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Save pop punk… from sexism


By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I am a person who is happiest when listening to live music, preferably from within a crowd of very sweaty people, who care about the band in front of them as much as I do. Of course, I LOVE Taylor Swift and One Direction with an intensity of devotion akin to religious worship, but the majority of what I listen to is rock music of some kind. Chiefly, pop punk.

For me, as for many girls of my generation, it started with Paramore. I loved Green Day and Blink-182, but it was in discovering Paramore that I delved into this music, that I found a sense of belonging. Hayley Williams was a teenage girl, and she was KILLING IT. She was loud, and she was unapologetic about it. I didn’t understand my attachment then, beyond “I LOVE HER SO MUCH SHE IS SO COOL”, but now I realise that she was the only person I knew of challenging the ‘boys’ club’ vibe of rock, and carving out a space for girls. I will genuinely always view my discovery of Paramore as one of the most important times in my life, because it was through Paramore that a world was opened up to me, the world that saved me again and again.

I live for these bands, I live for going to shows and jumping around and singing my lungs out and finding kinship with strangers because they feel what I feel about the songs being played and the people playing them. And I have defended my scene relentlessly over the years, from stupid comments about how we’re all menacing, aggressive Satanists (I mean, Patty Walters IS pretty terrifying), and how the music ‘encourages depression and self-harm’ (TOTALLY). But I’m recognising more and more its imperfections, and suddenly, the scene that saved me doesn’t feel like such a safe space anymore.

Pop punk has an undeniable sexism problem. A big one. I mean, the genre is practically founded on objectifying woman and moaning about being friendzoned. That, and pizza. But there’s far more to this issue than a few problematic lyrics.

This is supposed to be an alternative scene, a scene for the kids who feel like weirdos and losers, a scene that doesn’t follow rules or conventions. And yet, who is the face of this scene? Oh yeah, that’s right – middle-class white boys. How subversive. What’s worse is how very in denial some of them are of this issue – I recently read a comment made by Vic Fuentes of Pierce The Veil, rejecting the notion that the scene has a gender imbalance, on the basis that the scene’s big rising star is Lynn Gunn of the band PVRIS. This remark was reminiscent of Warped Tour’s founder Kevin Lyman comment that “If you’ve got 20 bands that have women in them out of 120 bands, that’s one out of six bands.”, a ratio he thought was “absolutely OK”. It’s like, because we have a couple of girls in the scene, everything is okay. Never mind that the majority of them don’t get nearly as much recognition as their male counterparts, never mind that when they do start to gain some prominence, as with Lynn, they are subject to ridicule and belittlement, harassment, internet trolling, and objectification, things that Neck Deep’s frontman Ben Barlow does not have to go through.

The bands may be predominantly made up of dudes, but the fans certainly are not. And yet, guys in the crowds still manage to dominate, and push girls out. I went to the Reading festival this summer, at which PVRIS were playing. I hung out at that stage through the two bands before them, in order to be in the prime spot, at the barrier, in the very centre. It was worth the wait, because when they came on, Lynn Gunn was right in front of me, so close I could practically touch her, and I don’t think my little queer heart has ever been so chuffed. Unfortunately, about two songs into the set, a mosh pit opened up, sucking me in, and eventually forced me out.

I hate to say it, because I know some girls do enjoy them, but ultimately, mosh pits are massively testosterone-fuelled. They are about boys proving their masculinity, because what fulfils the social construct of ‘male behaviour’ than shoving and bashing each other? They are also, quite frankly, about pushing girls out – nothing seems to anger a couple of entitled white boys than a group of girls claiming space for themselves (never mind that we waited for HOURS in order to claim it, whilst said boys have pushed their way to that point in the crowd). After being pushed over, and left on the floor, being literally trampled for a couple of minutes before someone bothered to help me up, I had little choice but to go to the very back of the tent to watch the rest of the band’s set. And, whilst PVRIS were incredible, I didn’t really enjoy it, didn’t really enjoy seeing the band I pretty much bought my ticket for, because I was shaken up, and in pain. It sucked. At the time, I was really upset about it. Now, I’m angry as hell, because I had as much right to claim that space as anyone else, I had a right to have a good time, and a bunch of guys took that from me. And this isn’t an isolated incident, either – I don’t know a single pop punk girl who hasn’t had a similarly negative experience at a show. This is not the way it should be.

TW Recently, there’s also been a startling number of allegations of sexual harassment against members of bands. It’s sickening. The reaction has also been pretty sickening. After allegations meant he had to leave the band, ex Set It Off bassist Austin Kerr was quick to make excuses for himself, whilst claiming to ‘take responsibility’ for his actions. The manipulative nature of his statement was disgusting and irresponsible, and fuelled a great deal of victim blaming. Those who spoke out against ex-guitarist of Neck Deep, Lloyd Roberts, were similarly met with horrific backlash, despite the band’s pleas that people ‘refrain from attacking the people making these statements’. It took these girls immense courage to speak about their experiences, and they were attacked for it.


Some of this makes me ashamed to call this my scene. I almost want to reject the scene, if it weren’t for the fact that at the end of the day, I LOVE these bands, I LOVE this music, and I LOVE the shows. I truly don’t know where I’d be without it; bands like All Time Low have been my lifeline at my lowest points, my escape from the world and from my own head, and I will never not love them, I will never not be grateful that they exist. But I am sick and tired of the state of the scene. I am sick and tired of this being a white boys’ club, of feeling like I have to look a certain way to be accepted as a girl, and that even then, I’ll either be seen as ‘one of the boys’, and expected to reject other girls, or a girl to ogle, and then complain about, regardless of whether I put out or not. I’m a pop punk girl, which means I can’t win, and I’m sick and tired of it. But I’m not giving up on this scene. I believe it can do better, and I won’t stop fighting for that. I will keep calling out bands on problematic lyrics, objectifying music videos, sexist comments, and gross actions. I will keep defending my right to be at the front of or in the middle of a crowd, rather than relegated to the back. I will keep defending other girls in crowds, and the girls who have the guts to get up on stage. I will keep defending pop punk, but the pop punk I want it to be, not the pop punk it is right now.

Innocent until proven guilty? The case of Kesha


By Issy McConville

TW Over the last couple of days, the #FreedomForKesha hashtag has seen an outpouring of support for the singer, who is currently embroiled in a legal battle against her producer, Dr. Luke, on the grounds of sexual assault. However, it has been almost a full year since Kesha first brought the charges; a year which has seen her disappear from the public eye, whilst Dr. Luke continues to produce records, finding success with artists such as Usher and Nicki Minaj in the past year. Kesha also named Sony in the case, claiming the label knew of her abuse, but turned a blind eye for almost 10 years.

Sadly, at this point, it is likely that Kesha’s career will never recover, simply because she decided to speak out against her abuser, and about the industry which was implicit. The silencing of Kesha’s voice, and the destruction of her career, is a telling reflection of the inherent misogyny of the music industry, and of society as a whole.

Comment pieces about the case have continued to appear on my Facebook timeline. Scrolling through the comments section – I should perhaps have learned by now that this will be nothing but trouble – I happen upon comments such as ‘there is no detail of the supposed rape, just a load of feminist garbage’ and continued calls for Dr Luke to be, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Yes, of course, innocent until proven guilty, this is a fundamental human right – but tends to be a luxury that is only afforded to the accused.

While Kesha’s career has ground to a halt, Dr. Luke is continuing to work. While Kesha’s claims are being cross examined by the public, and being blamed for crying wolf with a false accusation, Dr. Luke continues to dominate in the music industry with no retribution. And this is a pattern which is being replayed all over the world. According to statistics from RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, recorded here – https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates) only around 2% of rape claims are proven to be false, and in fact, only a little more than 30% of rapes are ever reported to authorities. Dispute the accuracy of these figures all you want – there is a clear discrepancy between actual false rape claims and the amount that are derided as being such.

However, the ideology of victim blaming continues. We live in a world which shames a woman for daring to speak out against an abuser but makes excuses for the man until the very last minute. Just look at problematic photographer Terry Richardson. Countless models have made claims of sexual abuse and an abuse of his power, and yet he continues to work with the biggest celebrities and be popular in the public eye. We just aren’t interested in hearing about his misdemeanours, much like those of Dr. Luke. In this case, perhaps Dr. Luke is innocent. But, as he was also named as possibly being the abuser of Lady Gaga, perhaps not. Irregardless, Kesha’s experience is just one of countless similar stories that reveal the narrative of victim blaming that exists. Kesha may have sacrificed her career to name her abuser. And until we stop believing that every rape claim is false, we play into the hands of the abusers, and allow that 70% of rapes to still go unreported.

An Interview with Elizabeth Farrell

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By Anna Hill

A continuation of my series of interviews with various UK Teen activists to showcase the diverse and innovative landscape of UK feminism and to inspire other teens and teen girls particularly to get involved in any way they can! To read the other interview in this series go here.

The next person is Elizabeth Farrell, more commonly known as glacier996girl and whose project Remember the Glaciers was started during her gap year – as her instagram says she is “ raising awareness about climate change, adapting the aesthetic of ‘eco-friendly’ to appeal to the iGeneration”. She is also now writing a column for polyester zine, which you can read here and here for a more in depth look at her work.

1.What started of your work as a visual activist?

My A-level art project (years 12 &13). My favourite subject was geography and for art I thought it was important to pick something you enjoy and something you can be passionate about. My project was about the correlation between mass consumption, capitalist society and globalization and the environment. I used myself as the subject representing a generation constantly manipulated by advertisement. Remember the Glaciers was a continuation from this.

  1. Before you started your great project Remember the Glaciers, did you have any experience doing activist work?

No, it never even occurred to me until 3 years ago. Now its my life!

  1. How does the internet and tumblr/social media affect the work you make?

It just means I can spread the message to a wider audience of creatives. It’s also important for me that they are visual forms of social media too.

  1. Why do you use the colour blue so much?

From the start I was trying to steer away from the stigma of environmental activism therefore not using ‘eco-green’.  My project being ‘Remember The Glaciers’ made sense to use blue to represent the ice. Glaciers are so powerful and beautiful yet at the same time in their ice form so vulnerable and helpless.

  1. What role does rage and anger play in your work?

My anger can definitely be used as ammunition and a lot of the time is a catalyst for me to work. I remember when I found out about Shell’s plans to drill in the arctic I was crazy angry and didn’t understand why and how this was even being considered? It just made no sense. I thought it was some kind of sick paradoxical joke: the words arctic and oil drilling?!?!! But I took this anger, using it to spark a 2 man protest outside my local shell gas station in London.

  1. How do you keep doing the work you do when you feel like you are making no headway? What keeps you motivated?

Using your emotions to your advantage and using that to push yourself to feel like you are making progress. Remember the achievements you have made previously and know that you will come out of this mindset, and that a mindset is all it really is.

  1. What advice would you give to others who want to get involved with activism [both environmental and other forms]?

Pick a way to do it that you will really enjoy and a medium that you are passionate about. I think it’s really important to  enjoy what you are doing and that people can see that through your work. Maybe try a different approach to the activism that’s already out there?

  1. Now that you are going to university, what are your plans for the future – will you be continuing Remember the Glaciers?

Yes of course! Hopefully just with more knowledge and ideas to share, eventually I want to be a glaciologist but I’ve got a long way to go yet, I guess ill just see how it all goes!

Thanks Lizzie!!

Let’s Have Another Toast to One Direction


By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I could easily write a 5000 word essay on what makes One Direction beautiful, how the media’s portrayal of them as ‘bad boy’ womanizers is an illusion founded on little white lies, and how a lot of people are unfair in their attitudes towards them and their fans. I can recall literally hundreds of instances in which Harry Styles has shut down sexism, supported the LGBTQPIA community, promoted animal welfare… there are so many things. Harry Styles is a gift to humanity. I could write at least 5000 words on him alone – I have no control. But it’s not just Harry who’s an absolute angel, 5/5 are pretty great overall (yes, I am saying that there are five of them… Zayn is their brother… till the end). As individuals and as a group, One Direction back an endless number of projects which aim to improve people’s lives, and are, more often than not, highly involved in these projects. I would list them all, but a) we’d be here for a ridiculous length of time, and b) you can look it up on tumblr, there must be about 1000 masterposts on all their little things.

I do however want to talk about the major project they’ve recently launched, action/1D, because, honestly, I think it’s the best project ever. Later this year, two massive United Nations summits are taking place, at which world leaders will be discussing how to combat climate change, improve healthcare and education, end poverty, and more. At September’s UN General Assembly, a new set of Sustainable Development Goals will be agreed upon, which is going to have a major impact on the future of our world. The guys in One Direction have asked their fans to send in videos and photos about the issues they care most about, the things they want to change. In September, world leaders will be presented with a film, filled with these contributions.

This is bigger than celebrities tweeting about current events, showing their awareness and solidarity with those affected. action/1D is a project truly aimed at the big shots, it’s about directly influencing global politics and the state of the world. This really is something great.

It’s not only the nature of the project that’s incredible, but who’s taking part in it. action/1D is not about the boys, it’s about their fans. Not wanting to perpetuate stereotypes, but the One Direction fandom is predominantly (though not exclusively) made up of teenage girls and young women. Why is this so significant? Because ultimately, politics remains a man’s world. Currently, just 20 countries in the world have a woman as leader – there are 196 countries on planet earth; 10% is nowhere near parity. Women’s voices are still marginalised in the grand scheme of things, and teenage girls know this all too well. Try to assert a political opinion as a 14 year old girl, you will be dismissed, told that you will probably change your mind thousands of times over the years, that your view is therefore invalid. Openly engage in political issues as a 16 year old girl, you will be belittled, told that you couldn’t possibly understand. Try to assert yourself in a political discussion as an 18 year old girl, you will be met with misogynistic abuse, told to “calm down, love” and that your frustration “doesn’t look good on you”, because your primary function is to sit pretty, and how very dare you have a voice. Politics is not particularly open to teenage girls, because teenage girls are fickle, naïve, and hysterical. Nothing teenage girls have to say could possibly have any value, according to those in power.

This project is so significant for the fact that it challenges this. One Direction have turned to their millions of fans, to millions of teenage girls and young women, and have asked them what they have to say. They have recognised that we have something to say, and that there is intrinsic value in that. And they are giving us a platform from which to speak, to affect major change. These boys are acknowledging that teenage girls are thoughtful and intelligent human beings, in a way that few people with such status do. That’s why action/1D matters.

Right now, I couldn’t be more ecstatic or more proud to be a One Direction fan, and it’s not just because they’ve added my favourite song to their live shows – although that’s incredibly exciting, too. If anyone wants to ridicule me about it, I don’t really care – if you hadn’t noticed, I’m a girl almighty; I’ve got a world to change (and fanfic to read).

Some thoughts on safe spaces


By Issy McConville

You know that scene in ‘About A Boy’, where Hugh Grant turns up to the ‘Single Mothers Alone Together’ meeting in order to meet women, despite not being a woman himself, or even a parent at all? The audience is like  – Hugh! What are you doing there! That is so bad! If you recognise that it is wrong for Hugh Grant’s character to sneak into a women’s support group with underhand motives, then you are understanding the basic concept of a ‘safe space’. A safe space is (more…)

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