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The Girls Can Rock

Author:
(left to right) Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive, Lynn Gunn of PVRIS, Tay Jardine of We Are The In Crowd

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I might have mentioned it before, but rock music has a really big problem. Sexism is the problem. Let’s be honest, most aspects of our culture are sexist. The film industry disproportionately favours male directors, and generally caters to the hetero-male gaze. Yawn. And in all corners of music, misogyny is rife – rappers are still on about how they’re ‘fucking bitches three ways’ and are going to ‘knock that pussy out’, and pop singers still think it’s cute to be obsessive and controlling in a way that is frighteningly comparable to an abusive mind-set.

News flash: we have this problem in rock music too. It tends to get ignored; a community that prides itself on being for the outcasts, rock is not keen on examining its faults, preferring to believe in its acceptance of all, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Rock chooses to ignore the problematic way in which it treats women, and as a young woman who gave pretty much her whole heart to this music, I am tired of it.

Possibly the things that frustrates me most is how little credit our girls get. North America’s Warped Tour features around 120 bands, and in recent years, only about 20 of those have included women. Over in the UK, the Reading & Leeds Festival showcased the talent of just 6 bands containing women; alternative music festival line-ups are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Which is not to say that there are no girls at the front right now – there are, a whole lot of them. The problem is that so few of them are getting noticed.

I’m bored of how little credit these rocking women are given, of how little attention they get. It’s time to change that, starting right here, right now. No more “there just aren’t any girls in good bands” rubbish, no more excuses, because here’s proof that the girls can rock.

For fans of Fall Out Boy, Set It Off, and Panic! At The Disco…PVRIS are your band! Actually, PVRIS are your band, whatever you like – they completely transcend the boundaries of genre! Frontwoman Lynn Gunn is many things; an equally poignant and punchy lyricist, a simultaneously vulnerable and powerful vocalist, an endearing personality, the love of my life, and a captivating performer. Lynn Gunn is a star, through and through, and this band’s brilliance is something that cannot be denied.

For fans of Simple Plan, All Time Low, We The Kings, and everything slick, shiny, and upbeat about pop-punk…We Are The In Crowd, Against The Current, Jule Vera, and Echosmith encompass it all. Having seen both WATIC and Echosmith live, not expecting a lot from either, I can promise that they deliver energetic, and dynamic performances, as well as catchy tunes that will have you smiling so much your face hurts. ATC and JV are similarly striking in their sound, every melodic, anthemic song just oozing energy.

For fans of the slightly punchier pop-punkers such as Neck Deep…Tonight Alive are for you. These Australian pop-punkers are fronted by Jenna McDougall, who is pretty much the coolest human you will ever come across. Jen is the ultimate hero, inspiring all with her positive but straight-up attitude to life – Tonight Alive aren’t about being overwhelmingly and unnaturally upbeat, but they don’t go in for negativity. I have been known to cry for approximately half their set at gigs and festivals, whilst jumping and dancing wildly, because that’s what they spark in me, in everyone – an abundance of feeling, and the drive to live.

For fans of bands like A Day To Remember…Love, Robot and Behind The Façade are killer. Behind The Façade are a particularly exciting band to me, because *gasp* MORE THAN ONE MEMBER OF THE BAND IS A GIRL. Shocking, isn’t it? They have a fantastic sound too, as do Love, Robot, fronted by the ever-charming, ever-brutal Alexa San Roman. Alexa is Jeremy McKinnon, but (dare I say it?) better.

For fans of straight up punk, bands like Anti Flag and The Menzingers…Against Me! are the most progressive, political punk band going. The band are vocal about everything; racism, sexism, homophobia, and most strongly, transphobia. Since singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band have put out an album of incredibly raw emotion and raucous sounds. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the best album to have come out of the past five years, and that is not something that is up for discussion; it is fact.

For fans of Enter Shikari…Marmozets are a brilliant bunch. I love them to pieces. Looking at them on stage, you’d think they were going to be an average indie band. Well, average is one thing they certainly are not, and things get far too heavy to call this indie. Frontwoman Becca Macintyre is a complete powerhouse, belting and screaming and never stopping for breath, but it never seems like she needs to. She was born to make noise, and bloody good noise at that.

For fans of bands like Mallory Knox, We Are The Ocean, and other stadium-worthy rock…Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless kick-ass. The Pretty Reckless get a bad rep, mostly because the world is full of slut-shamers. It sucks, a) because slut-shaming sucks and b) because TPR are actually pretty good. Taylor Momsen’s voice is dark, snarling, and absolutely captivating. Halestorm, meanwhile, would probably be one of the biggest bands on the planet right now if it weren’t for the simple fact that Lzzy Hale is a woman. A fearless, bad-ass, refuses-to-be-silenced woman. They are a Foo Fighters kind of good. They deserve a Foo Fighters kind of recognition.

For fans of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax…give Babymetal a go. Yes, really. I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Babymetal, I thought it was a gimmick. I went to see them at Reading, expecting it all to be a big joke. But it was phenomenal. This was real, heavy metal music, heavier than anything else I heard across the weekend. And it was fun. Really fun. I loved it. Kudos to Babymetal.

 

 

Save pop punk… from sexism

Author:
defend_pop_punk

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.

hayley

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.

Non-Sexist, Totally Fantastic Summer Book Recommendations

Author:

By Anna Hill

Screen shot 2014-07-09 at 21.31.04

In light of Sophia’s great post about the dire, repetitive sexism that is often prevalent in so-called “summer reads”, we decided in response that the rest of the PBG team would collect some of our own favourite summer reads and share them with you! Now we can all be huge nerds together and fall in love with some great books this summer! As it is sometimes harder to find alternative and less problematic books, we to put together our fave reads in a list for your enjoyment! If you want to know why we might have chosen them (some may not be as conventionally “summery” and “light” as other recommended reads in mainstream media), then it’s due to a range of reasons. These books are any/all/some/one/none of the following: empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, thrilling, enthralling, exciting, enjoyable.

Without further adieu, here is PBG’s list of non-sexist, totally fantastic summer book recommendations:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This is a magnificent YA book and it’s so unbelievably good, it waayyyy passes the Bechdel test and it has mostly female characters who are kickass and freaking incredible. Basically a bunch of Beauty Queens crash land on an island and have to survive!! There are Queer characters, a trans girl, some really fab women of colour. Some really annoying tropes/stereotypes of women are utterly subverted and it’s just great, and it’s so aware of it all as well, it’s a clever satire. I think about it a LOT. Lastly it’s good for summer reading because it’s set on a desert island so it’s really HOT (and you know, summer is hot….. just go read this ok).

Every Day by David Levithan

This is a beautiful beautiful book. The story is a romance, so if you like to read love stories then this would be fab for you, it is also a beautifully written book, and it contains such wonderful moments that you will fall in love with all of it over and over again, every sentence. The story is slightly strange but very clever, it follows the story of “A” an entity or person that has no proper physical form – every day they wake up in another’s body. And one day they meet Rhiannon! (who obvs they fall in love with!) It’s also great because it discusses ideas about gender and sexuality and the fluidness of those ideas/constructs/concepts.

Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

This is a comic book series, and there are three volumes out so far and I am ITCHING for the next instalment, because SO MUCH DRAMA AND ACTION AND EXCITEMENT! The story is a war story and a love/family journey too – it follows a couple who fall in love but are on the opposite sides of the ongoing war that just keeps killing and hurting, and they have a baby. They then have to try to survive. It’s got a kickass female lead, as well as my personal favourite, an amazing bisexual woman named Gwendolyn who is so stylish and lethal. As well as this the relationship between Marko and Alana – the two who are in love, is very sweet and realistic, and the art is really really beautiful too. It’s so enthralling and interesting and beautiful and funny and silly and the characters are A+ (There are some really cute gay, green journalists!). I would also definitely recommend this to people who are new to comics (I’m a newbie myself) as it’s super easy to read/see and get into.

— Anna

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is basically a book set post-zombie apocalypse in this tiny village surrounded by the undead, or “unconsecrated.” It’s super religious and they’re basically told that they are the last humans left in the entire world, they’re God’s village. All the men are told to guard the fences and the women must all marry and have lots of babies because their survival depends on it. The protagonist, Mary, basically questions everything and sees past the lies, and she wants to be with a different guy to the one chosen for her because of love, not “duty.” When they’re pushed into the forest she is literally the most determined person and she realises her dream to find the ocean is the most important thing to her, and just being with this dude who she loves isn’t enough. And I won’t say much more but it’s so good.

Sing You Home

This a brilliantly well-crafted novel that outlines some very important issues that same-sex couples are unjustly forced to face. It is about: a woman named Zoe who fails to have a child multiple times and then gives up her hopes of ever being a mother. Her husband then decides to leave and her world is shattered. Luckily for Zoe, she finds a friend in her colleague Vanessa and the more time the two spend together, the better she feels. Zoe then discovers that she wants to spend more and more time with her new friend… until she realizes that what she really wants is something much more than friendship.

With a convincing and believable plot, and characters that you just want to hug (!), the book is a definite must-read. Picoult’s writing is compelling, moving and thoroughly thought provoking. Both Zoe and Vanessa are two of the strongest, bravest and most wonderful women I have ever encountered in literature. They both have a courage and defiance that lifts them above their struggles. Two thoroughly determined, tough and intelligent women (and they don’t rely on men either!).

— Yas

Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse by Suraya Sadeed

This book isn’t fiction, it is a memoir, but the writer has done incredible things, and it is an astonishing read. It is painful and sad to read at many points, as she describes experiences in the heart of a terrible war, seeing extreme poverty, and a kind of inequality that we in the West cannot ever truly imagine. Despite all this, it is immensely hopeful and inspiring, as Suraya Sadeed tells readers of the aid she brought to Afghan communities, and of how hard she fought to do so. She is truly admirable, and a reminder that we can make a difference, if determined enough, as resolve is a powerful trait in people.

— Sophia

The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca

This recommendation is not exactly up everyone’s street! All the speaking characters are women (only one male character). It has been described as a photographic documentary of 1920’s Spain. Simply, there are five daughters who are in 8 years mourning after the death of their father but one gets engaged and problems follow. The text provides a wonderful insight into 1920s rural Spain and it’s attitudes towards women. Some have more power than others but in the end do they really have any power? Clever symbolism and stylistic techniques highlight the key themes of freedom and repression in a tragic tale of a family of women in mourning. Despite being set almost a century ago parallels can still be found in aspects of today’s society. Great play to help you question the things we see in our world today and what it was like to live as a woman in this society. Original language or a good translation is best (there is also an incredibly accurate English film starring Glenda Jackson).

— Chloe

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is an absolute classic that follows the life of Jane, from when she is a little girl dealing with cruelty and hardship to when she grows into an independent and intelligent woman. It’s a great feminist book because it was written by a woman and is about a woman at a time when society completely dismissed the idea of women being able to think/act for themselves.

Diary of Anne Frank

Also a classic! This book is both inspiring and also very sad. The diary was written by Anne Frank whilst she was in hiding during WW2 because she was Jewish. Anne inspires me because of her bravery and her honesty – I think her voice really speaks out to all women and girls.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is about a girl who’s not afraid to be different and true to herself, it’s very heartwarming and tells girls that it’s ok not to fit in with the crowd!! (It might be for slightly younger readers)

— Alice

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

If you haven’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I would highly recommend it, it’s an oldy but a goody. The book follows a girl’s life and family living in Brooklyn. Her family were Irish immigrates and very poor and they lived there during the time where that’s where immigrants would stay. It follows her becoming a woman, and it talks about the dynamics of her mother and father’s relationship. It’s spans over her life starting when she was about 8 and ending in her early 20s. It’s very well written although a tad slow in the beginning, you need to hold on until you get like 1/4 of the way through and it gets super good.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice is very good, though over 900 pages if you’re looking for a longer read. The plot sounds weird but I promise if you get into it it’s so so good. The novel is about a family of witches that are all strikingly beautiful. It’s set in more modern times when they’re trying to figure out who the next witch is. It describes the history of the family line of witches throughout the book but its main focus is explaining what makes the most recent #1 witch unusually powerful. Of course there is some romance and such but the storyline is deeply complicated and very interesting. I don’t wanna say much more because it’s easy to give things away, just don’t read it if you’re squeamish about sexual themes, it’s an adult novel and I normally have to warn people beforehand because the book can get slightly graphic at times. Again it starts a bit slow and can be a tad confusing at times but I would highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you aren’t into fantasy

— Gracelyn

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A follow up to the highly acclaimed novel ‘The Kite Runner’, the book transports us into the life of Mariam, a young Afghan girl who is facing the daily struggle of living in a society that values women solely for their ability to reproduce. Though not light reading, Hossieni’s ability to make the harshest of abuse and discrimination readable subject matter is incredible, providing very valuable insight into the harsh lives of women in Afghanistan and beyond.

— Cora

Bedpans and Bobby Socks by Barbara Fox and Gwenda Gofton

Bedpans and Bobby Socks is set in the late 50’s. It’s about 5 British nurses who move to America to work for a while then go travelling in an old car all over the States. It’s a really fun summer read, especially if you like travel and roadtrip books, and the 5 nurses are all amazingly independent, adventurous women (it’s based on a true story, too!).

— Amy

Now go forth and READ!!!

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