WORDS: EMMA MURPHY | INTRO: GEORGIA RAWSON
“Other people will call me a rebel, but I just feel like I’m living my life and doing what I do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you’re a woman.”
As we continue our celebration of the women, and those who identify as women within the music industry, it’s important to always remember the roots, the true rebels and punk suffragettes that in many ways have allowed us women to be even more recognised, and continue to influence, and break down the gender norms and roles in the media world.
So here they are, the Emily Pankhursts of punk.
LAURA JANE GRACE
The lead vocalist in Florida born punk band Against Me! speaks openly about not only the gender dysphoria she has experienced but also her transition. Laura even burned her birth certificate on stage at a North Carolina show to protest the HB2 law which prevents some transgender individuals from using the bathroom that correlates to their gender.
You can see that video below.
The Queen of rock ‘n’ roll, the Godmother of punk, the founder of the Runaways and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. In an interview with NME in 1982 Joan Jett said this: “Girls drink, girls smoke, and girls swear. If it would have been an all-guy band no one would have given a shit.” And if that doesn’t sum up her attitude I don’t know what will.
Watch Joan Jett and the Blackhearts performing Bad Reputation:
Having emerged in 70s New York as Blondie, Debby Harrie went about fusing glamour and puck rock to question gender norms and embraced the progressive and feminist punk scene. Whilst Harrie at first might not have recognised their impact on feminism and women in the scene at the time, Harrie did later go on to use her global recognition to discuss mental health, and more so mental health amongst women. ““Females have a lot more to deal with hormonally than men.” The icon told I-D. Harrie has also taken a stance on how the horrors of ‘slut shaming’ and continuously notes how sexuality should be embraced instead of shamed.
In 2017 the queen also teamed up with fellow punk icon Joan Jett to create a pro-feminist anthem under American Trump rule. Check it out here.
Hailed as one of the most recognisable, and in many ways influential women in more recent generations, Hayley Williams has always used her colourful platform and huge rock anthems to make the voices of all genders, sexuality, races, and well everyone to be heard. An activist for mental health rights, and equality, both through Paramore and through her own creative outlets Williams has help to birth an entirely new generation of young women at the front of the creative and artistic worlds.
When critiqued for the lyrics and use of the word ‘whore’ in their once known anthem, Misery Business, Williams used the criticism to reflect and even remove the song from their live set lists. “Im a 26 years old person. And yes, a proud feminist. Just maybe not a perfect one?” Her statement read.
Perhaps best known for her work in band Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein’s treatment in the music industry speaks volumes about the abuse many women face when she was outed by Spin magazine as being bisexual. Speaking about female singers in her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Brownstein has this to say: “Persona for a man is equated with power; persona for a woman makes her less of a woman, more distant and unknowable, and thus threatening.”
“Little girls should be seen and not heard. Oh bondage! Up yours!” Born of Scottish, Irish and Somali heritage Marianne Joan Elliott-Said formed X-ray Spex when she was just 19. Although she was operatically trained Poly decided to shout-sing in her music as protest against the normal feminine stereotype. In her song Oh Bondage! Up Yours! Poly speaks of bondage being a metaphor for social constraints.
As part of feminist punk band and art collective Pussy Riot Nadya Tolokonnikona has spent time on hunger strike in a labour camp for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. Her music has criticized police brutality against POC, Trump’s vulgar sexism and most frequently Vladimir Putin.
DISCLAIMER: In publishing about Nadya Tolokonnikona we do not support any of the far right beliefs of the associated Dmitry Enteo.
Ari Up is the stage name of Arianna Forster who founded The Slits when she was just 14. The German born singer was described by Viv Albertine as “the most dynamic woman I have ever known”. It has been frequently argued that The Slits sparked the fuse for the Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s.