Jul 31, 2013

Girl Talk

Dear Ask A Punk -
Punk rock, at least in my town, is one big boy's club and they're all just as big jerks as the jocks and rich kids are, but in their own way. I play bass and some guitar and I'm in a band that is mostly girls, except for one guy, and even he is talking about quitting because I guess being in a band with girls isn't cool. We sure aren't asked to play any of the good or cool gigs because I guess we're not cool enough because we're girls, either that or we're not "hot" enough to be girls in a band. I really didn't expect to have to deal with this at least not as much as we do, and it is demoralizing. Even the fact that I have to ask a guy (you) about seems pretty lame. What can a mostly girl band do to be taken more seriously? - Ms. Punk.

Dear Ms. Punk -
Yes, it does suck - your situation I mean, not the fact that you had to write to me about it. Maybe there is a female punk rock advice columnist out there, but I don't know who that might be... so I'll try to do my best by you. 

First of all, you're right about one thing - Punk rock scenes are not immune to sexism and a rampant "boy's club" vibe. Some are better than others, but it still exists, on some level, pretty much everywhere. I like to think we punks are at least slightly better than say, the crowd down at Hooters or the local football stadium, but that often isn't the case, especially with younger punks because, let's face it, every generation's 20-25 year old guys are usually at the peak of their douchiness. 

So what can you do about it? The first thing that comes to mind is a quote I've seen attributed to Rosanne Barr. I'm pretty sure she got it from somewhere else, but here it is: "Power is never given, you have to go out and take it." What that means is - It is rare to find anyone (male or female, really) who is going to just give you everything you want, whether that is a good gig, or simply: approval. You have to go out and take it or some how make it for yourself ...DIY, people!

So first of all: Are you as good a band as you think you are? Seriously, I'm not trying to be a douche either, but I've known plenty of bands (and been in a few) who thought they were being "held back" by forces who were against them when, in fact, they just spent too much time complaining about the "politics of the scene" and not enough time practicing. 

Second, and I say this all the time: You're living in a golden age to be a "new band." Sure, it is less likely than ever that you'll actually make money (or a career) at it, but on the plus side, unlike all previous generations, you are NOT completely at the mercy of the one or two show bookers in your town. With just a little bit of effort, you can get your music out to the entire world without leaving your apartment. You've probably grown up already knowing that, but trust me, that is pretty amazing. Create and record your music to the best of your ability and unleash it on the world. Be so good that you can't be denied or ignored.

...and thirdly - if you think the issue is gender generally, or "looks" specifically, you can be like many bands (male and female) before you - and keep things ambiguous. IF you want to be judged purely on the basis of your music and lyrics, then stick with abstract album art and, if necessary, develop a more mysterious persona for the band. Let the music do the talking. 

Every band has trouble getting noticed. Every band has trouble getting taken seriously. Every band has trouble lining up good gigs. Yes, female or mostly-female bands have an even harder time with these things. Sure, it is unfair, but are you going to let that stop you? If you really want it, you won't. 

If, after following all of the above advice, you still can't break through the wall of knuckleheads running your scene and get any good gigs then create the gigs for yourself. And while you're at it, create a space/opportunity for other female bands like yours to play too. I'm really talking about DIY 101 here: If what you need doesn't exist - Create it for yourself. 

Imagine that an even younger girl punk was asking YOU for advice. What would you tell her? Would you tell her not to bother, because the "boys" run everything? Would you tell her not to bother because she isn't sexy/pretty enough? ...or would you tell her to go out and kick all the ass she can without any apologies for her gender or looks? 

That's what I thought.  ...so what's stopping you?

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