Superfluous Stronghold: We’re Punk But We Ain’t Perfect - P.S. Eliot’s Katie Crutchfield offers her views on sexism in punk
Photo by Rich Guttierrez
It all started this weekend in Mccarren Park. The Two Funerals were in town from Richmond and we were wandering and daydreaming of margaritas in Styrofoam cups and dismally overdue heart-to-hearts. My pal and now fellow I Live Sweat contributor Lauren Denitzio met up with us and with the help of well tequila and a picnic blanket, we made all our daydreams come true. The conversation shifted into a discussion about our most recent experiences with sexism in the punk community; these conversations sort of always do. I consider all of us components of a decreasingly rare species of ladies/lady-bodied humans in the DIY punk world. We are certainly radical, but calling us “radical feminists” is too loose. It’s vague. What we are is complicated. We’re victims of idiocy. We are culprits of judgment without support. But we are not guilty by association.
It was then that I decided to write to Andy who runs this lovely web blog and see if he’d be so kind to let me use his medium and my minuscule notoriety as a soapbox to talk about something that is creating quite a division in our already martyred scene. We’re small and we’re specifically weird and the fact that the simple idea of treating all people with equal respect is warranting a shitstorm of hyper-masculine cold-shouldering and hate-typing is fucking ludicrous as far as I’m concerned. Acknowledging a giant zit on the chin of our tiny punk rock commonality does not have to be a witch-hunt. It doesn’t have to be a big blame game or an excuse for some ex-JV benchwarmer with an X watch to make me, Lauren, the Two Funerals or anyone else the butt of some defensive, awkward and outlandishly counter-productive joke. It doesn’t have to be a war, a battle or even an argument. It just has to be a conversation.
So what’s the big problem? You might find yourself pondering that right about now. I’m going to refer back to a little bit of internet drama you may have heard about/participated in sometime last year. The abomination that is the B9 message board popped into my P.S. Eliot Google alert one day and I knew for sure that there was a storm a-brewin’. After deciphering the editorialized asininity of 15-year-old cavemen I began to notice something profound. You know when you’re young and your mom tries to tell you not to bother an antpile because “they’re more afraid of you then you are of them”? My intelligence, physical appearance, emotional stability and creative output were all being called in to question because of that inane thread or whatever you call it and the only rhyme or reason I can propose is that these impotent messageboard cyborgs are scared shitless that there are women out there who are more productive, talented and capable than themselves. Now that sounds mighty detrimental, right? I’ll refer back to our park conversation by saying that some people are never going change their fucking stupid and bigoted opinions. You can’t agree with everyone about everything no matter how right you are. Some people are just going to throw themselves to the wind as a lost cause and usually it’s best to just let them sail.
So to those of you who I haven’t lost by denouncing hardcore gab-session forums and all their creepy inhabitants: do you want to know what makes me feel unsafe? Being written off as a songwriter and a musician because there is a male-bodied individual in my band. Having my most personally valuable compositions and output reduced to some stupid one-paragraph blog-post I made about all the fucked up stuff people were saying about my band regarding my gender. The notion that people still write me off because they “dislike female vocals”. The fact that if I take my shirt off at a show, I immediately become a spectacle. It’s just as hot for me at shows in the summer as it is for anyone else. While in the scene I am directly involved and with the company I choose to keep this eerie irreverence is almost never present, I have seen and felt so much alienation in my 7 years of touring and playing all ages punk shows. All of my negative experiences mirror the negative experiences of so many other ladies involved in this music scene equitably. It’s as unnecessary as it is disheartening. This issue is mocked as often as it is brushed off and it is truly inexplicable to me. The counter-culture we’re a part of has evolved so much since it’s outset but the consistent ideology is rebellion against an assumed oppressive normalcy. Defiance. Refusal to conform to whatever bullshit the rest of the world is being spoon-fed. What’s normal today? Are women objectified? Yes. Are queer/trans-identified people struggling for parity? Yes. Is it difficult to be taken seriously if you don’t adhere to certain physical standards i.e. hair color, weight, clothing, etc.? Yes. So what really gets my goat here is that there are seemingly people within the punk community who think this way too. The way “society wants us to think”. That is when I feel uneasy. The thought that I could go to a show and feel the same way I did in the hallway at my highschool. Chest bumps, ass grabs, lewd comments, debauchery.
I don’t think we all need to have identical convictions. It isn’t a cult. But these fundamental differences and gaps make me feel pretty fucking unsafe. It isn’t punk. It isn’t what punk is about. It is both antagonizing and depressing that shining a light on this big flaw in our community warrants the response it gets. We, as punks, as anarchists, as free-thinking, coffee-drinking, Black Flag-loving, well-read, well-articulated, over-stimulated punks, are supposed to be the progressive ones. We’re the people who call out the bigots. We’re the people who embrace the differences in each other. We’re the weirdo loner geeks who endlessly support the other weirdo loner geeks. Gender, race, age, sexual identity and any other trivial or biological property should draw no lines between us. So when the doorman at my show thinks that I’m someone’s girlfriend and won’t believe that I’m playing in a band, well, that makes me feel unsafe. When I’m patronized by my male peers in conversations about Nirvana and Hagstroms and obscure guitar tunings, that makes me feel unsafe too. The predominant, mainstream consumer-motivated world at large is a creepy place to be. We should be united in our hostility and we shouldn’t be partitioned by an inability to empathize.
Though while sitting there in the park, I felt myself inadvertently cursing off jock hardcore, Punknews and testosterone, my attitude toward the subject remains hopeful. I don’t think “calling people out” is a conclusive method of making this scene a safer and better place. I think that sensitivity, compassion and opening up a dialogue with one another is really all that it takes.
Katie Crutchfield is a writer, musician, and college dropout living in Brooklyn, NY. She writes, plays and tours in P.S. Eliot, Bad Banana and Waxahatchee and has a knack for drunken blogposts and covering Sam Cooke songs. You can find information about P.S. Eliot at pseliot.blogspot.com and Katie’s personal blog at libranhusband.blogspot.com.
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