“…I needed an alternative to mainstream society - the space to be who i want to be.” Lou Hanman of Caves on strict gender norms and their impact on punk and hardcore.
(Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was really great to be asked by Andy to contribute to his series on sexism in punk. When he said he’d been trying to think of someone from a band in the UK punk scene, to write something from a UK point of view, it sounded like he couldn’t think of many people.
This makes me feel sad and reminded me of a question I recently answered for a zine - “What it’s like for a woman in punk - do I feel outnumbered?”
Yes, there are definitely less women and girls in punk, and I’d need to have gone on to do a postgrad course to go into exactly why. But I guess one of the reasons is that, in the rules of 1950s gender roles which are still so ingrained in society - it’s not very lady-like to be sweating and yelling your head off in a punkrock show.
I cannot stand these archaic rules that people are still bombarded with every single minute of every day - through our working lives and home lives. (If anyone has got a few hours free I’ll tell em some things that happen at my work and the Victorian England where my folks came from). I’ve never felt I conform to these rules and gender roles - how you dress/how you act/how you should be in society.
Maybe another reason why girls don’t feel encouraged to join punk bands - it’s the boys club that they are confronted with - in music shops, in rehearsal rooms, in gigs, record stores etc. It’s such a shame that there aren’t more girls getting into playing in bands - it’s so much fun.
I hate this unspoken discouragement that it’s not normal for a girl or woman to play in a punk band. Fuck that. I’ve not felt like those rules apply to me. You don’t have to act the way that society tries to make you act. This goes for both men and women.
I got into the punk scene because I needed an alternative to mainstream society - the space to be who i want to be - be able to live how I want to, feel free from negative judgement (both musically and in lifestyle choices), gender roles, homophobia etc. I have found my voice and place in this DIY punk network and I feel respected and empowered when I play a Caves gig. It is outside of this (pretty small network of great people) that there is sexism and all the same issues of the mainstream are present.
I go out of my way to avoid the lad/frat party vibe of alot of punk bands and scenes. I’ve been at hardcore shows in Bristol where there have been what I can only describe as homophobic rallying from the stage and acoustic gigs where the guy performing has told a rape joke. I’ve had guys ask me if I need help changing my strings. At some shows because of my height, I hide behind big tall guys when a pit gets too violent for me (I’m too fucking busy to get knocked around and get a broken limb). I also can’t stand it when people use the word “gay” to describe something shit that they want to take the piss out of (I don’t care if kids have started saying it - it’s still homophobic).
I’ve felt alienated and marginalised by all of these things - and I hate it, and i shouldn’t feel like that at a punk gig - where it should be freer from the gender roles/white male privilege rules that are still so ingrained in society.
I could go on and on writing but I’ll stop there - there’s so many things to say.
Obviously, no one is perfect but through peer to peer talking and thinking about whether your actions are alienating someone we can all be better to one another, we need a punk lifestyle to work when the values of the mainstream don’t.
Lou Hanman is a songwriter, singer and guitarist in the DIY punk band Caves. Based in Bristol, she also teaches drums and plays drums as a freelance musician. You can find Caves on Tumblr, Bandcamp, and Twitter. Go and see them. They’re fucking rad.