There’s a few things we need to talk about. A couple of months ago, when Kate and I went to the Emmure show, the age difference between us and the average hardcore fan hit us harder than ever before. I had to keep double checking that I was admiring dudes with facial hair as that seemed to be a surefire guarantee that they were above the age of 18. There was something that struck us far more though. As Chelsea Grin hit the stage, I glanced over at the moshpit. Around the edge stood three girls who were wearing lace bandeaus and nothing else on top. Now, if those girls were just feeling super confident about themselves and thinking ‘fuck yeah, I’m rocking this joint’, then I’ve got no beef with that. Their body language suggested something rather different. I watched them for a few minutes, maybe. They spent most of that time consciously pulling up the little bits of lace, staring nervously around the room. When they weren’t doing that, they were tentatively moving closer into the pit before moving back out again, unable to keep up with the furious slam dancing. Later in that evening, we went to the merch stand. On the way back up to the front, Kate had a slight wardrobe malfunction. Nothing major, just a little bit of bra showing, but the amount of disparaging glares from male members of the audience was shocking. The truth is, there’s not a lot of respect among young hardcore fans today. Misogyny and general disrespect runs rampant through a genre that was once a community of anger. Sure, you hated everyone else in the world, but all of the people in that room were your family for a few hours. That’s not the case any more, not by a long shot.
Lyrically speaking, there’s a few instances in today’s hardcore/deathcore/metalcore/insert-your-favourite-core that make my stomach turn. It’s funny when we’re driving along in my car and Kate yells “I want to watch you suck his dick!” in my face, but when Palmeri is snarling it out to a crowd, it takes on something a bit more sinister. The first Chelsea Grin EP is laden with violent fantasies about revenge on an unnamed woman. One song about a cheating ex-girlfriend makes sense, but the entire record is jam packed with references to diseased vaginas and choking on dick. Admittedly, it’s a trend that drops off very quickly in their career – the band start to delve into Biblical metaphors and general feelings of discontent in their later record. That first EP is a product of the follies of youth; rough and raw around the edges. Is that the only kind of anger the youth can possess though? There’s been plenty of young bands that I’ve seen around the scene at tiny shows, screaming out against bitches and sluts. Skinny, pale boys barely past school age looking wildly around a room, desperately trying to find camaraderie in the other guys in the audience, cry out that this song is dedicated to anyone that’s ever been slept around on before launching into their diatribe. These are kids that are stuck in suburbia, faced with a profound boredom that only comes from sleepy little towns where everybody knows everybody. If they’re angry about anything else, they don’t yet know how to express it past those initial feelings of being wronged, and it breeds a certain contempt. Some of this is general fuck-the-world kind of stuff. The rest is a disturbing hatred for the women who have wronged them in some way or another. And if it’s not violent, it projects the message that women are nothing more than sex objects. Although Fight Paris’ Paradise Found is a scuzzy blend of southern rock and hardcore that sounds incredible played loud, the opening line goes “Damn right that slut’s my bitch, she fucking sucked my goddamn dick”. And it pretty much goes on from there.
Yet, this is the kind of music that I love, and hardcore has been a ‘boys club’ for a long, long time. There are more female vocalists than ever before, and there’s a good number of ladies that play other instruments, but it’s still an overwhelming minority. Magazines still do polls on the ‘sexiest women in rock’. Merchandise is overwhelmingly sexist. Drop Dead Clothing’s collection is far less visceral than it used to be, but they used to have sweaters featuring dismembered girls and the phrase ‘sluts get cuts’ plastered on the back. Alternative club nights end up with guys being hailed as heroes because they get a blowjob on stage. But we get used to it. We nod and smile and go along with it all, because it’s just music, right? It’s ironic to wear the shirts plastered with ‘ask your girl what my dick tastes like’. This in itself creates a community of acceptance with no tempered awareness that actually, maybe, this isn’t that cool. I believe that we should celebrate the differences in gender, but we shouldn’t put one or the other down, or perceive that the other is weaker or lesser. We shouldn’t use women as vehicles for anger and aggression. We shouldn’t project our anxieties and our fears onto them, not when there so much else out there to be angry about. The worst part? Women are then conditioned to put each other down in these scenes. Not every girl that enters the moshpit has an agenda, but there’ll always be one who feels that she has to prove herself, to show that she’s better than all of the other women. There’s the scene queens who stand at the bar and scoff at the girls in oversize shirts and Vans. I do my best to be polite and pleasant because I just can’t stand the frostiness and the bitchiness that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. Instead of dragging each other down, we should be building each other up.
Not every band needs to be political. You need only look at Black Flag, Minor Threat or Gorilla Biscuits to know the cry of disaffected youth. Not all disappointment and upset comes from within your core. It’s okay to be angry, but we need to be responsible with it. We need to take that anger and make something better with it. And maybe use the dismembered girl metaphors a bit more sparingly.
xoxo – Robyn