Judging women: ‘You Overdid it Doll’

(Yes, this blog is back from the dead, hopefully permanently, but that all depends on how much sleep I get, how exhausting work and teaching experience is, and, apparently, by how often something enrages me.)

I just heard You Overdid It Doll by The Courteeners on the radio, and it inspired me to resurrect this blog, something I’ve been trying to for a long time. How did it do it? By enraging me. I seem to have a very few topics that I return to again and again, and this song epitomises one of them – the way women are judged and have their behaviour dictated to by men.

You Overdid It Doll is basically about a man saying how much of a mess the ‘doll’ of the title is, she seems to be his ex-girlfriend, but now ‘Your teeth are starting to go, 5 nights a week its starting to show’, but it’s ok, because though she takes ‘it’ to an extreme he doesn’t, ‘it’ be drinking and social drugs or it could be harder drugs, suggested by the phrase ‘I shoot it like a Tommy gun’, not far from the “shooting up” of heroin.

The content of this song is essentially the same as Thrash Unreal, by Against Me!,which I have written about before. Both are from a male’s perspective, about a woman who is beginning to suffer from the effects of a party lifestyle, for lack of a better term. But there is one very big difference – the narrator of You Overdid It Doll is judging his ex, it’s obvious in the title of the song, and it is obvious the whole way through. He criticises her appearance, ‘Your teeth are starting to go’, ‘Dark shadows around your eyes’, and her personality, ‘the taming of the shrew’. Ah yes, throw in a Shakespearian comparison, which incidentally sets him up as just the man to “save” her, because shattering her spirit, just like in the play, is such a wonderful thing to do. He judges her and finds her failing, and then proceeds to dictate to her what her behaviour should be, all the while showing hypocrisy because whatever it is she is doing, drink or drugs, it is fine for him to do, in moderation or not.

This is rather different from the acknowledgment in Thrash Unreal that the woman is her own person, ‘If she wants to dance and drink all night then there’s no one that can stop her’, her situation is presented rather than judged, in fact the narrator appears to sympathise with her, ‘We do what we do to get by’, ‘they keep getting younger don’t they baby?’ Here the pet name is one of solidarity, but, of course, the use of ‘doll’ in the title of The Courteeners song grates with me, it’s patronising and a reminder that the woman is the narrator’s ex, as in not his girlfriend any more, and so nothing to do with him, and yet he still looks at her and judges her.

It really annoys me that while I was doing research for this piece all I found was people raving about how good the lyrics are. Hah, they’re sexist, prescriptivist, high and mighty and just a little bit creepy. I think I’ll stick with Against Me!, who show that men can write about women as people, to be understood and sympathised with, whether their actions are agreed with or not.

Performativity, punk and politics

Yet again I found myself in the middle of a gig, when I should only be concentrating on the band, going ‘I need to write an essay’ and trying to remember all I can about performativity and Judith Butler. On thursday night I went to see Random Hand, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Leftöver Crack, which bought all my mixed feeling about performativity and watching punk bands together into one confusing issue.

Basically, I identify as feminist, anti-racist, pro-choice and queer, so the fact that Leftöver Crack are explicitly anti-sexist, racist and homophobic, anti- breeding and pro-choice has to be a plus point in thier favour, though the fact that they make amazing, interesting music is the real reason that I like them. However, I also sort of think of myself as a pacifist, and as liberal and vaguely leftist, but not as socialist or anarchist, and there is one issue that occurs in Leftöver Crack’s music, as well as that in other bands that I definatly don’t agree with, the extreme anti-police sentiment.

I’m sure for lots of people this wouldn’t be an issue, but not only can I not help analysing song lyrics, I also can’t help applying performativity to my actions, so, when I was in the pit singing along to Gang Control, ‘fuck the police, they’re gang control’, I was expressing violent anti-police feeling, whether I believed the words I was saying or not. It was an uncomfortable feeling, especially as I can’t deny the importance of that kind of communal expression of belief, because I totally teared up when the lead singer talked about hypocerasy in the music scene, and I meant every single word when I was singing along to Gay Rude Boys Unite. To an outisder I was passionatly singing along to two songs, they could not have known my mixed feelings, and if course it gets better, because performativity is all about the importance of repeated actions, and the number of times I have seen Sonic Boom Six and sung along to Piggy In the Middle, and so expressing, again, strong anti-police feelings that I don’t think I actually share, but fulfilling the conditions of the performative action, and I do believe that language changes things, word-acts can be as valid as physical acts.

This leaves me in an uncomfortable position, my love of the music of Leftöver Crack and Star Fucking Hipsters, and most of their beliefs, isn’t enough to outweigh my dislike of one branch of their expressions, as the rampant misogyny of Imperial Lesiure was. However, I don’t advocate the killing of police officers, in no way do I agree with that. I think this relates to the gap between the singer and the narrator of a song that I always end up writing about, perhaps I need to theorise some sort of parrallel gap for the audience of a song, but at the moment I can’t help but the very acts of singing and dancing along to a song validates it, and implicits to the world that you agree with the feeling expressed by it. This sort of theory about music seems to be shaping up to be my life’s work, I could at least write a dissertation for my MA on it, if not for a PHD, if I ever get as far as doing one.

Until then, there was one thing I noticed the morning after the gig (apart from the fact I really did appear to have scraped half the skin off my elbow and it was leaking yellow stuff), the tshirt I bought, the Gay Rude Boys Unite one, of course, advocates true unity, among others ‘gay, straight or trans’, I’ve never seen another band acknowledge the problem of transphobia, let alone use a gender-neautral pronoun for that matter, it appears that to hear other people really express believe in the opinions that I hold I need to venture further into what I always think of as ‘proper punk’, and be aware that more extreme beliefs in one area are likely to mean more exptreme beliefs in another area as well.

Beat the Red Light EP

Beat the Red light are eight guys from High Wycombe, and were recommended to me as sounding like Slayer doing ska. The bizarreness of this idea intrigued me, and though I have only the vaguest idea what Slayer actually sound like, being incredibly metal, after listening to this EP I don’t need to, unless they suddenly start playing ska as well.

Like bands such as Random Hand Beat the Red Light blend metal and ska, though they seem to focus more on the ska and a more melodic type of metal than Random Hand, the two genres are blended rather than juxtaposed. I’m always a sucker for a nice horn section, and these songs really have that, but it is also very obviously not a straight ska, or even ska punk, sound.

To me in places the EP almost really sounds like just metal, the beginning of The Luminous Way, for example, and places in Send In The Clowns sounds as if they’ve come out of a Dragonforce song, and I’m expecting a ridiculous guitar solo but instead there’s an amazing, dancy horn section, and it really works. Power metal is the only type of metal I really understand, so the elements of it in this EP make me much more appreciative, sometimes I can be guilty of wanting a band to just go back to the ska, with this I’m not. Now all I need is for Beat the Red Light to write a couple of songs about slaying dragons or dying gloriously in battle…

As for the lyrics, they seem to be more evidence of a dislike for anyone who wears a suit, not an unusual theme in alternative music. The Scene Is Under Attack By Wannabies is another song that expresses anxiety about the underground music scene, something that seems to be a growing theme. This anxiety is centred on a concern about identity, not the singer’s identity but those around him, the line ‘how come you don’t know who you are?’ is repeated several times, the following lines, ‘Must be found in labelled clothes/ Must be found at certain shows’, act as a contrast, a description of the sort of people the scene is under attack from. They are dangerous and shallow, but are perhaps also to be pitied, because they are not sure of their identity, unlike the singer.

White Collar Pride is also about identity, and about the importance of being true to yourself, not exactly unusual sentiments, especially in alternative music, but ones that make for a good sing-along song, and ones that reflect a large part of the alternative scene. Still, they lyrics of the EP do not stand out for me in the way the music does.

As an EP this is a very striking record, it is original but very clearly has its roots in the UK ska-punk scene, it’s good value for money too, 5 songs, nearly half and hour long, and a secret track, which sounds like what I think of as ‘proper’ metal- very fast, very heavy, oddly it reminds me a bit of Bomb The Music Industry, always a good thing. Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend Beat the Red Light to fans of Random Hand, older Once Over, power metal, and Against All Authority, the reason I was recommended them. If songs like Never A Dull Moment are anything to go by then roll on the end of March, when they’re playing in London, because I can imagine it being a very fun night.

BTMI! at the Albert

btmi-flyer2On Friday night I went to see Bomb the Music Industry! at the Prince Albert in Brighton. I totally love BTMI!, but this is not a gig I thought I’d ever get to see, and I’d been looking forward to it for months, even uttering the words ‘nothing will stop me going to that gig, unless I literally cannot move’. So what happens? I get ill on saturday, go to the doctors finally on friday morning, I have tonsillitis and maybe glandular fever, one of the glands on my neck is so swollen it’s easily visible, my throat is half closed, I can’t talk properly, or eat hard food, swallowing is agony so I turn up at the gig full of every kind of medicine, I did make it though.

I really like the Prince Albert, the venue is upstairs, above the pub, which means for people that weren’t on antibiotics drinks downstairs first, then upstairs where I am on the guest list for the first ever time in nearly nine years of going to gigs, which was pretty good. A couple of acts had cancelled, so Three Summers Strong opened, and here I probably am a little biased, since my boyfriend is the drummer, but hopefully not that much, after all acoustic punk is not my area of expertise. For an opening band, especially with not many people arrived yet, they seemed to go down really well, and played a short but well put together set, with some nice catchy songs, and great stage presence, friends randomly coming on stage to sing along, and it’s always nice to see people who look like they’re having lots of fun on stage. To me there sounded kind of like an English Against Me!, but that could just be because that is more or less where my experience of folk punk begins and ends, but certainly they both share a lead singer with an awesome voice. All in all, I was very impressed,and everyone else seemed to be too.

Next up was Mike Scott, who used to be in Phinius Gage, a band I’ve seen an awful lot of times at shows around Brighton, so it was kind of like being 16 and going to at least one gig nearly every night, which was nice, especially as he played a couple of their songs. Acoustic music again, quite political, including ending the set with two songs about veganism, which he said would make him look more preachy than he is, and a cover of a Propaghandi song that I should know but don’t, but got a really good response, and I really need to properly listen to more stuff that isn’t just ska or psychobilly. It seemed like the sort of music that I would need to listen to lots of really appreciate, especially when I was feeling ill and wanted to be comforted rather than have to think, so I spent too much time discussing if he looked kind of like a young Elvis Costello, looking online it turns out yes, he does a bit.

Then, the reason I was there, BTMI! I felt really bad for Jeff, he’d had to miss the gig in London the night before because his plane got cancelled, then spent more of the support acts trying to program songs ready to play, and then got onstage where within the first song the sound broke a couple of times, including some nice feedback, but he held it together pretty well, and the audience, pretty big by now, still seemed very excited, I know I was. The set was amazing,I always think they sound like a bizarre, synthy wave of noise, punctuated with utterly beautiful moments, like some of the horn sections, and that’s what it was like seeing them live, similar to how they sound recorded but rougher in a way that really worked. For me the highlights were This Is A Singalong from the split EP with O Pioneers!!!, my introduction to BTMI!, and of course Side Projects Are Never Successful, with the whole audience singing along, and quite a few people dancing or jumping around, and me really wishing that I felt well enough to.My expectations of what a BTMI gig could be like were lived up to when a girl got onstage to sing, pretty impressively too, even when she forgot the words, by the end of the gig there were six of seven people onstage, with Jeff on the floor in the crowd singing I Don’t Love You Any More, along with everyone else, not so much audience interaction as a living up to the idea that everyone is a member of BTMI, and one of the nicest audiences that I’ve been in for a while.

Afterwards, as well as getting a limited edition of Get Warmer, but with all kinds of extra stuff on it too, and a nice hand stenciled cover, I went and got a tshirt stenciled as well, with my recent love of stenciling I’m especially loving the whole DIY ethic, but most of all I loved the friendliness as people were waiting to get stuff spraypainted, it kind of felt like hanging out with a large group of acquaintances, only with the addition of a pretty tshirt at the end. Now I just need to hope that BTMI come back soon, when I’m not ill and can properly appreciate the bizarre, amazing experience seeing them live is.

Zombina and the Skeletones: Out of the Crypt and Into Your Heart

Getting hold of this album was a saga in itself, I trawled the internet and Camden to find either of the previous two albums, turned up in Camden twice to find that All Ages Records was closed, the online store for some reason was not liking PayPal, but, finally, ordered online and about a week later than I was expecting it, Out of the Crypt and Into Your Heart arrived this morning. I heard about Zombina and the Skeletones though LastFM, it recommended them to me as similar to The Horrorpops, it took one song for me to begin the epic quest that eventually led to me getting hold of this album.

My initial impression was ‘this is great fun’, and it really is, Dracula Blood is a perfect first track, fast, short and dancy in a way that reminds me of Shake by The Creepshow. Zombina’s voice is great, and hugely varied, the styles of all the songs are varied but not to such an extent that it sounds like different bands, and I really am a sucker for a female fronted band. Interestingly, to me the start of Raised In Hell really sounds like a Rachel Stamp song, a bit of a nostalgia trip to a band I used to adore, it also doesn’t so much have the humour of the rest of the album, Puke It Up probably being the obvious example, ‘My mothers milk was cyanide/ And razors her embrace’ could be straight out of a Rachel Stamp song, and the importance of the keyboard to the sound fits too, but then the in chorus and second verse the tone is lighter and more in keeping with the rest of the album.

The thing that really intrigues me about this album is the voice of many of the songs. Zombina are female fronted, but Doc Horror writes at least a portion of all the lyrics and music, so for example in Flaming Skull there is a gap between the author and performer, the listener hears a woman sing ‘Woah, it ain’t no fun/ I lost my girl to a flaming skull’, but the song is written by a man. This gap can actually distance the listener from the song, reminding them of the fact that Zombina is a persona, or at least an assumed name, but also enabling them to press a fictionalised bisexual or queer gender identity on her that may or may not exist.

The same thing happens in Vincent Price, awesome as the idea of Zombina dressed as Vincent Price is the ‘gap’ is there again, the song is written by Doc Horror, but is nicely averted by King of the Ring, presumably about pro-wrestling. Though written by Doc Horror it is obviously written for Zombina, she is the narrator, and the backing vocals enforce this ‘(True baby, she’s the king of the ring)’, this is especially interesting considering the use of the male title rather than the female. Of course the author is often not the narrator, but with music as opposed to prose or poem it is very easy to confuse the singer with the narrator, especially with the use of first person narration and personal lyrics, something I have addressed previously, and must often be deliberate.

Again I have got distracted and ended up on one of my favourite topics, but I think the point I was trying to make is that Out of the Crypt is a really fun album, and album that make me want to dance, and makes me hope Zombina gets better so I can see them live, but it is also and album with smart, interesting lyrics. Of course this means that I have to begin another epic quest, to get the other albums…

Male Feminism in Alternative Music essay

This essay was written for my Text, Art and Performance unit last year. Basically, the theme of the unit was that anything can be a text, which can be read, and the final essay of the unit was entirely up to us, we came up with the question, did the research, just had a little bit of guidence. I couldn’t think of anything to write about comics, so it was obvious I was going to write about music. If I wrote it now some things would probably be different, I think I may have pushed the interpretation slightly too far in places, and it’s written about obscure bands even in the alternative scence, but I’m incredibly proud of it, and the fact I got a first for it helps too.

Sex, Appearance and the Male Gaze: Male Feminism in Alternative Music.

The original plan for this project was to explore the relationship between feminism and music, it soon became clear this would be too large an undertaking, and the project needed to be more focussed. To write about alternative music seemed obvious, as it is what I know, the decision to write about male feminism came about as I made a preliminary list of feminist songs.

Though feminism is most associated with women men can also be feminists or produce texts that are feminist. I have chosen several songs, all of which I perceive to be feminist and are written by men.

One of the preoccupations of feminism is equality of the sexes, or lack of it, this is one of the topics of both Male Chauvinist Gig[1], by Five Knuckle, and Fuck Machine[2], by Propagandhi. Another central preoccupation of feminist theory is sex, this is a theme in all the songs, but especially in Date Rape[3], by Sublime, which explores rape in an unexpectedly comedic manner. Little Baby Nothing[4], by The Manic Street Preachers, is concerned with sex, and the pressures society places women under, this can also be seen in a more general way in For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge[5], by Sonic Boom Six, which is especially concerned with appearance. All these songs are written by men, though they are not necessarily solely performed by men.

The songs all seem to be influenced by the main preoccupations of modern feminism, as would be expected, though these influences have led to several very different songs, one of the main reasons for this difference being genre, the reggae influenced Date Rape has a totally different sound to the hardcore punk of Fuck Machine. I intend to explore these different ways of presenting and representing feminism, both through the text of the song and through the music as art and performance.

One of the themes that is obvious throughout the songs is the acknowledgement of the presence of the male gaze. Every song I have chosen deals with the way women are looked at, and look, either explicitly or implicitly, and especially with the way women are looked at by men. Fuck Machine deals with the male gaze most brutally; the narrator’s eyes unwillingly ‘rape the innocent womyn, children, humyn beings’. This is obviously a criticism of the way men look at women, though from a different viewpoint than a female feminist would present the same criticism, it is the guilt of the perpetrator rather than the anger of the victim.

The image of women as objects recurs several times throughout the songs. Though the title Fuck Machine only hints at the objectification of women the lyrics make it obvious that it is women who are the fuck machines of the title, in some cases willingly being objectified. The song is directed not just at men’s objectification, but also at women’s allowance of it, the narrator asks ‘Do you really want to be our fuck machines?’ Women are also compared to toys in Little Baby Nothing, in the line ‘beauty and virginity used like toys’, as well as the mention of ‘Barbie Doll futility’, the specifically female toy has connotations of stupidity and shallowness, as well as childishness.

Another form of objectification of women presented by the songs is in the form of names; especially those women are called by men, such as the ‘baby’ of Little Baby Nothing. It is infantilising, suggesting helplessness and dependence, a more extreme version of the innocence that is stolen, as well as suggesting the youth of the girl or girls being sung about. This is especially relevant and disturbing considering the female singer, Traci Lords, gained notoriety for featuring in pornographic films while she was underage.[6] The use of the diminutive name ‘baby’ is no less disturbing in Date Rape, where the rapist repeatedly calls his victim ‘babe’ or ‘baby’. The fact she has no name both depersonalises her and makes her into an everywoman, a warning and perhaps an inspiration. It also illustrates the rapist’s total knowledge of what he has done, especially in the line ‘Now baby don’t be sad, in my opinion you weren’t half bad’, acting as a contrast to the way someone who would call a woman by a pet name would normally act towards them.

The association with names and sexuality is further continued in several of the songs, especially in the form of insults. In Date Rape the rapist says ‘she lies, that little slut’, here the common accusation levelled at rape victims by defence lawyer is attempted, she is called sexually promiscuous, so it could not have been rape. However, the judge is aware the rapist is lying and he is sentenced to prison.

There is also reference to ‘the useless sluts that they mould’ in Little Baby Nothing. At first sight this seems insulting to women, and distinctly antifeminist, as much of the lyrics do on paper. However, it is here that the difference between text and performance becomes crucial. The line is sung by the male singer rather than the female, who, throughout the song, takes the role of men in general, and it follows the line ‘You are pure, you are snow’. It is this line that seems to refer to women, as earlier in the song the male singer explicitly uses the pronoun ‘you’ to refer to women. So, the pejorative term ‘slut’ here seems to refer to men, unusual for such a sexual term, as insults to men often refer to lack of sexuality or misplaced, homosexual sexuality.

However, a similarly gendered insult is again used against men rather than women, in Male Chauvinist Gig. The song is directed at men in bands, especially lead singers as they often act as the spokesperson for the band as a whole, the line ‘speak out loud your slutty fantasies’ is explicitly directed at singers. Again, ‘slutty’ is an insult usually directed at women, especially in regards to appearance. Here the normative form is reversed, it is used in the context of respecting women rather than judging them as well as making clear the shallowness of the singer’s fantasies, disguised as lyrics.

Despite the feminism of the songs chosen women’s appearance is still a feature of a number of them, notably For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. It acts as a critique of celebrity magazines and the people who read them, so appearance is central to it. This is obvious in lines such as ‘Oh but her dress is not right, and her legs are all cellulite’, a common accusation of magazines to celebrities, it is sung by the female lead singer, reminding the listener of the practise of women judging women, a reversal of the sisterhood aimed at by feminism. The voice set up for the magazines is authoritative, a new diet ‘you have to try’, and the repeated command ‘read all about it’.

Despite this it is the readers of the magazines they ‘buy to tutt about the daft slag’ who are become the real object of ridicule of the song, with the deft reminder ‘she gets a Prada handbag, so who’s laughing last?’ This not only suggests the pointlessness of judging others by looks alone but also that the root cause is jealousy, and possibly insecurity. This insecurity, also apparent in the lines about diets, is echoed and expanded upon in the final verse, with the repetition of ‘And now we’re ugly sisters’. This self-loathing is a learned process, from ‘Watching our ugly mothers’, sung by the female lead singer it comes to represent all women, who judge each other as they judge themselves.

Sex is a major concern of many of the songs, whether it is consensual or not. Part of this concern is an underlying sense of the lyrics attempting to confirm heterosexuality.

The line ‘And though I long to embrace’, in Fuck Machine, is about heterosexual desire, but the right sort of desire for women, ‘I got hormones, hormones too’, in Male Chauvinist Gig, follows the same pattern. As well as criticising sexist men for blaming their behaviour on hormones or desires they affirm heterosexual desire, so denying homosexual desire and asserting masculinity. As such the lyrics are in effect saying ‘I respect women, but that does not make me gay’.

This undercurrent of heterosexual desire and lack of homosexual desire becomes explicit in Date Rape. The song tells the story of a girl’s rape and her rapist’s trial and imprisonment, where he is in turn raped by another prisoner. Though the poetic justice seems like revenge it also exposes the homophobic subtext of the song, in the line ‘Well I can’t take pity on men of his kind / Even though he now takes it in the behind.’ The song suggests that anal sex is the worst thing that can happen to a man, not rape, and a case for pity in any case other than that of a rapist. It also portrays male rape as something to be ignored, though the female victim gets justice the male one does not, despite the prison guards full knowledge, ‘But the guards paid no attention to his cries.’

However, despite the confirmation of heterosexuality in some of the songs heterosexual desire is also problematised. Little Baby Nothing constructs heterosexual desire as oppressive and exploitative, the bridge ‘Used, used by men’ sums up the song’s attitude. Female sexuality is presented as being seen as dangerous by men, ‘Because it’s something real that I can’t touch’, in retaliation it becomes something they ‘steal’ and ‘destroy’. In stark comparison women are ‘hopelessly passive and compatible’, utterly reliant on the men who destroy them. This heterosexuality is emotionless, it seems to describe prostitution rather than relationships, all the men ‘leave behind is money’.

Though Little Baby Nothing clearly casts men as abusers and women as victims, sexuality in For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is more complicated. The title, a contrived acronym for the word ‘fuck’, suggests a disallow of sex, the exact opposite of what is suggested by the song, with it’s authoritative ‘we all need to fuck’, here it is more a suggestion of duty or convention than desire.

Other mentions of sex in the song deepen the suggestion of sex as convention, the public are described as having an ‘obsession’, not just with the celebrity magazines, but with the sexual aspects of them, ‘all the spitroasts and the dildos’. Sex becomes a spectator sport, with the mention of reality television, the suggestive ‘maybe they’ll even…’ though despite the obsession with sex it is still a taboo subject, to be mentioned crudely or euphemistically only.

The songs were all chosen because they can be read as feminists texts, as has been illustrated above. However, there are also differences between them and most feminist texts, for example, that of perspective, these songs are all either mostly or exclusively from a male perspective, writing either about women or relationships between men and women. In this way they form part of the male gaze, even if they seem to criticise it, as Fuck Machine does. This leads to the presence of guilt in the songs, already discussed in relation to Fuck Machine. This can possibly also be seen in Little Baby Nothing, the male narrator does not totally separate himself from other men, the girl’s face offends ‘because it’s something real that I can’t touch’, though the use of the plural ‘they’ several times shows some disassociation, the narrator regards himself as guilty but not as guilty as others.

The songs are populated by a wide variety of female figures, many of them active, for example the female anchor in Fuck Machine, who progresses throughout the song from being passive to active, her ‘fists finally clinched’, the words ‘I’m not your fucking toy!’ are hers, and seem to sum up the ideal reaction of a woman to men’s sexism.

The rape victim of Date Rape is another strong character, meant to be pitied and respected. From the first line there is identification with her, she is ‘a girl that I know’, but the narrator’s attitude to her is mixed, though the girl’s spoken lines are in quotation marks the rapists are not always, so ‘Now babe the time has come/ How’d ya like to have a little fun?’ seems to come from the singer, he seems to become the rapist. This can be seen as a different expression of the male guilt that is found in the other songs, an awareness of the possibility of being a rapist.

The girl does not seem to be blamed for what happens to her, though she is ‘in a bar, by herself’ this seems factual rather than accusatory; there is also no mention of her appearance, the sole blame for the rape is placed upon her attacker. She is not a passive character at all, the most explicit act of violence in the song is by her, ‘she picked up a rock … hit him in the head’, and she takes the rapist to court where he is successfully prosecuted. The ending lines of the song enforce the message of female strength, ‘she didn’t want to / Take it!’, this is especially clear in performance, where the last two words are shouted, leaving a forceful last impression.

Despite the positive message of the song it in fact acts to cover up the reality of most rapes, perpetrating the myth that rape is committed by ‘a man she’d never seen before’, when in 2005 72% of rapes were committed by a friend, relation or partner.[7] Also, the prosecution of a rapist is in fact very unlikely, less than half of all rapes are reported, and in those cases that go to court the suspected rapist is found innocent in 15 out of 16 cases.[8] Though the song can be seen to address a difficult issue honestly and in a supportive manner it also reinforces several myths, and presents a more positive view of the aftermath of rape than many victims in fact experience.

The question of authorial intention is especially relevant in relation to songs, where the line between the author of the text and the voice of it is especially liable to become blurred, because of the immediate manner of delivery. So, a song with a feminist message does not imply a feminist author, though several of the songs used are by artists that are explicitly feminist, for example Propagandhi, who have a reputation as a political band. In the video of a live performance of Fuck Machine the lead singer introduces the song by saying ‘most of us were bought up to believe people should be treated differently because of their gender… and that’s just a bunch of shit’, an explicitly feminist statement. Their use of the terms ‘womyn’ and ‘humyn’ are also explicitly feminist, though controversially so. According to Dictionary.com womyn means ‘women (used chiefly in feminist literature as an alternative spelling to avoid the suggestion of sexism perceived in the sequence m-e-n)’, though it can also be used in the singular, the term humyn is used in the same way.[9] It is a term mostly used by radical feminists, and it is especially unusual to see it used by a man in a non-satirical or mocking context, showing Propagandhi’s commitment to radical politics.

In his book Music: A Very Short Introduction, Nicholas Cook draws attention to the three categories that make up a music GCSE syllabus, ‘composing, performing, and appraising’, writing that this implies that the three categories are totally distinct from one another, as well as introducing a hierarchy between musicians and ‘“ordinary” listeners (ordinary that is, in the sense that they are not musicians)’, before showing that in fact the categories are not distinct, implying that the hierarchy may be false as well.[10] Cook’s point that the categories are not distinct seems to be proven to some extent by alternative music, for example the popularity of live albums and videos, such as the video of Fuck Machine discussed above, where the noise of the crowd, the ‘appraisers’, becomes part of the performance. The blurring of the boundaries of performance and listening is especially interesting in the context of music with a political message, a crowd singing along to Little Baby Nothing are voicing the author’s opinions, even if they do not agree with them, they become complicit in the song to some extent.

Several of the songs used are violent, especially in their performance. With violence against women being such a taboo subject, and such a politicised one, it may seem strange for often overtly feminist music to be so violent, especially as the pit in gigs is often an overtly male space, excluding women. One of the reasons for this violence is undoubtedly genre, hardcore and punk by definition sound violent, the sound of Fuck Machine and Male Chauvinist Gig is not unique among Propagandhi and Five Knuckle songs.

The idea that gender and violence can be connected in music is not a new one, ‘gendered terminology and the undercurrent of violence have a long history in descriptions of musical form… a sonata’s first idea (or theme) should embody “such essentially masculine characteristics as force, energy, concision, and clarity”’.[11] Following this all of the songs can be classified as defiantly ‘masculine’; they are certainly all forceful and energetic. It seems that what was once an undercurrent of violence has now, especially in alternative music, become overt, and especially expressed in performance.

This expression in performance can be seen in videos of the songs, for example in the video for Date Rape, where the physical act of producing the music can be seen as violent, especially the drums, and there the violence of the pit can be seen in the audience.[12]

In investigating the similarities and differences between the chosen songs several themes that are in all or most of the songs have emerged, especially sex and women’s appearance. Not only are these themes very important to feminist theory as a whole, supporting the proposition that the chosen songs are feminist texts, they help create and overall picture of the concerns of male feminists, expressed through alternative music.

[1] Male Chauvinist Gig. Artist. Five Knuckle.

[2] Fuck Machine. Artist. Propagandhi. Album. How to Clean Everything

[3] Date Rape. Artist. Sublime. Album. 40Oz to Freedom. Author. Sublime. Label. MCA Records. 1992

[4] Little Baby Nothing. Artist. Manic Street Preachers featuring Traci Lords. Album. Generation Terrorists. Author. Nicky Wire and Richie James. Artist. Sony Music. 1992

[5] For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Artist. Sonic Boom Six. Album. A Ruff Guide to Genre Terrorism. Author. Barney Boom. Label. Deck Cheese Records. 2005

[6] Traci Lords, Traci Lords: Underneath It All (Harper Collins Press 2003)

[7] Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 2005 National Crime Victimisation Survey, America


[10] Nicholas Cook Music: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998 )

[11] Cook

[12] YouTube, Sublime – Date Rape http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WBttO4UzSw