We should all be on the same page when it comes to freedom of expression but it seems that isn’t so. When it comes to music, lyrical content is rarely, if ever, challenged even when maybe it should be. But when it comes to the freedom of female artists to express themselves by way of how they dress, and how they choose to wear their hair and make up, that sadly is a different matter. It seems some people within the punk and wider alternative communities can’t get past automatically linking clothing, or a lack thereof, to sexuality.
The less clothes the more offense gets taken. If a male band plays nude, or near nude, it’s a bit of fun. If women do it, they are automatically branded as sluts. One artist has recently been criticised for daring to wear lipstick where before she had not done so. How dare she! It’s about time trying to shame women because of how they choose to look should stop. We think that what is good for the gander is perfectly good enough for the goose too. Women should be free to choose how they look without interference or criticism. We think… #befreebeyou
While it’s true to say that one particular band, The Soap Girls, have been the focus of some seriously vitriolic and unwarranted criticism there are many other female artists who have also suffered simply for how they choose to look. The open verbal attacks on social media and whispering behind backs are a blight not just within the punk scene but in music and society generally. People who are easily led nod in agreement at ‘facts’ made up by people with an axe to grind. It’s on Facebook so it must be true! When you end up with a physical assault, the infamous bucket of blood incident, it became obvious to me that something had to change.
Misogyny has always existed in music. It might be that in the past it was worse but it is still present now and it is as damaging to punk as it is in any other genre. Anyone trying to tell a woman how to dress on stage (or off it) for their performance is guilty of misogyny. The same goes for whether they wear make up or not or how they wear their hair. Having an image that works for the music you play is another subject. The right to look how you please should be sacrosanct.
Of all the music scenes, I would have thought that punk would consider freedom of expression of utmost importance. With some sadly it seems not. It’s a shame that societal conformity is becoming a divisive feature where people want freedom warped in an Orwellian way. All punks are equal but some are more equal than others. Even worse is the assignation of genre where an act are deemed un-punk because of how they look or sound. That is just ridiculous.
Most on the scene don’t have mohawks, almost all avoid tartan trousers these days, and the music range is huge. For me punk is the belief in freedom of expression, to do what you want and to be free to express your opinions. The safety valve is to be humane and have humanity while being free. It looks to me like quite a few are preaching tolerance but not actually practicing it. No scene is ever fully free of spats and divisions. It’s obvious some female artists don’t get along, nothing new there.
Here’s the thing though, they all recognise the misogyny and tut tutting from outside. The claims of the use of sexuality as a tool to sell their music can easily be countered. Women should be able to dress how they want to without them being sexualised by the voyeur. We all know there are the creeps out there, the older men with casually aimed cameras and smart phones. Do you really think a change of apparel would stop their sociopathic behaviour? Or would they turn their attention on someone less able to handle them? Guys here’s a newsflash. Women dress for themselves not to pleasure you.
Now what about support? Well, a couple of all male punk bands local to me decided to show they support the right for women to wear what they like on stage by wearing very little for a quick photo shoot. The point being if they actually played dressed like this then no one would criticise them for using their sexuality to sell their music. If we really want gender equality then we need to stop waffling on about it and actually practice it. Here then are Rob and Elliot from Scumbus and Phil and Dave from The Deadites showing their support. I have no doubt more will follow. And I suspect that support will not have gender or age barriers either. #befreebeyou!