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A Discord in Hardcore: Examining Gender Disparities and the Quest for Inclusivity (Are You Just A Coat rack to the Boys?)

Originally Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Written by: Teresa Brat   

I started writing this piece because someone remarked, either as a joke or in all seriousness, that girls aren’t as committed to the hardcore scene, straightedge and veganism as the boys. At least from his experience, this was true. Later another discussion sprang up around the idea of the “youth crew” and the fact that, at least in the hardcore scene, it’s really associated more with a male chorus then a female one. The question of why there weren’t more females involved in bands or “youth crew” sing-a-longs at shows came up as well. Both males and females responded with their own views on why there are so few girls taking an active role in the hardcore community.

The Male Perspective

The most prominent thing I could see in the whole argument was one camp casting blame on the other camp for the lack of participation. Males see becoming active in hardcore as an easy task, and claim that many females are just lazy or uninterested. The idea that girls are not as committed as the males comes up again. The female side argued that sexism, hardcore politics and the fact that boys greatly out number girls, not only at shows but also in projects, makes girl involvement and acceptance almost nonexistent in the hardcore scene. In a lot of respects, both sides are right and this entire debate really got me thinking.

From the male perspective, it’s really easy to get involved in hardcore bands, and various other projects. I can think of a million young lads who stumbled onto punk rock, found straightedge and hardcore, picked up a guitar and formed a band. Granted it was probably a really terrible band, but like a lot of new bands, they had the support of their friends and the rest of the hardcore community behind them. In that way, the hardcore scene does really present itself as a support system as well as a tool for empowering yourself on your own terms. So it would follow that for a group of females to get together and start an all female “youth crew” band, or other type of hardcore, straightedge sloganeering band would be just as simple and empowering. You would think that women would have a lot to be angry about, and how important it would be for females to speak on their own terms about issues that are most often voiced by male members of all male hardcore bands. You would also think that the support would be there on the male side, since there seems to be such a big campaign in hardcore today that says this scene “isn’t just boy’s fun” anymore.

So, what’s really keeping the females back?

Is it really so hard for females to get past being a minority in this scene, or are we just lazy, as a lot of boys are claiming. I find it incredibly hard to believe that females either have nothing to say, or are simply content letting the boys speak for them. So, the question remains, why is no one out there or at least no one that I know of right now. Why is one female in a band a show piece or a novelty act? Furthermore, why are the females who are involved in the hardcore scene content to let the males speak for them on issues of sexism and rape and attitudes on our own involvement in this community? In my idealistic view of hardcore nothing is exclusionary. If you really want to start a project, be in a band, write a fanzine or put out records, you can. No matter what your sex, involving yourself in any project in the hardcore scene takes both dedication and hard work to make it successful. However, judging just from my own experiences and that of other girls I’ve encountered, being a female in the hardcore scene means you have to be twice as dedicated to whatever you’re doing because you are bound to take a lot of crap from within the same community that is supposedly set up to help you.

From the male perspective everything comes easy, so it’s no surprise to hear a guy tell me how easy it is to be involved in hardcore. I’ve been told that if any females involved in hardcore want to start up a band it’s as easy as gathering a group of your girlfriends together, learning some chords and scrawling some one-two-three songs down. Get someone to set up your first show, and you’re on your way. Boys have been doing this for decades. In hardcore, the male voice is heard loud and clear. We know why he is angry, depressed, jubilant and no matter if you are male or female, many of you can relate to what is being presented by your favorite bands on stage. The fact of the matter is that it is such the norm to see four or five eager young males jumping and rolling around on stage that everyone has become quite comfortable with this standard in the scene. Boys on stage, boys down in “the pit” dancing and singing along, boys on the sidelines selling records and making deals. I hate to break it down for you kids, but when you step into a hardcore show it is really hard to find a place where the females could or would fit in. In a lot of cases, like the one I stated in the very beginning of this article, females are made to feel like lesser people within the scene and that there is little to no desire among the boys for them to get involved.

“girls aren’t as committed as the boys”

Furthermore, a statement such as “girls aren’t as committed as the boys” pretty well suggests that there is very little use or need for a female presence within the confines of the straightedge hardcore boy’s club. Straightedge is about commitment. Hardcore is about commitment. Girls, however, are not viewed as fitting in to this particular scheme in many instances. When you say that females are more likely to break their edge, or drop out out of hardcore, what is that supposed to mean for me? Coming from a person who has watched more then a few boys break their edge. Coming from someone who has almost made a career out of going to shows. Comments like these only translate into: “you’re not as good as the boys.” I think in many cases I’m not even viewed on the same level as a lot of the boys doing the same things. I can feel the inequality at every show. I can see the sexism in your words and the way that you refer to the girls who are involved for the same reasons as your male buddies. We become the potential date, the bitch, the coat rack, the slut, the decoration in the back of the room while the boys are up front dancing.

Anything we do in terms of involvement is put under a microscope for scene approval

Female projects are often judged on much more harsh and demanding terms then male run projects within the same scene. We are judged based on our sex, rather then our abilities and that’s when females begin to think, “well, apparently I don’t have a place here after all.” And perhaps, for a few of the ones who could have done something really positive, that is the point where they decide to move on. Instead of seeing it for what it is, it becomes an issue of commitment. No matter what you do or how long you have been involved, there will always remain a certain segment of the scene that views you as being one step behind the boys doing something similar. For a female in hardcore you really have to love what you’re doing in order to take the amount of shit you will receive from a great majority of the community. Not to say that everyone is out to put you down, not at all. There are many people willing to help you out, but there are just as many people who are willing to laugh at girls in hardcore bands, or whatever other project you may be involved in. As much as I hear boys remarking about how much they would like to see more girls actively involved in hardcore I think a lot of hardcore males feel really unsettled about the idea of a bunch of girls becoming more outspoken and aware, thus invading a space which they have rather comfortably come to view as their own for a rather long time now.

The Need for Female Role Models

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, there is a severe lack of female role models within the straightedge hardcore scene. There are no all girl youth crew, completely hardcore styled bands, very few girls at shows and even less girls up front side by side with the boys. When you are at a show with over one hundred kids, and you can’t count more then twenty girls in the room that illustrates exactly what I am always talking about in my zine all the time. How can we expect to break down the illusion of hardcore as being boy’s only territory if we refuse to step up to the plate and make our voices heard in tune with the chorus of the youth crew? There is a place for everyone in hardcore, but you can’t lay much of a claim on that place from your spot at the back of the room. Is this just a boy’s club after all? You decide.”

*Reprinted with permission from

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