I don’t have to tell you that women aren’t allowed to be angry the same way as men.
You’ve experienced it, I’ve experienced it, and science fucking backs us up: Men’s anger puts them over, women’s anger puts us down. And if you’re a black woman – well, it’s likely your anger’s been called out as downright destructive (even by white “feminists”).Men’s anger puts them over, women’s anger puts us down. Click To Tweet
So what do you do with all that rage, all that rage inside that cage? I guess you could rewrite Black Eyed Peas lyrics and shake your… fists, but I turned to extreme music.
I hate to preface all of this by undermining any knowledge and experience I have of the various genres that fit under punk and metal because I was an amateur music journalist for a while, but I’m just a rock n’ roll tourist, and I don’t wanna disrespect all the women who are serious rockers and metalheads by pretending I match their passion. These days, I listen to whatever my Spotify Discovery playlist tells me I’ll like, which is mostly “music” coded by some nerd in her bedroom – pretty far from the raw, unpracticed wails of basement-recorded electric guitars in riot grrrl albums.
But at 16, I had just learned I was undocumented, I’d started questioning my Mormon faith, I was simultaneously grossed out by my body and desperate for someone to touch it, and – well, I could go on for days about all of the things heightening my natural teenage angst that led me to the mosh pit.I could go on for days about all of the teenage angst that led me to the mosh pit. Click To Tweet
Growing up in a small town in Southern Utah, going to shows became this cool, rebellious thing I did with my friends that often required lying to parents, (recklessly) driving further than we had permission to go, hanging out around people my mom avoided on the street, and figuring out creative ways to explain why my clothes were torn and I smelled like a bar. I had the added benefit/curse of having non-American parents, which sometimes provided enough cultural cluelessness to let me get away with more, and other times created unnecessary suspicion of all-American activities – but that’s a topic for a whole other story.
More than anything, going to punk shows allowed me to push, kick, scream, and headbang without getting admitted for shock therapy. I’d elbow my way to the front and pick fights with the beefy guys who wouldn’t get out of my way. I’d memorize the liner notes on every album so I could sing along at the top of my lungs to unintelligible lyrics. One time my hair caught on fire from a cigarette someone threw from the balcony, and I thought it was the most radical thing ever. It made me feel like I was part of a club, it made me feel powerful, and it gave me an outlet for my anger that kept me away from the alcohol and pill poppin’ many of my preppy peers were using to numb their emotions.It made me feel like I was part of a club, it made me feel powerful. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, the punk and metal scenes are also a pink sausage fest of racism and misogyny. Telling you about all the ways I’ve been mistreated and abused in my various roles within the scene by everyone from ex-boyfriends to bouncers to musicians could be an entire series, but I want to focus on one way to change all that: Lifting up the women killing it in the extreme music industry who give zero fucks about their bitch face.
I met 5 of them this week at a panel on women in punk and metal organized by the Barnard Library. They’ve taken on the burden of leading conversations on inclusivity while totally slaying the music biz. \m/
1. Laina Dawes | journalist, academic, metalhead
“Women can be just as angry [as men], and especially black women – we have more reason to be angry than white men. That’s why I push representation in extreme music: We need that catharsis, we need that expression to relieve ourselves.”
Laina Dawes is the author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, a lecturer at The New School in New York City, and a writer of tons of expert content on the intersections of music, feminism, and race all over the print and digital world.We have more reason to be angry than white men. Click To Tweet
2. Mindy Abovitz | drummer, magazine publisher
“I’m trying to give women space online and space in shows so they can be authentic to themselves.”I'm trying to give women space in shows so they can be authentic to themselves. Click To Tweet
3. Cristy C. Road | artist, zinester, punk rocker
“People didn’t want to be in a band with me even though I had songs written, and I play guitar, and I sing, and I can draw the album cover. They didn’t want to deal with being the ‘Latina’ band, they didn’t want to deal with singing about abuse and calling people on their shit.”
Clearly on her way to ruling the world, Cristy C. Road is a prolific illustrator and graphic novelist, creator of the long-running Greenzine, and serves as vocalist and guitarist for New York queer punk band The Homewreckers.They didn't want to deal with singing about abuse and calling people on their shit. Click To Tweet
4. Justina Villanueva | photographer, artist, metalhead
“Women aren’t getting hired across the board in the photo industry. You look at any metal magazine and who the writers and photographers are, and it’s mostly dudes. There needs to be more of a conversation about that.”You look at any metal magazine and it's mostly dudes. Click To Tweet
5. Joan Jocson-Singh | librarian, extreme metal music scholar
“I saw a gap in the academic literature from the voices of women, especially women who were not white about their experiences [in extreme metal music]. As a librarian, I took to researching the topic… One of the revelations from my research has been discovering women who perform a type of ‘Vigilante Feminism’ within the EMM scene in NY.”
Breaking stereotypes about librarians left and right is day-time shusher/nighttime head-basher Joan Jocson-Singh. When she’s not slinging books at Columbia University, she’s nerding out over extreme metal and dissecting it for academia.
Aside from being punk and metal goddesses, what else do these folks have in common? They’re all volunteers at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, empowering diverse, female-identifying women and girls through music education. Check ‘em out if you’re in New York, and scroll through the Twitter convo at #bcwometal for a full report back of the Barnard panel.