The Queer Issue: You're Doing It Wrong
Being in a Band with Two Other Girls Reveals the Unchecked Sexism of Music Journalists and Queer Punks Alike
The Queer Issue: You're Doing It Wrong
I've always wanted to write a review of a dude band in the same way that some journalists write about my band, Tacocat. Because Tacocat is a band with three girls in it, people say the stupidest shit about us—the same stupid shit they say about all female-dominated bands. My idea is pretty simple: copy any old review of Tacocat but change the band in question to a "regular band" (read: male) to see how it would turn out.
For example, I could write a review of my roommate's oh-so-male quintessential hardcore band Tit Pig. It could start out "Tit Pig is my favorite all-male band." I would, of course, praise them for "just getting out there, they are so cute." I would definitely point out that "it is just so great that they are doing it." Then I would subtly condescend to them by mentioning how long they have been playing their instruments. In the case of Tit Pig, I would definitely slip in that even though singer Sean Evoy hasn't been at it that long, he is just out there giving it his all, trying his hardest. Obviously, I'd need to slyly find a way to slip in that "it doesn't hurt that they are all good-looking dudes." I'd even go into detail describing their clothes and haircuts—drummer Chris Byrne's dreamy blue eyes, bassist Willy Nils's edgy, trendsetting dreads.
And, since I am lazy and don't know that much about hardcore, I would compare them to the same two bands all the other lazies compare them to—Black Flag and Minor Threat—since they are the easiest, most obvious hardcore bands I can think of. And then I would add that it would be so much better if Tit Pig held the same political convictions as Black Flag and Minor Threat.
Tacocat will always get labeled "riot-grrrl," but the thing is, didn't that already happen in the 1990s? And we always get compared to Bikini Kill. I'm secretly okay with being compared to Bikini Kill because I grew up listening to/loving Bikini Kill and it makes a lot of sense that I'd be influenced by them, but does it have to happen every time? Do we always have to be put in a Bikini Kill–shaped box? And does it have to come along with a complaint that Tacocat's politics aren't as "serious" as riot grrrl/post riot grrrl/Bikini Kill politics?
Maybe while you're at it, you could criticize GG Allin's "Needle up My Cock" (I know, Allin is no Tit Pig, but I've never been great at maintaining analogies) for not being, ummm—what's the opposite of feminist?—masculinist enough? We get criticized for not being feminist, not being serious, because of our party subject matter. We also write songs like "UTI" or "TSS," but, apparently, having a sense of humor about urinary tract infections and toxic shock syndrome is unacceptable to people. It's not "political" enough. Never mind that these songs are discussing generally unspeakable issues related to the female body.
I was watching a band with my girlfriend last year, and they paused to have a quick shout-out about how important their lyrics were to them by saying (about a different girl-dominated band): "Last night we played with this band that had four females, all good at their instruments, but then all their songs were about cats... and that just made me angry. It's like, we work really hard on our lyrics, and I don't wanna hear some girl sing about her cat."
My girlfriend and I were irate, since both of us were in bands that play songs about our cats, other cats, and all kinds of other apparently invalid things. I found it offensive that this political/queer/female punk band would get up onstage and trash another grrrl band for having fun subject matter. For anyone—particularly another self-described feminist—to discourage any women from making the music they want to be making is absolutely inexcusable. (Ironically, the band they were talking shit about are friends of mine from Bellingham who do indeed have a silly party band that sings about cats, but they were also part of the genius, ultrafeminist group Post-Post-Fuck-Fuck, which spawned several female bands after it dissolved.)
And this was within the confines of a queer/punk/DIY community. The straight music-journalist dudes disapprove and want us to be more political, just like the queer punks disapprove and want us to be more political. Is it your duty as a female in the punk community to have a specific political agenda when making art? I sure wish I was a dude, then—I could make party songs and not have to worry about all the people I was letting down. Meanwhile, Tit Pig get to sing about partying in the USA as much as they want and no one questions it. Must be nice.
Bree McKenna is the bass player in Tacocat.