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Sisterhood in Hardcore: Embracing Solidarity, Equality, and Inclusivity

Sisterhood in Hardcore – What does that mean? What should it mean? And why does it even matter?

Personally, I think the need for us as a collective group identifying as women to look at our own behaviors is fundamental for a more inclusive and supportive scene, one that does not mirror the same framework or operate on the same terms that patriarchal society at large uses, trying to keep women down.

My Introduction to the Scene

When I first got into metal, age 12, one of my close friends told people behind my back that I pretended to like the music ‘to impress the boys.’ I remember the moment I first heard ‘This Love’ by Pantera – standing on a bus heading into the City, listening to a mix tape I’d been given, and my heart just stopped – wondering what the fuck was this lifeblood running to my ears! I’d never heard anything like it and from that moment, life changed for the better – leading me down the road to punk and hardcore. That was not a reaction inspired to seek out a boyfriend, neither did I feel being the only girl headbanging to RATM at the school discos would help that cause either. This was the early 90s in Hong Kong – it made me a weirdo, or just ‘one of the guys’ – it certainly did not make me more attractive to them.

Expectations in the Scene

But my friend wasn’t into ‘alternative’ music. In a small, distinctly masculine scene; I thought girls and women there would surely act differently, looking out for each other, be more welcoming and take people under their wing – right?

Challenges Within the Hardcore Community

Some of my closest and most overtly feminist and political female friends are those that I met through the hardcore scene, but over the decades I’ve heard so much unfounded gossiping, backstabbing and bitchiness from women about women – which above all, just makes me sad. The main reason I got into the music, was just that – the music itself, but what I also fell in love with and what makes the hardcore community so damn special, was the counter culture; the politics, solidarity with rallying cries for action against injustice, promoting equality and human/animal rights, trying to educate each other, and to be honest, it shocked what I can only call a naïve me how often women were labeled as ‘sluts’ or negatively commented on due to just being ‘new’ to the scene. Yes, we are all only human, and sometimes take an instant dislike to people, and honestly, we often do make judgments initially on appearance but is this right, or should we question ourselves?

The Issue of Identity

We may even feel threatened as part of the minority – after feeling as if we’ve established our place within the majority; namely, the men. This in itself its an issue – often taking on one of two roles, or labels; ‘being one of the guys’ – as if being a woman AND into hardcore are incompatible – or, ‘a girlfriend,’

Challenging Stereotypes

Women’s sexuality is consistently used to demonize, disempower and marginalize. But let’s not do that to each other here; we can support women by NOT judging them on how they look, or on their sexual behavior.

Support and Solidarity

If you see a woman that has been talked about for ‘sleeping around’ – maybe that’s all she’s after – sex, and that’s her choice, and that’s okay – or, perhaps, she’s also in need of a friend, some support and would love to be part of something more, so maybe go say hello…. Don’t forget shyness & insecurity also often comes across as arrogance – a smile goes a long way in breaking the ice. I will forever be grateful to those that welcomed me, and befriended a very insecure me in the scene when I first moved to London.

We may even feel threatened as part of the minority – after feeling as if we’ve established our place within the majority; namely, the men. This in itself its an issue – often taking on one of two roles, or labels;  ‘being one of the guys’ – as if being a woman AND into hardcore are incompatible – or, ‘a girlfriend,’

Challenging Sexism and Misogyny

As women in the hardcore scene we all know what we are up against – some sexism and misogyny is very obvious, a lot is ingrained in our culture, and is more subtle, but either way, we should be supporting each other, and calling out sexist, toxic macho bullshit, not adding to it – whether in real life or online. We don’t have to, and we won’t all like each other just because we identify as the same sex, but we should not be pitting against each other because of it either. Solidarity does not necessarily mean friendship. When you are tearing down other women using those weapons, you are turning them on yourself. To combat the patriarchal system “it’s important to de-stabilize the role of men through alliances between women” according to Joanna Burigo MSc: Gender Media & Culture at LSE – not feeding the bullshit gossip of who sleeps with who (and how this supposedly is a mark of someone’s’ worth or personality), passing judgments based on things heard from fuck knows where with whatever unknown motivation, or making snide, bullying comments on the internet.

Promoting Inclusivity

If there’s a real problem, talk about it. If there isn’t, let it be, move on. There seems to be so many more awesome hardcore-punk bands with females and non-binary members in at the moment – but a lot of these bands would rather put on their own shows and form their own scenes rather than bridging across each other, even if the music and lyrics revolve around similar themes; why is this? Why are they so underrepresented within the hardcore scene? We must ask ourselves what are the practical steps we’re taking to push women’s participation in the scene. How many of us are bringing up with promoters the lack of bands with members that identify as female, or not straight? I know this is an issue for some women – feeling that gender should not come into it at all, but I take the viewpoint that gender can be discarded when the scene and society stops assigning different rules; when a certain group is excluded you need to work harder, and strategize to include them. When this is done, when there is more representation and less barriers – then we can take gender out of the equation.

Promoting Solidarity and Accountability

We sadly read continuous allegations of sexual abuse in the scene, even from band members supposedly promoting feminism. It’s not okay, and we need strength and solidarity from each other. Ultimately we want this from those that identify as men as well, to check themselves and call out each other, but we need to promote sisterhood – we deserve more – to support each other, stand up for each other, both inside the scene and the wider world.

A Final Call for Unity

Support women by not buying into the idea that there is only a certain number of women in this scene and we have to act ‘macho’ if we want to succeed in it. There is space for all us, even if we don’t want to be friends. Do not drag it down to the shit that has been used to exclude women for centuries – we deserve better, and we need to be better.

Article written with invaluable input by Sarah O’Malley – thank you. 

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