Dysgeusia #17: Music industry sexism and punk rock’s fight back

Petrol Girls by Al Simmons

Petrol Girls by Al Simmons

Kicking back against a wave of sexism rows and incidents in the music industry this year, Getintothis’ Zach Jones how punk rock is taking a stand.

The past few months have been an uncomfortable few for the music industry and sexism. From Kesha’s legal battle from her producer, Grimes‘ confessions on various industry officials being sexually inappropriate, and The King Blues’ Johnny ‘itch’ Fox being alleged of various offences to women despite claiming to be a feminist in his poem five bottles of shampoo.

This might seem like a dark time, where so many are being accused. But in fact, it could be argued that there is a slim silver lining. It is good this is being reported. It is good that women are standing up and saying ‘fuck you’. It’s good we’re not giving it the 195’s treatment and stuffing it in a box, under the bed and setting the house on fire.

No. These women have rightly stood up and said, no more inequality.

So why are we having this conversation?

I hear it again and again, people saying ‘we don’t need feminism’. Arguing that women are already equal in society to men, they can vote, they can drive, they can own property, they can get an education and they can own a company.

Well all that is very true, but that doesn’t create equality and it also doesn’t mean women are equal in those aspects either (look for example at the gender pay gap). Basic rights are merely the first stepping stone towards equality.

What we need is an attitude change.

And this feeds into the music industry, and specifically the heavy music scenes. Last year saw a Reading and Leeds with seven bands that had female members. Of those, only one, Marmozets, could be described as heavy. Of the bands announced for the 2016 line-up there is a not a single metal, hardcore or punk band containing female members.

Download Festival has more, with 18 of the bands on its line-up containing women. But that is a slim 18 out of 117.

So why are women so vastly outnumbered in heavy music? There is of course no straight answer to this, but in fact various more subtle ones.

So I ask the question, why is it there is such a thing as ‘female fronted hardcore’ and not ‘male fronted hardcore’? Why do certain bands opt to highlight their gender in front of their genre?

The more ‘in favour’ outlook on this would highlight that in an ideal world we wouldn’t look at gender. We just wouldn’t see it, a female vocalist would be no different to a male one. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and women are an absolute minority in metal, especially as vocalists and this is simply a proud acknowledgment of flying the flag for women, such as the Riot Grrrl scene.

However, a second outlook would be that this makes a women a novelty. That segregation from male counterparts only highlights the gender gap. That highlighting takes away from the creative output of the artist and in fact adds novelty factor. It sells the idea of gender, over the music.

I really don’t feel there is a right or wrong answer with this, but it is important in how we look at women in music, and specifically heavy music. Whether they are right or wrong to do so, there is a reason these bands have.
So here it is.

Stop looking at women in metal as women in metal, and look at them as humans in metal.

Because (and if this is a surprise to you, you should re-evaluate your existence) women possess all the same vital organs, bones and body bits required to play guitars as men. It allows them to appreciate and create music, exactly the same as men. It allows them to shred on drums, exactly the same as men.

And I really feel I shouldn’t patronisingly have to reiterate this, but I do. Because we live in a world where a drummer who just so happens to be female is compared to other ‘girl drummers’. Because we live in a world where Sony Records made an artist work with her alleged rapist, and they defended him. Because we live in a world of double standards for men and women, and this perpetuates the inequality.

Women are not a novelty to sell records, not because you’re impressed they can do those screamy vocals too and not because they look hot in that dress. Women sell records because they make fucking good ones.

Now it’s time for bands like Petrol Girls to get the total respect they deserve as political forces within themselves. Not because they’re women, but because they’re fearlessly uncompromising. Because their politics are spot on, and they have the music to match.

Perhaps there would be more women in the industry if we respected them as artists. It’s not hard, just remember they’re human. If you have trouble with that, you really need a therapist.

Here are the top releases this month to keep on your radar:

Petrol GirlsSomething

The post-hardcore mob have been turning heads, specifically Scandinavian noise bastards Refused. Something is anthem after anthem of raw angst and anarchic fist pumping. Politically intense and rewarding, this is a band with something to shout about. So shout about them

Plague VendorBloodsweat

The Canadians stormed The Shipping Forecast last week, and it’s easy to see why they’ve been snapped up by Epitaph Records. Bloodsweat is as vicious as it is melodic. It’s almost like really angry Joy Division. Plague Vendor have taken all the incredible song writing talents of Bauhaus and The Stooges, kicked on the fuzz and set their gauges to hyper-speed

Mean JeansNite Vision

Do you like storming punk rock to sing along with? Well get a hold of Nite Vision. At a meager three tracks long the whole thing is over before you can blink. Somewhat of an instant hit rather than a slow burn you’ll either love this pumped up Descendents-esque slab of punk or think it’s shallow.

TurnstileNon-Stop Feeling

A hit and miss type affair. With so much hype around the band it was always going to be hard to deliver but it’s obvious Non-Stop Feeling was written with their chaotic live show in mind. Moving from areas sounding like Dwarves to areas sounding like Biohazard, this isn’t for everyone. But if you like your slam super heavy and super cheesy, nod your head to this.

Muncie GirlsFrom Caplan to Belsize

A band that has literally exploded all over the punk scene, Muncie Girls are taking the UK by storm. For fans of Against Me!, The Lawrence Arms and awkward songs ala Scott Pilgrim this is the most fun you can have in half an hour.