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Breaking the Mold: A Girl’s Journey in Hardcore and Straight Edge

Originally Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Written by:  Ann Marie 

Introduction

I am a girl in hardcore and straight edge, and this is my story.

Discovering the Scene

When I was 14 years old, I had just entered the “scene.” I started with punk rock, as so many of us did, and eventually progressed through old school hardcore, new hardcore, pop-punk, ska, metalcore, emo, indie rock, and back to hardcore. I’ve listened to it all. During my freshman year, I became close friends with another girl who shared my passion for this music. We attended our very first show together in January of ’96. It was a small, local show featuring local bands and a modest crowd. I remember being introduced to numerous bands I had never known were operating in my area. It was an entirely new world to me, and I cherished every moment of it.

Finding Alternatives

Discovering that there were alternatives to mainstream radio music drew me deeper into a scene I had never known existed. This music had something to say, and I was all ears. Shortly after my first show, I met a senior at my high school named Rich. He was into old school hardcore and hardcore in general, and I looked up to him as a mentor. Rich exposed me to the essence of hardcore. He introduced me to bands like Minor Threat, Endpoint, and Ignite. He also introduced me to the concept of Straight Edge, which remains close to my heart to this day.

Music with a Message

Rich made me a mixtape featuring various hardcore bands, and I listened to it religiously. To me, that mixtape was exactly what I had been searching for over the years. It showed me that music could be meaningful, convey a message, and possess the power to inspire change. It was so much more than what the radio had to offer me, and I couldn’t have been happier. After receiving that mixtape, I delved into more bands. Some were punk rock, some were hardcore, some were old school, but I listened to all of them, striving to find my niche in the scene, which was gradually becoming a significant part of my life.

Aspiring to Belong

I distinctly remember a conversation with my friend at the time, who had embarked on this musical journey with me, about my desire to sing in a band. Our first exposure to a female-fronted band was while watching Standpoint perform at a local college. I had never witnessed a female fronting a band in a scene dominated by men, and I began to question why more females didn’t join bands. It seemed like they were outnumbered, and I had never imagined it was possible. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to contribute, to be on stage singing and expressing myself, just like the guys in bands did. The idea was planted in my mind, even though it wouldn’t fully emerge until almost five years later. I moved in and out of the scene, exploring different genres (mostly hardcore), attending as many shows as possible on weekends, and immersing myself in the culture. At one point, I encountered the first taste of true negativity within the scene.

Standing Up for My Dreams

A small group of individuals in my school didn’t want “new kids” like us to get involved. They attempted to belittle and make us feel inferior. However, at the shows, they represented a minority among kids who genuinely aimed to make a difference. It was at one of these shows that I picked up a zine and began reading the thoughts of a kid just like me. I felt inspired and shortly after, decided to create my own zine. My initial attempt was small but heartfelt. I printed a few pages of my thoughts on the scene, music, and life in general, and distributed them at shows. Some kids were into it, and others weren’t, but at least I felt like I had done my part. Soon afterward, I wrote another zine with a different focus and published those as well. Nothing felt better than expressing my thoughts and sharing them with people who experienced similar daily challenges. These were the kids who considered the scene an integral part of their lives. I didn’t care if most people didn’t appreciate my efforts; I was doing it for myself, and if I managed to reach a few kids who appreciated it, that was all that mattered. Meanwhile, the idea of starting a band remained in the back of my mind. It was always there, pushing me and occasionally reminding me. However, finding suitable band members proved to be challenging, and I was still relatively young.

Challenges and Progress

Transportation posed an issue, as did acquiring equipment. Nevertheless, to feel like I was giving back to a scene I was a part of, I wrote zines, took pictures for bands, and maintained a website. I wanted to do everything possible to share my ideas with a world I believed needed to hear them. As I grew older, I became more acquainted with female-fronted bands like Berzerk from Oregon, Fast Times from New Jersey, and Walls of Jericho from Michigan. These bands, featuring female lead singers, were located across the United States and were successfully conveying their messages and having a great time doing so.

Breaking Stereotypes

This is what I aspired to be a part of: to step on stage, express myself, and never have to apologize for it. Just because I was a girl, did it mean I had to be silent or relegated to the background? Absolutely not. I realized it was time to figure out how to live out my dream. Unfortunately, over the years, I observed a significant shift in the scene, and not for the better. Kids became apathetic and cold. Zines ceased publication, and some kids gave up on organizing shows because a single club monopolized all the prominent bands, making competition for an audience nearly impossible. I witnessed kids picking sides, becoming violent, disrespectful, and alarmingly unfriendly. The sense of unity, if it ever existed when I joined the scene, had vanished. I lacked a “crew,” wasn’t friends with the “cool kids,” and the high school mentality I had hoped to escape from when I was 14 returned.

The Unveiling Journey

Ever since, I had to fight my way out. As I grew older, I learned a great deal about myself and about the personalities and feelings of others. Some kids turned cynical because they saw no hope, while others adopted the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mindset. For some who had been bullied in high school, joining the ranks of bullies within the scene offered them a chance to be on top, establish a new identity, and finally take control. I may never fully comprehend the reasons behind the negative transformation, but it was disheartening at times. It became so discouraging that I gave up on my dream of singing in a band, realizing how challenging it was to gain acceptance. I had dedicated a great deal of effort to contribute to the scene, to be part of a community I shared so much in common with. It was falling apart and leaving me behind.

A Turning Point

Years passed, and I turned 20 years old. Bands like Walls of Jericho and Ber

zerk became a profound inspiration for me. These bands, with their lyrics, music, and passion, motivated me to speak up for myself. Hardcore bands like Stretch Arm Strong and Kid Dynamite, with their positive lyrics and heartfelt songs, inspired me to think for myself continually and never give up on my deepest desires just because someone else considered me unworthy. I was empowered, furious at how the scene I once called home had deteriorated into a dysfunctional family beyond repair. I reached a point where I refused to accept it any longer.

Pursuing My Dream

In December of 2001, I finally found the right people and formed my own band. The beginning was challenging; band members came and went, and we struggled with our songwriting, searching for our unique niche. I had been singing for years but not this frequently, and I had to retrain my voice as a result. As for screaming, it was an entirely new challenge. I had never screamed in music before and doubted my ability to do it, at least not as proficiently as Joanne from Berzerk or Candace from Walls of Jericho. Regardless, I worked hard at it, attempted it, and persisted. Initially, I sounded terrible, but that didn’t deter me. Practice transformed me into the singer I am today. While I can’t claim to be as talented as the female singers I admire, I know I can hold my own. The band met my musical and emotional needs. We weren’t confined to writing merely “hardcore songs” – in fact, we didn’t fit the label of a “hardcore band.” We wrote for ourselves, incorporating elements of emo rock, hardcore, metalcore, and even rock and roll into a series of songs we were genuinely proud of, regardless of anyone’s opinion.

Challenging Stereotypes

There were times when people told me I could never make it, or that I was foolish for attempting to be “just like the guys.” But I wasn’t striving to imitate the guys; I just wanted to stand on stage and share my perspective. My words had meaning, my motivation was unwavering, and no one had the right to tell me I didn’t belong. I belonged just as much as anyone else. Why? Because I had contributed for years, and I continued to contribute daily. Despite criticism and negativity, I was determined to persevere. Just take a closer look at those who criticize and belittle you – what were they doing with their lives? Many of them made no effort to make a difference; they only cared about appearing cool, attending shows, and fueling their egos by forming elitist cliques.

Taking Control

Something was fundamentally wrong with that picture, but sadly, it had become the accepted norm in the scene. I’m 21 years old now, having recently celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago. I’ve witnessed the scene evolve into something that I no longer feel a part of. Is it by choice? Perhaps. Is it because I’ve grown up? Maybe. I still cherish memories of going to shows every weekend, writing my zine, and spending time with my friends. However, things have changed. I’ve realized that the scene isn’t my entire life; it’s just a part of my life, something I can look back on with both happiness and, at times, frustration. I’m angry because things might have been different today if only kids had cared more. If they had chosen to stand up for themselves instead of following the moral majority to fit in with the “cool” crowd.

Staying True to Yourself

In all honesty, I don’t care what people think of me. I know I’m a great person with unique abilities and unwavering motivation. Nobody can convince me otherwise. I am a girl in hardcore and straight edge. Who are you to say that I haven’t made a difference? I have, and I’m living proof. I worked tirelessly to reach where I am today, the right way and with a positive mindset. I have absolutely, positively no regrets. I hope you can say the same for yourselves. Don’t let anyone make you feel small or beneath them. Never allow anyone to dictate what you’ll do with your life based on their opinions of you. Keep doing what you love, even if only one or two people appreciate it, or even if you’re the sole appreciator!

Embracing Your Power

As a female, it’s often challenging to gain acceptance from the guys, but remember, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. This is your life, and you’re in control. You’re making a difference. It will all come back to you in the end if you maintain a positive attitude and keep your head high. You are the only one with control over your feelings and actions. Don’t surrender that control. One day, it will all fall into place.

Comments
Written by Guest on 2005-12-30 15:26:47Thanks so much,I’m 15 and feeling very similar to beginning of your story. I’ve always wanted to sing/scream in a band and I know one day I will.Its tough to see all the guys around me starting bands and doing shows and not having one of my own.I know someday though I’ll find the right people.You’ve really inspired me to not give up hope so again,thanks so much.
Written by felicha. on 2005-08-30 19:29:09thank you so much :]
Written by xgimmienoise on 2005-06-16 22:57:18While reading this, I felt as if it was me who wrote it. I know exactly how you feel, thank you for putting it into words for everyone to read. 
 
 
Keep it posi.
ryan..fuck you im edge
Written by Guest on 2005-06-11 07:50:18hey, that was pretty awesome. 
 
i see something you are saying, like the unity in the scene having gone out the window. 
i dont know its still pretty unified but it could be a lot better. theres fights at almost every show i go to. everyone carrys knucks or has bats and guns in their cars. 
 
why should i need a pair of fucking knuckles to go to a show and dance and have a good time. i shouldnt. but i do. 
 
and as for it being an escape from the structure of high school, i agree i mean im a pretty social person but theres so much less drama in the scene than in high school. 
 
thanks for standing up and telling yout story 
 
love 
a guy named ryan
Written by slonik2k on 2005-03-22 14:18:49Wow. Thanks so much for writing that.
Written by xunityhaintsox on 2005-01-16 11:26:40Amazing. cant say anymore.. im glad they are women like you out there that speak up!
this article its really coolll!!!
Written by Guest on 2004-11-21 09:16:54
Written by adriana on 2004-11-16 15:43:54Word. It’s hard sometimes to go against the grain in the scene for all it’s claims of “open-mindedness” (which in many respects seems like a sham). Your story is very reassuring to read at this point when I’m about to embark on some projects I know are gonna catch alot of shit. Thanks for sharing.

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