Deconstructing the Punk Patriarchy

by blair morton

Across the nation, if you look hard enough, you may find a network of underground venues that showcase cooperative musical and art projects. These patrons of Do-It-Yourself communities are united together through four decades of non-conformity and counter-culture history. They are a coalition of culture makers — facilitating spaces of art, music, and performance. But if some say that gender is performative, why do genderqueer patrons feel out of place at these spaces?

DIY (which stands for do-it-yourself) is a movement in music communities that started in the 1980s in Washington D.C., although there were similar mobilizing efforts that were simultaneously beginning in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Gulf Coast, and New York City. DIY was an effort made by members of the punk scene to divest from large corporations and music labels that acted as the gatekeepers of music and culture. DIY musicians would record and perform their music in their living rooms or basements. They’d promote their bands through word-of-mouth, and some would even go one “media blackouts” if they reached some degree of fame — protesting any form of media that would promote their band. Coupled with the evolving DIY attitude was the rise of straight edge identities, where members of the community would vow to lead a PC lifestyle and abstain from drugs, alcohol, and promiscuous sex.  While the founders of DIY are credited to be men, those who have kept these communities alive have been anything but. In some ways, DIY has paralleled the waves of feminism. Throughout the 1990s, underground music communities saw an insurgence of women-fronted and women-centric music acts. These women, known as the “riot grrrls” demanded rights of inclusion, respect, and recognition. Today, while many women in DIY hold the same mentalities of the riot grrrls, the scene has evolved to be less female-centric and more queer inclusive. Out with the old and in with the new — asking what someone’s pronouns are is the new “grrrls to the front” mantra. Giving space and recognizing those who identify outside of the gendered binary is a way of advocating and facilitating a space that is safer for all gender identities, as well as a way to educate those who are a part of the music community but do not have access to information about queerness and marginalization.

I had the chance to sit down with Meredith Graves, singer of Perfect Pussy, after her show in Columbus in December. Graves is famously known for mixing her own blood in the first 300 vinyl pressings of her band’s first studio album, Say Yes to Love. Graves is leading voice in the music industry and its role in the promoting (and faulting) the presence of gender equity. “Women are called upon every day to prove our right to participate in music on the basis of our authenticity — or perceived lack thereof.” Graves wrote in a Talkhouse essay in 2014. Her views and writings on the intersection of identity politics and feminism in the music industry have yielded a new rise in awareness and inclusion in DIY spaces — and different methods of how band fronts and show runners should command their crowds.

http://wilderstreet.tumblr.com/about
credit: wilder street

“I feel uncomfortable making the call for all grrls to the front, because I do not want to out anyone — people at my shows could be battling with their identity, or may not have come out to their friends. I do not want to make anyone feel isolated or pressured.” Graves confessed in the dingy VIP lounge of Double Happiness. At a show that appeared to be overrun by what appeared to be cismen, an artist like Graves can feel disheartened by the aggression that plays out in the pit. The band debuted a song called “Women” where Graves sang about the difficulties of being a woman in a music community, while groups of large men moshed around, creating a somewhat hostile environment for anyone, mostly women and non-men patrons, who stood in their way. Ironic, Graves laughed. Graves states that physical and emotional safety should always be at the forefront of shows.

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trying to keep my cool. (failing at it)

 

http://thetalkhouse.com/music/talks/meredith-graves-perfect-pussy-talks-2/
http://the-toast.net/2016/04/18/everyone-but-cis-men-creating-better-safe-spaces-for-lgbt-people/

Intersections of Queerness and Punk

by blair morton

I sat down via the web with B, who goes under the stage name of Mildrid. B fronted an Athens alumni band called Window Box before they relocated to Akron to attend school. When B was 19, he started a DIY music label turned media outlet called Flower Jar Media (once known as Lil Pup).When B isn’t touring or collaborating with other queer-centric music acts and artists like The Magic Fountain, they are using the web to combat forms of sexism, rape culture, and the punk patriarchy — or as B like to call it, trying to make American gay again.

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Can you start off by stating your pronouns and how you’d like to be identified                      

B: Hey, Blair!! My pronouns are they/he, and I identify as a genderqueer/trans person!

How does your identity as a queer person intersect with your music?

B: My identity as a queer person intersects with my music in a lot of ways, actually. I feel that, since I have this platform,  it’s incredibly important (personally, at least), to use this for something more than my own personal gain. I am incredibly privileged for many reasons; one being that I DO have this platform, something that most don’t and I am incredibly thankful for that. A lot of my songs have stuff about gender/etc. in them. The reaction is either, “hell yeah, that was sick”, or something along the lines of uncomfortable silence. Which, honestly, good. If they’re uncomfortable, they’re part of the problem.

Some have made the argument that by incorporating queer musicians onto bills or playlists, they are tokenizing the musician in an attempt to diversify their music. Some musicians have stated that they battle with being viewed as a musician over queer — and that genre names like “queer rock” only reinforce that. Do you battle with tokenization?

B: I personally have not experienced tokenization, at least that I know of. I think that listening to/booking queer musicians is important, if you’re doing it because you genuinely want these people to have representation. Doing it because you want to further your ,“look, I care!-Look at all the good I’m doing!-Look at all the queer people I’m helping!-Scene-Cred”, is bullshit. We see you and we hear you.

Do you find solidarity within the right grrrl movement or do you find to be an instance of separatism?
B: I don’t have extensive knowledge about the Riot Grrrl movement, but I do know that it wasn’t as intersectional as it should have been. There’s something so much more empowering about women/non-cis-male-identifying people lifting up/helping out/inspiring each other, than creating a “club”, that only pertains to a specific demographic.

Do you think DIY spaces are accepting of those who are racially marginalized? Marginalized by their gender/sexuality? Has there been progress? 
B: I think that most DIY spaces are at least intolerant of racism/homophobia/transphobia/etc. I think there has been progress, but we shouldn’t stop where we are. We should keep furthering these conversations, keep creating and providing inclusive spaces. We’ve gotta keep looking out for each other, because no one else is lookin’ out for us.

 

Do you think those who facilitate DIY and other outlets of the music industry have an obligation to promote inclusion and education of queer identities? What are difficulties they face? How can showrunners combat instances of harmful behavior at shows?
B: I don’t think they’re necessarily “obligated”, but if they aren’t inclusive, fuck them. If they aren’t willing to promote inclusion/education of queer identities from the start, I think forcing it won’t do much for anyone. I don’t think anyone has the time or energy to deal with non-inclusive spaces/people, so weeding them out just makes everyone’s lives/experience easier. With that being said, I think they might face difficulties with knowing how to go about being more inclusive, which might lead tokenization, etc.

I think show runners can combat instances of harmful behavior by enforcing the safe-space ideals as much as possible. If someone is being problematic at a show, kick them the fuck out and tell them not to come back. If a known abuser/rapist/etc. shows up, kick them the fuck out and tell them not to come back. They’ll either talk shit on the internet, or maybe, contemplate their actions (and by some grace of whatever god you subscribe to, apologize and change their ways).

 

Are shown spaces/DIY spaces a place to facilitate gender equity and identity politics or are they solely a place to display music and art?
B: I think show/DIY spaces are 100%, a place to facilitate gender equality/identity politics. We’ve created these spaces, this counter-culture, because we want to separate ourselves from the toxicity of mainstream societal norms. I think excluding gender equality/identity politics, is regressive.


How do you define safe/safer space?
B: I define safe/safer spaces, as places that are inclusive of people of color, people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and devoid, or at least intolerant, of racism/sexism/bigotry/homophobia/transphobia/rape culture/etc, etc, etc. I’ve been hearing more places changing from “safe” spaces to “safer” spaces, because no one can guarantee that these spaces will always be 100% safe (ex: some problematic person shows up and says/does some problematic crap before getting kicked out). With that being said; being in spaces that identify with these ideals are some of the places I have felt safest and most at home. They’re incredibly important, so shouts out to all of y’all who are actively providing/trying to provide spaces that lil baby queers (such as myself) and other people who are marginalized, can feel comfortable in.