionalism so much. Now, everyone has gone to music school and they all play brilliantly and you think, why are they even playing live? It’s all so bloody middle class now,” said Viv in her interview with the Guardian (2018).

This approach may well explain why nowadays – at least in contests for rock bands in provincial Germany – women (or unconventional musicians in general!) are somewhat of a rarity on the big rock stage: The criteria that we had to consider in our role as jury members included the technical abilities of all instrumentalists and the clean vocals of their front men. But so what if women play and sing differently and want to be brash and loud every now and then to let out their rage? When Greil Marcus asked Albertine about a specific statement attributed to The Slits, “anger is an energy”, which went on to be used as the title of Johnny Rotten’s second autobiography, she adds:

“To be angry was the sin of all sins: it meant being unfeminine (in London in the 50s, 60s, 70s). It was considered ugly – and still is. On stage, we could be angry. There was a little sub group of people who didn’t judge us. Anger and rage gave me the confidence to pick up a guitar at 19.” (interview with Greil Marcus, 2018).

This is one of the focuses of her second book, another autobiography with the title To Throw Away Unopened (2018):

“I think it is essentially about rage and being an outsider (…) Female rage is not often acknowledged – never mind written about – so one of the questions I’m asking is: ‘Are you allowed to be this angry as you grow older as a woman?’ But I’m also trying to trace where my anger came from. Who made me the person that is still so raw and angry? I think that it’s empowering to ask that question. I really hope it resonates with women.” (Guardian, 2018).

Showing rage is empowering. BOOYAH! There’s nothing to add to that.

OMG, thank God, I’m not crazy!

Do you know what else is empowering? Not being judged (for your rage)! It’s that realisation of not being alone and/or crazy in your perception of the world and what you experience inside as a woman. In the same interview, Albertine states, “I want to say to younger women especially that it’s OK to be an outsider, it’s OK to admit to your rage. You’re not the only person walking down the street feeling angry inside.” Knowing that others feel the same brings us more in touch with our own emotions – and this is precisely why we also need to talk about our experiences so that others can enjoy the same personal enlightenment. Carrie Brownstein once said: “I wrote ‘Hunger’ in part to figure out how to make decisions that put you at the center of who you want to be” (interview with Sam Jones).

Caitlin Moran (*1975), who wrote for the music publication Melody Maker as one of the youngest music journalists in Great Britain back in the 1990s, provides an insight into the misogyny of laddism in Britpop – a movement that I experienced up close and in person in London-based pop-punk bands. She clearly states why she is a writer and why being a fan is much more important than people may think. And this is where we come full circle: “I’m not crazy, this is evidence, I’m not alone, the world is sexist, men respond differently to men than to women.” Just like Viv, who says that she actually writes self-help books (and by doing so, ironically negates the literary merit and immense artistic value of her works in a world in which seemingly only one or the other is possible), Caitlin is committed to helping women. She wants us to read her books and to think: “OMG! Thank God, I’m not crazy!”

In reference to her latest work, How to be Famous (2018), she says, “The idea of the book is about sexual shame (revenge porn) at the height of Britpop. Everyone was famous in 1995!” (The Pool, 2018). The book looks at the question of how women can defend themselves if they are slut-shamed. “The shame is not ours – as I was writing it, the whole Harvey Weinstein thing was breaking,” states Moran. The novel is an ode to fan girls who truly love and live music and react to it emotionally – and are viewed and treated with scorn and contempt by male music nerds, NME critics, rockstars and London Lads for this precise reason. Shortly after the riot grrrl culture died down – a movement in which its activists scribbled SLUT on their very own bodies and loudly reclaimed their power from patriarchal and/or violent forces who wanted to objectify and degrade them – it felt like this re-emergence of punk mixed with performative feminism had never existed. COOL BRITANNIA paid homage to constantly masculine and always so-cool-they-were-freezing lads in their tracksuits, and in 1995, London felt like an “emotionally-reductive (…), sullen teenage boy, scared of girls” (Moran 2018, p. 234):

“There were very few other women in the room and so the presence of the models (in tiny PVC shorts) became ever-more disturbing, as man after man in jeans, or wearing a parka, went up on stage to collect their award. Just two years after everything was PJ Harvey, Björk, Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Riot grrrl – clever, funny warrior-women, smarter and bolder and faster than any man in this room – this queasy, silent return of ‘sexy lady models’ was jarring. Not least because, as the evening went on, it became increasingly clear that the only woman who had won an award that night was Kylie Minogue, for ‘Most Desirable Person In The World’ – and that she would, therefore, be the only woman who spoke all evening.” (p. 234–5).

And nowadays, in the year 2019, I’m afraid to say that nothing has really changed at all.1 It seems that a strong, loud woman – a wild anarchic girl-child (and explicitly one of any age, especially the middle-aged variety, who should kindly be kind enough to remain in obscurity!), who strikes fear into the veins of patriarchal predators – is only allowed to take to the stage and step into the limelight once in a blue moon and when, then as part of an extremely short-lived fad. This is followed by a rapid return to a world of skin-tight bodysuits when the body does the talking and the voice remains stifled, resulting in the ideal non-threatening object for the male gaze.

So how can we prevent this? What healthier habits can we cultivate and what can empower us all to such an extent that rock music will one day naturally be a scene in which every individual – hes, shes and everyone in-between – can feel at home, regardless of their gender, skin colour, age and whatever sexualised power agenda happens to be in fashion?

In Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon provides another answer to the question of what can give us back our power: when we, in our role as female artists, no longer hide away our high sensitivity and emotionality but instead reveal ourselves in full, letting our guard down and embracing our vulnerability. She writes about her battle with her own identity and the annoyance she felt “at who I was”:

“Every woman knows what I’m talking about when I say girls grow up with a desire to please, to cede their power to other people. At the same time everyone knows about the sometimes aggressive and manipulative ways men often exert power in the world, and how by using the word empowered to describe women, men are simply maintaining their own power and control. (…) Back then, and even now, I wonder: Am I ‘empowered’? If you have to hide your hypersensitivity, are you really a ‘strong woman’? (…) the only really good performance is one where you make yourself vulnerable while pushing beyond your familiar comfort zone.” (Gordon 2015, S. 132).

Albertine also talks about chatting to a multitude of young people, stating that when it comes to current musicians, they are only interested in the activists and declaring that she is just as interested in talking to “careerists” as to bankers or accountants: “Art and music have become entertainment and business (…) when I was young, you had to be a rebel to do that. You chose that life because you were an outsider” (m4music, 2016).

She refers to a kind of compulsive honesty that you have as an artist – and its consequences:

“When I’m making a piece, a song or a book, I have to be honest. There’s absolutely no point in doing it, it’s of no use to anyone, if I’m not honest…there is a price to pay for that…you become much less tolerant for dishonesty.” (Interview Greil Marcus, 2018).

Let’s all be Bad Feminists

Viv’s word careerist resonated then and still resonates now, including in the rock music scene. However, I’m afraid to say that even now, and far too frequently, I still encounter women and girls who shy from speaking out: “I can’t sing!”; “I can’t say that if I want to keep my job!”; “I would love to be part of the discussion, but I can’t speak the feminist language!”. Such statements all stem from a fear of using unacceptable words, of being a “bad feminist” (Roxane Gay) or

of being excluded from both sides

There’s something even worse than holding back, though, namely completely denying that a problem (still) exists at all: “The public loves the betrayal but not the betrayer” seems to be the order of the day – particularly among successful women who have made it ‘to the top’ in positions of power in what is still a predominantly patriarchal society and don’t want to ruin their standing among the male wielders of power, the rock stars and critics who determine the discourse. Be it consciously or without even realising they’re doing it, these women show solidarity with such men to protect their own success. This is precisely why we need to introduce interim solutions such as quotas wherever a clear imbalance can be observed – and we need to keep doing so until one day, at some wonderful point in the (hopefully near) future, it will no longer matter how high my voice is or what’s between my legs.

For me, it would be an absolute honour (and is my personal mission) to make my own contribution, as small as it may be, towards empowerment in music, above all for women and girls of all ages but also, of course, for all fringe groups of individuals who don’t fit the bill of being white, male, straight and able-bodied. After all, if there’s one thing I never want to lay eyes on again, it’s completely homogeneous festival line-ups! So let’s get rid of these “line-oops” and put the “fest” back into festival! And if there’s one thing I never want to torture my ears again, it’s statements such as “Women just can’t do rock!”; “Women simply aren’t interested in playing the drums!” or “Women’s voices are just annoying; they’re always so squeaky and shrill!” (with the latter even coming out the mouth of a guitarist (male, of course) in one of my bands – I kid you not!). With this in mind, and after mentioning her briefly in my introduction, I’d like to quote Vivien Goldman at least once:

„Artists like the world’s first black punk, the mixed-race Poly Styrene with frizzy hair and braces, would likely have been deemed unfuckable, thus unmarketable (…) yet, she immediately became one of punk’s great sheroes, her unfettered howl shattering the idea that girls had to sing prettily to be heard (…) it’s different for girls (…) Within showbusiness, we are often regarded as replaceable fresh meat, best consumed when young. That’s why punk is so great for girls – it allows or even encourages the artist to roar the anger (…) and we still have reason to roar.” (2019, S. 5ff).

We all need to view diversity as a matter of course.

But, instead of just bitterly moaning about the male gaze yet continuing to put up with it, we need to focus on building a world in which it no longer plays a role, namely a “community of creative musical girls“ (ibid.).

This is an FH-Manifest and it means for everyone of us:

  • Speak out and dare to say what we really think, even if it might rub someone up the wrong way.
  • Consider our own thoughts instead of conveniently pigeon-holing people based on common stereotypes.
  • Go with our gut.
  • Be fangirls or fanboys completely committed to the cause.
  • Show up honestly even when things get emotional.
  • The centuries of silence about and among female artists and musicians need to come to an end, to be broken by a loud and brave determination to make your own contribution, to step out of the box and away from the box in whatever way suits you best.
  • Control our own means of production and distribution.
  • Embrace quotas (at least at present, as emergency measures for desperately needed progress) and to establish networks, positive role models and people to look up to – for every person on earth.

If we do this, we can become empowered – or rather, UNFUCKABLE WITH.

***

This article seeks to inspect how and what women in (punk) rock write (about) themselves and their experiences in such a traditionally male-dominated scene. Aside from brief fashions thanks to movements such as riot grrrl, female punk rock icons have been few and far between and almost always had to contend with gender stereotypes aimed at raising girls to please others rather than raising their voices, let alone get angry – that cardinal sin in a female. What needs to be done today, in 2019, to challenge and change that status quo towards true empowerment? Which voices do we need to hear more of to redress the imbalance of heteronormativity, misogyny and racism that still pervades ‘heavier’ music genres? – An attempt at inspiration for girls and women to become “unfuckable with” – rather than remaining trapped in the world of the male gaze where “fuckability” is still seen as our only real currency.

Sources

Albertine, Viv (2016). Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys. London: Faber & Faber.

(2018). To Throw Away Unopened. London: Faber & Faber.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3fsKKoanos Interview with Viv Albertine @ m4music 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPEVY7vjg6Q Viv Albertine | 5 Home Truths | Women We Love | The Pool 2018.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/01/viv-albertine-i-know-now-that-i-want-to-stay-an-outsider-memoir-to-throw-away-unopened-slits-ari-up Viv Albertine interview, 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVLqMnwQFoA Viv Albertine interview by Greil Marcus + Q&A @ David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA 4/29/2018.

Brownstein, Carrie (2015). Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. A Memoir. London: Virago.

Off-camera with Sam Jones (2015), https://offcamera.com/issues/carrie-brownstein/

Gordon, Kim (2016). Girl in a Band. A Memoir. London: Faber & Faber.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jojD4XArpM Interview with Lauren Laverne for The Pool (2015).

Moran, Caitlin (2018). How to Be Famous. London: Ebury Press.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trUquBZabdM

My Life In Objects | The Director’s Cut | Women We Love. The Pool (2018)

Rainer Maria Rilke (1987), Worpswede. Frankfurt am Main: Insel-Verlag

(1991), Briefe in zwei Bänden, Erster Band: 1896 bis 1919. Frankfurt am Main: Insel-Verlag

Literature

Darms, Lisa (2013). The Riot Grrrl Collection. With an essay by Johanna Fatemann and an introduction by Kathleen Hanna. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY

Funk-Hennigs, Erika (2011). “Gender, Sex und Populäre Musik. Drei Fallbeispiele”, in: Beiträge zur Popularmusikforschung, 37. Dietrich Helms, Thomas Phleps (Eds.): Thema Nr.1: Sex und populäre Musik. Bielefeld: transcript-Verlag, p. 97–112

Gay, Roxane (2014). Bad Feminist. New York: Harper Collins

Goldmann, Vivien (2019). Revenge of the She-Punks. A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot. Austin: University of Texas Press

***

All Internet sources were accessed between 25–31 March 2019.


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