Music, Pop Culture

Allie Terry & Kayla Celius talk #DefendGirlsNotPopPunk, smashing misogyny in music, and being awesome

Allie Terry and Kayla Celius started #DefendGirlsNotPopPunk to fix a grave problem they saw in the punk music industry, and they've only just started.

For the female music fan, there always seems to be something amiss. From girls getting groped or harassed at shows to assault allegations from performers getting swept under the table, the barrage of reports that emerge in the 24 hour news cycle make it hard to feel safe to celebrate in something that you love. Especially for female fans in the alternative music scene, where the rallying cries of “save our scene!” – as witnessed at this past year’s Warped Tour – feel hollow.

Though it’s been almost two years since Front Porch Step’s removal from Warped Tour and the well-publicized events that followed, the aftershocks still remain. They echo and reverberate through women getting literally kicked off stage, through performers being assaulted by their tour managers, and through the men who protect abusers and allow this behavior to continue under the guise of “boys will be boys.”

photo courtesy of Bree Coe Photography

Paired with the scrutiny that Warped Tour was under in 2014 regarding the lack of diversity in their touring lineup, it’s unclear just who the festival wants to save Warped Tour from. One band jokingly released a “Make Warped Tour Great Again” promotional video last summer, but considering the stories that have come from women both in front of and behind the barricade, just when was Warped Tour ever great?

In May of 2016, the hashtag #DefendGirlsNotPopPunk popped up in response to Parker Cannon kicking a fan off stage, which was followed by t-shirts proudly showing off the slogan. Poking fun at Man Overboard’s “Defend Pop Punk” shirts, the “Defend Girls” shirt featured a brain in place of a gun (The joke writes itself).

Not long after, a Twitter account sporting the slogan as its handle emerged. “This is what we’re about,” the account’s pinned tweet reads. “See the thread below and join us in ending misogyny in the scene.”

And what Defend Girls is about is not just misogyny, but takes on the task of understanding intersectional identities, and how marginalized people fall through the cracks. In rallying against the status quo. Defend Girls aims to defend pop punk not just for a target audience, but to make the greater scene safer for all.

Through humorous takes and voicing microaggressions, Defend Girls quickly grew to nearly 1k followers within the first few months of its conception. The account has given a voice to fans, artists, and industry workers within the genre, and has allowed the issues to be aired out to a wider audience. The Tempest chatted with the two teens behind the scenes of DGNPP to talk about how they’re using social media to reclaim space in the scene.

The Tempest: Before we start, tell us about yourselves.

DGNPP: I’m Allie Terry, and I’m probably crying to Joyce Manor to some degree. Beside DGNPP, I am the president and founder of the feminist club at my high school. I’m probably at a local show. After high school, I plan to study political science somewhere! I just really want to see all ideologies created and perpetuated by the patriarchy absolutely obliterated.

I’m Kayla Celius, and I’m literally always crying or asleep, or doing both almost at the same time. I’m currently finishing up my first semester of college in southern Nevada at UNLV, pursuing an art history degree that will later lead me to my dream career – one of many – to be an art museum curator. Aside from music and art, film is my absolute favorite thing in the world! I could talk anyone’s ear off about films for probably six days straight. Besides school, I’m honestly constantly thinking about the next time I’m going to have french fries or how I can dismantle systemic racism.

TT: How did Defend Girls start?

Allie: We were created initially in response to the incident in which Parker Cannon kicked a girl off stage. That night, Kayla texted me, and said “we have to do something about this.” About a month or so later, DGNPP was born. We really had no idea what we were doing, we just knew that we couldn’t sit idly by as misogyny grew even more rampant in a music scene that is supposed to stand for equality and create safe spaces. Our main goal is awareness. Whether it be through conversations on Twitter or concerts, we are always trying to make people aware of misogyny in the scene, with the hope that once everyone is more conscious of it, it will ultimately stop.

Kayla: In late 2015 and a few months into 2016, a lot of things were coming to light, from Front Porch Step being allowed back on Warped Tour despite being a known abuser or Parker Cannon literally kicking a young female fan off of stage. I was realizing just how some musicians were using their platforms for very awful and abusive behavior, and instead of being reprimanded for these things– they were being rewarded. It opened my eyes to the lack of safe spaces and opportunities there were for young women in this music scene, whether it be just us as fans trying to feel comfortable at shows, or if it was women in the industry like writers, photographers, etc.

I remember feeling so hurt and angry about this, and I wanted to create something that would open up a safe space or community for the women and marginalized groups who are part of this music scene. We all need something to hold us up, I felt like Defend Girls would be just that.

TT: How have your goals changed in the months following the account’s creation?

Allie: We had big dreams when we first started out; we were even kicking around the idea of tabling at Warped 2017, which we soon learned was way too expensive for two teenagers in and going into college. For the most part, the goal is the same: create a safe space. While we are called Defend Girls Not Pop Punk, we’ve begun to focus on the lack of representation in music in more aspects than sex, such as race and the LGBTQ community.

Kayla: Oh man, how haven’t they? I think at the beginning, we only really had one goal: to reach out and inspire marginalized groups within this music scene, whether it was a fan or someone who’s working in the industry to let anyone who needed it know that they have a safe space with us. We keep our DMs open for anyone that wants or needs to talk to or confide in us. That was a big part of it for me: being able to provide somewhere or something to not only inspire people but to make them feel like they were safe and not alone, and that they have friends in both Allie and I.

I think now our goals have definitely expanded to making Defend Girls a lot more tangible and accessible as far as being more than just a Twitter account or online moment. We’ve bounced a million ideas off of each other from booking more shows to tabling Warped Tour; and of course, we’re planning our complete world takeover as we speak. Keep your eyes peeled.

Allie: The whole goal of DGNPP is to actualize the term “safe space.” A lot of people have deemed the scene a safe space, but more often than not, it’s quite the opposite. It’s really only a safe space for straight white men, and that’s what we’re trying to alter. We want people to go to shows and see themselves represented on stage, we want women to go to shows and not be worried about being groped by some drunk dude, we want everyone to go to shows to get away from the bullshit of everyday life, not experience it.

TT: Do you feel that Twitter is the most effective medium for these conversations?

Allie: For the most part, yes. Twitter is the easiest way to reach a wide audience of people. Not only that, but it’s so easy to reach out to band members about an issue going on in the scene that you’d like them to address/take a closer look at. Through Twitter, we’ve gotten both negative and positive attention from prominent bands in the scene. We caused a ruckus with Man Overboard, but have gained the support of Modern Baseball, Julien Baker, and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, which is like… really fucking cool. Not to mention the really awesome following we’ve gained from alternative music fans all over the globe. While Twitter is an extremely effective medium, we would like to start eventually branching out into the “real world” and actually speak to people about these issues.

Kayla: In some ways, yes, in others, no. Sometimes it’s hard to get your point across with conviction when you’ve got 140 characters or less, but I feel like Defend Girls wouldn’t be anything like it is now if we had started it on another medium aside from Twitter. We like to make sure our conversations and our feelings towards subjects we’re passionate about are as open-ended as possible and that anyone who sees the tweet can contribute if they’d like to – whether they agree or disagree.

TT: You recently had your first benefit show (congrats!) and have kicked around the idea of a zine. In what other ways would you like to bring DGNPP off of social media and into “real life”?

Kayla: Thank you! That show will always be something we hold dear in our hearts. We’re excited to go nowhere but up from here on out. We initially started bringing DGNPP beyond the internet in small ways; Allie and I both sold stickers and tried to talk to those who were interested at our separate Warped Tour dates this summer as well as any other shows we’d attended this past year. The show was a big leap in the right direction and we plan to continue to build off of that as well as the little things.

Allie: The show was so much fun. It was very, very cool to be able to bring so many people together to support women and close allies in music. We’re definitely looking to do more of those in the future! I really hope we get the zine going, it would be so cool. Unfortunately, we are bogged down by school and other things at the moment, so we can’t devote our full attention to printing a zine among other things, but come summer, we’ll figure out something for sure.

Kayla: We’re big fans of being hands-on with DGNPP. We’ve discussed and tossed around plenty of ideas for future projects, such as doing more DGNPP Presents… shows in different parts around the country, and hopefully gaining non-profit status and jumping into tabling on tours. We’re honestly very excited about all of the ways we’re planning to make this movement more palpable. We’re putting one foot in front of the other, so not to overwhelm ourselves but we’re very excited for the future projects to come.

TT: What does the future look like for both you and DGNPP?

Allie: Wish I knew! Haha, but for real, we’re just taking things as they come. Once I’m done with high school, we’d like to do a lot more with this organization. That probably includes getting non-profit status among other things that we’re not too sure of. We’re kicking around t-shirt designs so that’s cool…

Kayla: Eye-shatteringly bright and unbelievably exciting; it’s far too soon to tell, but this year alone is going to be a pretty good year for us as well as DGNPP.

TT: Many people within the scene have been understandably critical of Warped Tour in the last few years. What do you hope to see in 2017?

Kayla: I’m a firm believer in having low expectations to avoid disappointment, but every year is something different. We were extremely critical of their actions in 2016 as well as the last few years. Amidst expressing how upset we were that there was a pro-life organization happily apart of the tour, we were able to use our platform – which was not very big at the time – to not only express to fellow fans and tour-goers that this wasn’t okay, but we even received support from band members and other organizations that joined the fight with us.

We can only hope that that brought something into the light for the people behind WT and that they understood where all of us hurt fans and industry members were coming from. I’m cautiously optimistic about 2017, but I hope that there will be some changes made for the better and that this year around the environment and atmosphere for WT is much less toxic, especially for young women.

Allie: SAY IT WITH ME KIDS!  INCLUSIVITY! While some of my favorite bands consist of white dudes, I am so tired of paying 50 bucks every year for the same stuff. It’s the same 5 bands… like every year. Like, instead of having Knuckle Puck play three years in a row, try having band with women and people of color on the tour instead. That’s just a thought though. ALSO, if that Rock For Life tent is on the tour again, I’m not buying a ticket. Sure they have every right to be there, but our scene is supposed to be progressive on the basis of inclusivity, that tent is just straight up regression.

TT: What artists are, in your opinion, effectively making alternative music safer for everyone? E.g. PWR BTTM’s gender netural bathrooms, Speedy Ortiz’s hotline, etc.

DGNPP: Modern Baseball has our whole entire frickin’ heart forever. They have a hotline you can contact during a show if you feel unsafe and security will come and help you out. They also try to make sure their venues have gender neutral bathrooms. Joyce Manor is also indirectly helping out by bringing bands with women, women of color, and people of color on tour with them, which is so super cool. It’s nice to see these guys using their privilege and status to help out everyone else.

Allie’s picks:

  • The World Is a Beautiful Place…
  • Julien Baker
  • Allison Weiss
  • Sudden Suspension (RIP)
  • Caving
  • Dead Split Egos
  • Tigress
  • The Wonder Years

Kayla’s picks:

A lot of bands are really good at speaking about issues on stage, but are really shitty when it comes to actually being more inclusive and putting their words into action. These artists know what’s up.

TT: What advice do you have for music fans who want to get involved in making music a safer place?

Allie: NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER SHUT UP. Always speak up when you see something wrong, sympathize with those that have been wronged. Always be unapologetic. Don’t stop talking about anything that pisses you off.

Kayla: To quote one of my favorite films, “BE YOUR OWN HERO!”  Do it. That’s all, if you feel so strongly about bringing change to this scene and this world- you have to do it, you have to start somewhere. In any way you can, small or big doesn’t matter, what matters is how you make that impact. The world needs you, we need you. Raise your voice and never stop, even if you think people aren’t listening, or that people are listening and they’re just telling you everything you’re saying is wrong (because trust me, people are going to tell you that you’re wrong). Even then. When they do tell you you’re wrong, get louder.

Make sure it’s all we can hear, sing your beautiful, revolutionary song because you deserve to be heard. If you aren’t sure about starting something up on your own there’s no shame in reaching out to those of us apart of this community for help, or guidance of any sort. If no one else will hold you up, we will. Hell, we’ll get you your own megaphone. Always know that if you want to start doing something to actively make music a safer place for all of us, whether you think you have enough of a ‘platform’ to do anything substantial or not, you will always have someone standing in your corner. Starting Defend Girls was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life and I’m sure of it. I sure as hell didn’t have any sort of platform when I started out but we’ve been recognized by plenty of musicians and organizations and have received overwhelming support and love. Be fearless and loud, you have nothing to lose and we love you.