Saturday, 13 August 2016

War on Women: Feminism, Gender Anarchy and Empowerment.

Image courtesy of Karolina Collier.
Confrontational, at times literally in your face, feminist polemicists War on Women are a hardcore punk sonic assault on sexism. Their lyrics incisively expose and challenge the multi faceted, many layered cultural, political and economic oppression, inequality and harassment experienced by women. The band were formed in 2010 by Shawna Potter and Brooks Harlan and have had two releases Improvised Weapons in 2012 and their eponymous album released in 2015 on Bridge Nine Records (1).
On their recent European Tour I was able to see them twice, a few days apart, at The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich and Our Blackheart in Camden. On both occasions they were stunning! Scalpel sharp lyrics embedded in next level hardcore punk with monster riffs, a huge drum sound and bass playing that takes no prisoners they somehow combine power and intelligent subtlety.
Singer Shawna Potter’s experience in drama means the lyrics are delivered within an unusually full spectrum of communication as she commands your attention with her stage presence. This is no more apparent than in ‘Broken Record’ when she subjects a male member of the crowd to the escalating aggression of street harassment normally experienced by women. Live she reminded me of a terrifying flamenco dancer I saw a few years ago in Seville; the same flashing eyes and controlled power. To be honest I don’t think I’ve seen a better front person.
Before their Norwich gig Shawna kindly took time out to discuss music, feminism and, well, pretty much everything really!.

Q: Could you give us an overview of War on Women? Had you been in bands before? How did you get together, had you collaborated previously?
Shawna: Brooks Harlan and I had been in a band before this one, we are based in Baltimore and I moved to Baltimore from Nashville to join a band that Brooks was in. You know I needed a change, I grew up playing music and touring, being in bands but I hadn’t done a lot of different stuff so I thought I’d take a risk and move to the East Coast and join his band. We’ve been writing music together for a long time and at some point that old band, which was called Avec, kinda fizzled out. We knew we wanted to do something heavier and we wanted to talk about the political climate, which it seemed like no one was at the time. We had the midterm elections of 2010 coming up and we were thinking about songs and I was getting pissed (off) and I didn’t know why no one was talking about it. And that might even be ignorance on my part I’m sure there were plenty of people talking about it, but there wasn’t enough of a connection quite yet. So Brooks and I have been writing and playing music together for a while, we have a really good solid connection and working relationship.
Q: So out of Avec came War on Women?
S: In a way yeah but I think we felt it was more like a fresh start. No one else in the band was in Avec, we started talking to people asking ‘Hey do you want to join this band, by the way we are incredibly outwardly feminist, are you OK with that? Do you want to play this kind of music?’
Q: So when you went again with War on Women you had decided you wanted to make women’s invisible experiences visible, that you wanted to confront people with the uncomfortable truths about women’s experiences in society?
S: Yeah it was very thoughtful, I’ve never done that in any other band before. It was very intentional that this is what the band is, this is what we’re doing, and that gives me these interesting parameters to what I write about. Can I talk about XYZ subjects from a feminist perspective? Or can I educate anyone on how this is a feminist issue when maybe it doesn’t seem like it is on the surface? It’s neat from a writing standpoint because I think when people give themselves some sort of parameters or restrictions you can actually really flourish. I’m obviously very passionate about women’s equality and women’s rights and I do my best to continue to educate myself on LGBTQ rights and rights for people of colour. There seems to be an endless amount of things to write about, that’s for sure!
Q: I read that the phrase ‘war on women’ was first coined by feminist author Andrea Dworkin and has become shorthand for Republican policies that disadvantage women (2). How did you come to choose that as a name? Has it led to any confusion?
S: We’ve definitely got some looks in the airport for carrying our guitars with ‘War on Women’ on the side, I remember a woman in the airport looking at the guitar case and then looking at Brooks and saying ‘What does that mean?’ like you had better explain yourself! Which he did and then she was like ‘I don’t like that’. So I don’t know if she just didn’t like it from a man or if she was anti feminist herself, you never know. The term ‘war on women’ was coined a while back but it’s only really avalanched the last few years, at the time we were writing these songs and wondering what to call ourselves it was gaining popularity among feminists. So I’m reading articles on Jezebel and stuff on these subjects and using ‘war on women’ as shorthand. It just seemed it perfectly summed up what’s going on, and it’s aggressive and fits with the musical style. I didnt want it to be vague just like I don’t want to write lyrics for this band that are vague. I used to write more poetically about whatever...relationships.
Q; This band is set up to deliver a message...
S:  Yes, and hopefully we do it in an interesting way, because when things are too obvious and simple it’s a bit much. The name seemed to fit with the style of music and we wanted people to think what does that mean, what is this? I’m OK with the fact that people have to check in with the name and make sure that we’re against the war on women and not for it, but I also think that people’s confusion comes from the fact that sometimes all male bands decide to have fucked up names like Whores or Black Pussy or things like that. I don’t know if they’re are doing it to be funny or ironic but they are discounting people’s lives, they’re clueless and they think it’s OK. So of course someone is going to doubt War on Women and assume it’s just a bunch of dudes that are actually sexist. I get that and so hopefully we can do away with that idea!
Q: Talking of Republicans and Republican policies, what does Donald Trump V Hillary Clinton look like from an American feminist perspective?
S: Like total ...garbage!  I am extremely third party, I vote third party, I vote Green Party which is a political  party that basically believes all the magical things that all the Bernie Sander supporters believe but have spoken up about them for decades, they have been saying all these great progressive things forever but because no one is giving them any money the general public doesn’t know or care about it. Money is only being thrown at the Republicans and Democrats so those are the messages that are coming through. It’s really complicated though because when you really look at it Hillary Clinton is super centre and maybe even right of centre so Trump is like off the Richter scale! Just batshit crazy! A meglomaniac who probably just wants to get another TV show out of it, I really doubt his intentions, I really think it’s just advertisment for him. I don’t think he cares why he’s famous, he just wants to be famous. I think no matter what happens he will be satisfied, but I think this situation has gotten away from him and he’s starting to realise he could have real power, and any real power in his hands would be extremely dangerous. I understand that most Americans feel like we just have a really bad choice. Most people that are reasonable want to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s not Trump but that’s not a real choice. Also because of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in America that basically says that corporations are people they can donate unlimited funds to political campaigns under Free Speech, all the money is going to Republicans and Democrats and no one else, so no one is going to hear Jill Stein from The Green Party talk about all these “Bernie Sander’s” ideas. I’m lucky enough to live in a Blue state which means I know it will go Democrat no matter what so I can vote with my conscience basically, which is absolutely Green Party. Not everyone in the band agrees, we all have different views because it’s just so complicated and we don’t have any reasonable choices. But Hillary Clinton is obviously more technically qualified to be a world leader. As a feminist I’m like ‘Damn, I wish the first woman President had politics closer to my own’ but I wonder if she is elected whether I might tear up-it’s such a beautiful thing to see yourself represented.
Because we are so limited in our choices for electing women and we just don’t have enough women and people of colour being represented then we’re forced to feel torn between our personal politics and just seeing ourselves up there. Again not a fair choice, if we had a more diverse Senate, House, President and Supreme Court that actually looked like America looks like I think we could all vote with someone who aligns with our views instead of just being excited that there is a woman or a black candidate.
Q: Yanis Varoufakis recently referenced Picasso’s comment that art is not meant to be decorative but should be an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy (4). Is that what you would hope for with your music, that it would disrupt, challenge, wake people up? Music as weapon or entertainment?
S: I look at the music itself as more of a weapon and I look at our live shows as entertainment. I appreciate both and I think there is room for that. What I hope is that if our music is considered a weapon then it’s considered a weapon by traditionally marginalised people, it’s something they can wield against whoever oppresses them or makes them doubt they’re a human being deserving of rights. I would rather it be empowering for women and Queers and people of colour than to be a weapon in the hands of anyone else. A weapon of self defence, if you will. Whereas I look at our live shows as, our lives can be really tough let’s have some fucking fun, we deserve it!
Q: I just finished reading ‘The Equality Illusion’ by Kat Banyard (3) it makes being a woman in a sexist patriarchal culture sound tough; inequality, objectification, sexualisation, harassment- issues you confront in your music, for instance in ‘Broken Record’ (1). You’re particularly involved in ‘Hollaback Baltimore’, could you talk a little bit about that?
S: Yeah, absolutely. I actually founded the Baltimore Chapter but there are Chapters all over the world on almost every continent, many different languages, many different countries. It’s based out of New York but local people in their own towns can start their own Chapter, where they can organise and educate people around the issue of street harassment. It shows that street harassment and sexual harassment in general are not peculiar to one area or to one type of person or one language, it’s a worldwide problem. In general women are second class citizens and LGBTQ folks even worse. It is everywhere and the people that live in their own communities know best how to tackle it. I like that there is no white saviour coming in to tell everyone what to do. The people who actually live there are working on the issue, which I think is really beautiful. I founded the Chapter around the same time that I started War on Women with Brooks. I was just feeling really inspired to do something in my late twenties, when I was realising that the world is bigger than me and that I need to do something about it! So I ran that for four years and I recently handed it off to someone else to run the day to day but I’m still involved in a general shaping of where they go and running training sessions. I train venues which could be a bar, a music venue, a store, a coffee shop, whatever, in how to become safer spaces, directly telling them how to deal with street harassment when it happens on site, patron to patron. When a customer comes in and has just experienced street harassment, how to help them through the moment, basically acknowledging that street harassment happens and that our response should be victim centered. At least half of their clients deal with street harassment all the time so how do you help promote the wellbeing of your customers and let them know they can come into your place anytime and feel OK and really in the end feel OK enough to keep spending money in your place, that they know they can complain to you. Everyone that I train gets the same information and the more trainings I do the bigger the network of people in Baltimore that know these simple steps to create safer spaces.
Q: Talking of harassment and objectification do you think that is a problem to the same extent in the punk scene as the mainstream? Or is it an easier, safer place to be a woman?
S: I think sexism and harassment are absolutely everywhere, I think there is a little bit more of an idea that if you’re going to a punk, hardcore gig or space, where you’re surrounded by people who look like you that it should be safer. In a way walking down this street in public I expect street harassment more than when I’m in The Owl Sanctuary and I drop my guard a little bit more walking into that space, ‘cos I’m home and I’m hopeful and it’s tiring to carry around that expectation of ‘attack’ and you want to let it go some time.So walking into this space I’m going to let that go, I’m going to relax, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen and when it does its profoundly disappointing but I’ve found some hope in that as the lead singer of a feminist band I can stand up for myself in those situations. So I live up to my own standard of how powerful I think I should be, especially if it’s our show and we’re playing I don’t let anything slide and that’s a really great feeling. Honestly the more shows we play the easier it is for me to feel that empowered on the street- I deserve to take up space, I deserve respect, I deserve dignity, I don’t deserve to have you talk to me that way!
Q: Contrasting 70s feminism which was quite essentialist with third wave feminism which was more social constructionist- where do you stand on the gender thing? Gender as a social construct?
S: I long for a world of gender anarchy, I think that’s really beautiful. I don’t think any specific trait is a straight line to sexual organs or gender identity even. But people’s lived reality is that you have to be categorized in a way in order to be counted, in order to make sense to the people around you. We humans we love to categorize things. It’s a really personal thing and people should identify however they feel and I respect each and every individual’s right to do that, and applaud it, because I know we’re not in a world yet where we can let all of that go.
Q: Claudia Mesch wrote in ‘Art and Politics’ that mainstream culture is market and media driven (5) do you think the punk community with its ethos of DIY art and grassroots participation  can be a site of resistance to passive capitalist consumption. Can the punk scene be something that encourages activism?
S: I certainly hope so! We are so limited by capitalism these days, we’re trapped because you have to have money to survive because I don’t live in a country that provides any resources to people that don’t already have some money. There are people who have Food Stamps so they get some free food  but we have way too many homeless people on the streets, there are way too many drug addicts who can’t access methadone or rehab, we just shoo them aside. Any kind of survival in America right now is based on having money. So you think ‘Can I lead a very simple life and just pay my bills and make art?’ And I definitely think that’s possible because that’s what I’m doing! We go on tour and play these songs because we love it, I can’t be home to do Hollaback every day-so to me doing this band has become my form of activism, hopefully changing some minds and validating others and empowering people. That’s hard to talk about without sounding like you are full of yourself but I do hope that.
Q: Capitalism tries to create a sense of insecurity and anxiety about appearance, in women particularly, encouraging them to construct a sense of self based on visually pleasing society (3). Do you think exploring your creativity and having a sense of community can help in resisting those pressures?   
S: Yes, I do. When you show up at a punk club and you see all different body shapes and sizes and funky hair and makeup, just kind of experimenting, playing around with their appearance I think there is something innocent and fun about that actually. Capitalism makes money off people who are unhappy, it wants you to be unhappy and then wants to sell you the only solution to your unhappiness, and maybe there are 70000 versions of the solution, maybe try them all! It’s all bullshit and we all get duped by it from time to time and we all perpetuate it. So walking into a punk space and seeing people engaged in even the slightest bit of rejection, to see people play around, to see them happy is ‘Oh, I can do that too!' But it’s not about individuals, it’s about systems that keep people down so any woman who does really care about her appearance, you can’t know if it’s a really genuine choice and she just really fucking loves makeup or whether she feels like she has to in order to feel like a person who has worth, even if I ask her and she tells me an answer I can’t know for sure because I can’t read her mind and to badly quote Gloria Steinem ‘I can’t blame anyone for playing the only game they know’ I blame the people who made the game and keep it running.
Q: The Women’s Lib movement of the 60s and 70s had an anti-capitalist thread within it- how do you think that got lost so that now feminism is framed within the parameters of the capitalist system?
S: Like any movement once it gains a little bit of traction someone in the capitalist system tries to co opt it, they try to figure out how can they make money off this? That’s absolutely true of feminism, I just read ‘We Were Feminists Once’ by Andi Zeisler which basically traces feminism’s origins and how it got co opted and how now it’s like a consumer product and what we need to do to re-steer the ship and get back to the roots of what the whole fucking point is; general equality. To actually create an egalitarian society is hard work and choosing which eyeliner to buy is not!
Q: A lot of versions of masculinity seem to include dominance over women (3), which I think you refer to in ‘Meathead’ (1), also the mainstreaming of violent pornography, pole dancing clubs etc seems to have led to a deterioration in men’s attitudes towards women, sex and equality (3). How can men be rescued from such a shit model of personhood? How have the men you know who have got their act together done it?
S: They listen to women!  It can sometimes be that simple! To actually listen to and believe the women in your life! And if they’re are not saying anything about it to ask them. I have a partner who grew up with a sister and a mother so you think he’s totally set up to be a righteous feminist  but he’s become one because he listens to me. He has ideas and thoughts and cares about equality but he would misstep sometimes or not understand something because he couldn’t, because he can’t live life like a woman because he’s not one. So he had to sometimes just stop and listen to me  and see what it’s really like and listen to my perspective and actively incorporate that into his perspective. I think that a really big issue is the lack of empathy men have for women, men don’t see women as being as human as they are.
Q: Who is your song ‘Diana La Cazadora’ (1) about?
S: Diana La Cazadora is Diana the Hunter, she is a mythical person but there is an amazing statue of her in Mexico City. Not many people know about this but in Juarez, Mexico for decades now there have been mass disappearances of Mexican women. Either never found or found in a mass grave. The political system there is very corrupt and it can be a scary place for your average hard working person. The cops do nothing if anything they perpetuate it and so I read a story about a woman who wrote into a  local newspaper calling herself Diana the Hunter and claiming credit for the murder of a male bus driver saying  ‘The bus drivers are in on it, the cops are in on it. The bus driver knows, he’s the one taking them back and forth and so he’s complicit in some way. Even if it isn’t the specific bus driver who died’. She was saying this is really fucked up  and you can’t keep doing this to the women of Juarez without expecting retaliation. I thought that was a really powerful story of revenge in an environment where there is no justice. So that song is about the woman who wrote the letter claiming to be Diana the Hunter claiming to have killed this bus driver, I still don’t know if they know if she did or not.  But I definitely know that still women are dying and disappearing in Juarez today. People should look that story up and see if there are ways they can get involved.     
Q: OK, last question! Who are currently listening to and reading?
S: I’m currently reading a book about the basics of electronics as a refresher, I work in an amp and guitar repair shop, I’m a technician there and the manager, I actually run it with Brooks our guitar player. He designs and builds the amps that we use at home- we had to rent stuff to play over here. I have more practical knowledge and experience of ‘Here is a thing in front of me. How do I fix this thing? OK now I know how to fix that thing’. I don’t have as much theoretical knowledge about electronics so it’s just trying to build up my knowledge so I know more about the ‘Why’ behind everything.
Q: ... and what bands have you been enjoying lately?
S:  Well, we are playing with Clowns (Australian punk band) tonight and a few days ago we happened to play in Vienna together, that was really fun, I actually like them. And Beyonce, I’ve been mostly revisiting the self titled album, watching the videos on my I-Pod! And I’ve also been revisiting a lot of my early Sonic Youth records because I’ve just finished Kim Gordon’s book and she was talking about specific songs and I was going ‘I got to listen to the song’ while I was reading about it!

Big thanks to War on Women for music, ideas and time and big thanks to Karolina for organising the interview.

Bibliography.
  1. http://waronwomen.bandcamp.com/
  2. Banyard, K. (2010) The Equality Illusion, Faber and Faber, London.
  3. Varoufakis, Y. ‘Artists should be feared by the powerful’ – Keynote closing the 6th Moscow Biennale, 1st October 2015 https://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/10/04/artists-should-be-feared-by-the-powerful-keynote-closing-the-6th-moscow-biennale-1st-october-2015/
  4. Mesch, C. (2014) 'Art and Politics; a small history of art for social change since 1945', I. B. Tauris, London & New York.      
 
 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Fight Rosa Fight!: DIY Feminist Warriors.



Photo by Steven Gayton.

Citing influences as wide as Bikini Kill and BeyoncĂ© Cheltenham based three piece Fight Rosa Fight! formed in April 2014 and describe themselves as 'messy Riot Grrrl/DIY punk'. Within six months of forming Lindsay, Cassie and Emily had released their first EP Step One: Start A Band following it a year later with a second EP Rotten. Inspired by feminism and queer theory and committed to overturning oppression their songs deal with a variety of subjects including inequality, class and mental health. Fight Rosa Fight! are touring and releasing a split 7" with Little Fists this August and play Loud Women Fest, London this September (1, 2, 3). Ahead of their tour they kindly agreed to answer some questions.  

Why did you get together? Was it all about making music or did you feel you had things to say from the start?
Cassie and Linz met through a feminist group Cassie had started. Linz and Emily had played in bands together whilst at school and afterwards. Cassie and Linz were at a meeting and just generally chatting about music, when they decided to try putting a riot grrrl band together. After their first rehearsal, Linz suggested asking Emily to join and Fight Rosa Fight! was born.
From the beginning the music and the message went hand in hand. We knew we wanted to make music that had a direct, strong, intersectional feminist message.

How did your name come about? Rosa Parks or Rosa Luxemburg or another Rosa...?
Both of the Rosa’s of course! We wanted the name to be bold and empowering, directly referencing feminist action.

Is there a particular scene that you feel part of or has particularly welcomed you?
The Queer and DIY Punk scenes have been incredibly welcoming to us. NANA DIY at Althorpe Studios in Leamington Spa were especially welcoming to us very early on in our journey when Linz and Cassie were still learning to play their instruments - giving us a support slot for their Martha gig. Sheffield LaDIY gave us a chance when we were still a young band and from playing there we met Petrol Girls who have been supportive and inspirational. Surprise Attacks DIY Punk night in Worcester was a turning point for us - the organizers and audience were really supportive and helped us to grow in confidence as a band. Jenn Hart of Cookie Cut at Hydra Bookshop in Bristol gave us our first headline show, which developed our confidence further. Playing Nottingham Queer Fest in 2015 was a very special and emotional gig for us, with one of the best and loveliest crowds we have ever seen.
We would like to give big thanks to all the musicians who were especially helpful and supportive by not just letting us use their gear but also offering us advice and showing us how to use amps in our early days.
Although there are still ways the DIY and Queer scenes need to become more inclusive, the culture of both bands and audiences supporting each other - giving new bands gigs, being supportive of new acts and giving musicians space to learn and grow is something to be proud of.

Social constructionists argue we construct our sense of self/self-identity from the cultural resources available to us-what resources of resistance have you drawn on in a patriarchal, capitalist society?
The DIY scene in particular has been awesome in sharing resources - especially as the resources are so varied and personal. Zine Distro’s and DIY Libraries (such as those run by REVOLT in Coventry) are excellent ways of accessing intersectional, feminist culture. Bandcamp is a great resource for bands and fans and is very useful in linking both to other acts, gigs and labels.
Gigs are very important because they can offer multi-sensory cultural forms of resistance, although it is important to mention again that we need to ensure gigs are accessible and inclusive to truly ensure that resistance and anti-kyriarchal cultural experiences truly represent, welcome and celebrate all those who have been oppressed and marginalized by mainstream culture.
Being around other anti-capitalist, social justice, feminist warriors from the DIY and Riot Grrrl scenes has been a wonderful form of resistance too - learning and growing with friends we have met through doing gigs.

Your lyrics explore some really interesting subjects; class war, the old idea of woman being derived from man, objectification. Other songs seem more personal. Do your songs deliberately reflect those two sides of concept and experience?  
Arguably all the personal things we write about are political and reflect both concepts of feminism and identity, as well as our own experiences. Our experiences are often politicised whether we choose them to be or not.
For example ‘Do What You Want’ at first listen may seem more of a ‘fun’ song but it is just as overtly political as ‘Everyday is Political’, but both songs call out to all those whose lives are political whether they want them to be or not, both songs reflect that some identities are politicized just by being ‘othered’ by society, by being pushed out of the mainstream and being treated oppressively.
Mental health has long been ignored, vilified and underfunded by our government and society, ‘We Scream in Silence’ is based on personal mental health experiences but is a love song to anyone who is hurting; it is a song both of support and kinship.

What bands and writers have you been inspired/excited by lately and more generally?
Everybody should check out Amygdala from Texas. We played with them at JT Soar in Nottingham and are quite frankly, still reeling. Bianca Monique (singer/songwriter) is beautiful, strong and wonderful in so many ways; we were utterly moved and compelled by their presence and performance.
Articles by journalist and Editor Stephanie Phillips (also of Big Joanie) on race, gender, punk and politics are important and vital. Stephanie’s recent article  ‘Are all bands who use female names alienating women in music?’ is available here - https://steph-phillips.com/
‘Treading Water’ by Petrol Girls could not be more apt, important and necessary in light of recent events in the UK.
We also love Ethical Debating Society, Spook School and DirtyGirl.
Cassie put together a zine called ‘Intersectional Politics for Punx’, the first issue dealing specifically with race in the UK DIY Punk scene; Linz and Emily would like to very strongly recommend this zine!
Finally, we are very, very excited to be releasing a split 7” record with the awesome Little Fists. We are over the moon to be touring with them throughout the UK in August. Their tracks sound amazing!

Big thanks to Fight Rosa Fight! for time and answers!


Bibliography.
(1) https://www.facebook.com/fightrosafight/info/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info

(2) http://fightrosafight.bandcamp.com/

(3) https://www.facebook.com/fightrosafight/

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Skinny Girl Diet "You're either a feminist or a masochist, choose your side"

Photo by Francesca Allen.
Attracting a headline proclaiming that you ‘..could be our generation’s Bikini Kill’(1) and having Viv Albertine comment “At last, real girls, young and believable, singing in their own voices.”(2) are pretty impressive achievements before you’ve even released your first album! Skinny Girl Diet is London based trio Delilah and Ursula Holliday and Amelia Cutler whose music is feminist, political punk that relays the experience of growing up as a young woman in 21st Century urban Britain. With a slot at this years Latitude Festival and an album, Heavy Flow, coming out in September I contacted them for an interview, they kindly agreed.

I'm in the middle of reading Kat Banyard's book 'The Equality Illusion' (3) which looks at the lived experience of women in the UK and elsewhere, it makes being a woman in a sexist, patriarchal culture sound tough. Objectification, sexualisation, harassment-are they issues you confront in your music?
Definitely. They're issues that you really can't avoid and become part of your life and experiences. In a way, it contributes to who you become as a person. No Cis man, who doesn't identify as a woman, will ever be as strong mentally as a woman due to all these factors we have to face in life. When making music you put so much of yourself into it, music is a way of putting all those experiences somewhere. We don't shy away from speaking out about our experiences with sexism because it's so important to use your voice when possible and not stand by idly or sit on the fence. You're either a feminist or a masochist, choose your side. Unfair things like objectification, sexualisation, cat- calling that every woman faces on a day to day basis, need to be confronted because otherwise, people will just think that it's just part of life as a woman.

Was that the reason you formed a band because you wanted to make women's invisible experiences visible? To confront society with uncomfortable truths?
That's a heavy weight to put on our shoulders. However everything we do we like to confront people with uncomfortable truths and we find people's reactions funny because it forces them to have an opinion. Although we've always been political, outspokenness and satirical jokes about our society come naturally to us, we don't really understand why people come to us for the answers, we are just musicians at the end of the day. I guess we all hoped that everyone was as politically involved as us. But interview after interview, we're slowly realising that no one else really cares about incorporating issues within their music or are too scared to voice their opinions. So we're getting all these questions a lot of other musicians probably wouldn't know where to begin answering. We started off with our name, not thinking it was shocking at all, It goes to show how women are treated and perceived in music when a political motive ends up being assumed when we want to play music. We all enjoy being in a band and making music together. Of course, there was a frustration of the lack of female representation and sexism against women, but our political views aren't the motive to make music, rather, a part of who we are.

How and when did Skinny Girl Diet form, did you have a clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the off or has it gradually taken shape or will it always be shifting? How would you describe your sound?
It's something that's evolved organically from just playing and jamming together for 6 years. We take influence from the music we listen to, raised by our parents on alternative and punk music but we never really wanted to sound like a particular band or anything. The sound will probably always shift as we grow and have new experiences.

You are a band that is described as feminist and political- how has your politics developed? What were the influences ? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it a continual evolving of thought?
We are all really lucky to have politically vocal, left wing parents who would always talk to us about issues and not shy away from exposing us to politics from a young age. Taking us to political marches at an early age and also festivals like Rise Festival (an anti-racism festival 2006 - 2008) at an early age which has definitely shaped our outlook on life. We're probably as outspoken as we are thanks to our family and each other. We'll always be very left wing.

What writers and thinkers have you found helpful or influential?
Amelia: There are too many to name. I really love the writing of Angela Carter. Her books are so beautifully written, her approach to womanhood was really inspirational. It made me realise just how badly male writers are at creating believable women.
Ursula: Thinkers wise - Angela Davis, Guerrilla Girls and Jenny Holzer.
Delilah: Sylvia Plath will probably be my all time favourite writer I hold the bell jar very close to my heart, at one point in my life it was the only thing I could relate to. Margaret Atwood is one of my other favourite authors both have really shaped the way I view myself as woman and how I create art.

Capitalism tries to create a sense of insecurity and anxiety about appearance in women particularly, encouraging them to construct a sense of self-based on visually pleasing society. Do you think exploring your creativity and having a sense of community can help in resisting those pressures?
In the end, it's just realising that it means nothing and knowing that it's all a load of nonsense is what helps the most. Being creative and part of a community helps build self-confidence. Loving yourself is the best defence.

There seems to have been some positive role models for young women in mainstream culture over the last few years, I'm thinking of the Divergent films and The Hunger Games series, do you think that passive Twilight type character is being rejected by most younger women?
There is definitely something bubbling in regards to women speaking out about all kinds of injustices in the arts. In mainstream culture, feminism has now started become a normal word which is positive on the younger generation as hopefully, they won't feel the judgement on calling yourself one like most of the older generation did. The choices made in movies on female characters definitely has an effect so more female leads, more female directors, more outspoken females roles, more women of colour roles and equal pay to females actors in film would be a good start.

Originally Riot Grrrl was a reaction to the US punk scene being predominantly straight white male, with all the attendant problems that brings. How have you experienced the UK Lo Fi DIY/punk scene, is it an easier space to be a women than mainstream culture?
There are two sides to it. The LGBTQIA side of the scene is genuinely lovely and a great, accepting space to be in. It's where we started and we got so much support from bands like Shopping. Then you have the other side which is very machismo and saturated with rich white boys who think they're punk. That side would probably be pretty similar to mainstream culture in terms of how easy it is to be a part of if you look just like them. They can be really condescending and assume that we can't play or understand our instruments just because we're women.

In the book 'One Chord Wonders' Laing comments that first wave punk created space for women to deconstruct and explore gender (4). Do you think that is still true of the punk/DIY scene or have hegemonic gender stereotypes reasserted themselves?
The punk scene right now doesn't feel very punk. It's very white and male, and even the nostalgic look back hasn't given women in punk the recognition they deserve. The message of punk has been lost and punk as a movement has been commodified by rich, white capitalism. The so-called scene doesn't feel very genuine.

You have had a couple of releases out (the most recent being Girl Gang State of Mind) and you have an album out in September, Heavy Flow. The album artwork is really interesting, could you talk us through the ideas you're exploring on the cover photo. And what sort of subject matter are you engaging with on the album?
Another satirical joke from us. Periods are such a natural phenomena that are regarded with such disgust. Women are expected to hide and suppress completely natural things. Women are bleeding all over the world and we wanted to contrast that imagery against the ultra glamorous image the media sells. And it's funny as hell because that's what we call our genre Heavy Flow. The album is a body of 6 years of work, with Delilah writing all the songs, it's basically us as a band in its entirety.

Last question! What are your plans for the rest of the year, will you be touring the album in the autumn?
Depends, if we're still skint might have to ask a mate with a van to drop us off, next stop a pub near you.

Thanks to Skinny Girl Diet for their time and answers.



Bibliography.
  1. Weinstock, T. (2014) ‘Punk Band Skinny Girl Diet could be Our Generation’s Bikini Kill’ https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/punk-band-skinny-girl-diet-could-be-our-generations-bikini-kill
  2. Press Release email via mutante inc.
  3. Banyard, K. (2010) The Equality Illusion, Faber and Faber, London.
  4. Laing, D. (2015) 'One Chord Wonders; Power and Meaning in Punk Rock', PM Press, Oakland, CA, USA.


Links-

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

G.L.O.S.S. 'Trans Day Of Revenge': Important, Articulate, Ferocious.

Art by G.L.O.S.S. Courtesy of G.L.O.S.S. Bandcamp.(2)
                                                                                                                                     
Over the last week I’ve been repeatedly listening to 7 minutes of some of the most exciting hardcore punk likely to be released this year. Trans Day of Revenge is the 5 track 7 minute second release by American Trans punk band G.L.O.S.S. Their first release in January 2015 was titled Demo and came out only four or five months after they had started playing together(1). G.L.O.S.S. is made up of Corey Evans on drums, Julaya Antolin on bass, Sadie Smith on vocals, Tannrr Hainsworth on guitar and Jake Bison also on guitar. That their musicianship was honed from experience in other previous bands (1) is apparent in the quality of their original release but Trans Day Of Revenge takes it up another level. The 5 tracks range in length from the 1.00 ‘Out From The Desk’ to the epic 1.54 ‘Give Violence a Chance’ which means the 'Repeat' button on your player is going to take a hammering!
It’s important to understand this band and release as an expression of Trans Resistance in a hostile culture, and judging by the comments on their Bandcamp page people have found hope, encouragement, empowerment and comfort in these tracks (2). Importantly the 5 tracks link up different resistance struggles in American/Western society, Black Lives Matter, Anti-fascism, coping with sexual abuse, LGBTI struggles. G.L.O.S.S. realise and articulate the inter-connectivity of oppression, joining the dots in a racist, sexist, heteronormative society. This band say more in 7 minutes than most manage in 7 albums!   

Trans Day Of Revenge starts with the aforementioned ‘Give Violence a Chance’ which judging by the chorus is a song of solidarity with another oppressed section of American culture. ‘
‘Fuck the peace keeping, Fuck the calm
The investigation is a fucking con
The truth is known beneath the gun
Black lives don’t matter in the eyes of the law.’ (2)

Track 4 deals with the complex pain of life after suffering sexual abuse as a child.
‘Childhood shame/internal blame
Incest bore a complex pain
We live and die/Against the grain
For ourselves we live
With pride’. (2)

Last track up is my favourite, if you can keep from moving to this you probably need to check your pulse! Title track ‘Trans Day Of Revenge’ is about strength and resistance in the daily struggle of being a Trans person in a Transphobic world.

Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit are important, articulate, ferocious, encouraging . If you doubted that punk could still be a vehicle for the voice of the oppressed, the marginalised, if you doubted it could still be a rallying call and a point of resistance and hope then listen to Trans Day Of Revenge and doubt no more!



Bibliography.

  1. Joshi, L. (2015) The Redemptive Femme Fury of G.L.O.S.S. http://archive.seattleweekly.com/home/958148-129/girls-just-wanna-live-outside-societys
  2. http://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/album/trans-day-of-revenge