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The Girls Can Rock

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(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.

Let’s Have Another Toast to One Direction

Author:
1d

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).

Pop Culture of 2014

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

A week into the new year, let’s look back on all of the things  that have happened in the worlds of music, film and fashion in 2014, and hope for a year of awesome things ahead.

Some of 2014 has been truly awful and problematic (Meghan Trainor’s skinny-shaming in All About That Bass, and her subsequent comments on eating disorders, for example!), but we have also had some wonderful things come out of 2014. Of course we must examine the bad in order to overcome it, but it’s always nice to reflect on the positive, so here’s a round-up of some of the highlights…

celebfeminists

 

  • The brilliant Ellen Page came out, with bravery and grace. A world of feminist queer girls cheered – partially in support and solidarity of this wonderful woman, partially in utter delight. In all seriousness, it was a very moving speech, leaving us all bursting with pride, and gave many a fresh wave of courage.
  • Beyoncé released a music video for Pretty Hurts, which is obviously everyone’s favourite song on her latest album. It sends out a powerful message against beauty standards and perfection, critiquing beauty pageants in particular for pitting women against each other in the name of homogenous beauty.
  • Many popular women’s magazines began to take on the ‘feminist’ label. They still have a long way to go, quite frankly – they’re still airbrushing photos, keeping adverts which perpetuate the hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies etc. etc. However, they are including some pieces on important issues and featuring strong women (and allowing them to talk about more than their make-up routines!). I’ve seen spreads on the dangers of diet pills, sexual harassment, discussions on abortion laws, and heaps of coverage of incredible things done by incredible women! It’s a very big step forward.
  • The greatest independent British film ever happened. PRIDE! Based on the real action of a London-based LGBT group supporting striking miners from a village in Wales, Pride embraces stereotypes and simultaneously smashes them. It’s very feel-good, whilst also being incredibly moving and will bring you to tears in several instances. If you’re not cracking up five minutes after choking up and vice-versa, you’re watching the wrong film.
  • Amazing actress Emma Watson turned activist! In September, Emma gave a very emotive speech to introduce the brilliant He For She campaign. Having such a prominent figure openly denounce the feminism vs. man myth has done wonders for the movement, as can be seen in the influx of support worldwide – including more famous faces to spread the word…
  • Taylor Swift became queen of the whole world (she’s always been queen of my personal world, but hey, the wider world has woken up). The release of 1989 signifies a massive change of tone in Taylor’s music. The singles Shake It Off and Blank Space (although the music videos of each single have been controversial) are total anthems, sending the message that this girl does not care what people think of her anymore, and as a listener, empower you to feel the same. Alongside the songs, Taylor has been vocal about the inequality within the music industry, how she has experienced backlash for writing about relationships and heartache, whilst male musicians do the same thing, but are simply praised for the quality of their song writing. Every criticism this girl has had over the years, she’s just shakin’ it off, because haters gon’ hate, and Taylor’s gon’ slay.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. 1 was released, and with all the action and emotion came a total reversal of stereotypical gender roles in film! Whilst Katniss is, as ever, our badass heroine, Peeta is the damsel in distress, as the hostage of the Capitol. It makes a refreshing change.

A more personal highlight for me has been joining Powered By Girl – and I am honestly not just saying that! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this, and to know these wonderful girls, some of whom have swiftly become some of my best friends. You all continue to inspire me, make me smile, and make me proud, every single day. Here’s to more feminist adventures in 2015!

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