Sunday, 11 March 2018

"Who invented the typical boy?": Being a man in punk

A lot of audiences see me, in my band t-shirts, patched up jackets and calling myself a 'punk' and, to be frank, there's a confusion.  You can see the familiar flash of surprise across their eyes.  They don't really see how a man can be a punk.

Most people don't think punk appeals to men.  And I can see their point.  Punk is an aggressive musical form.  It has a sharp playful sneer, a clever subverting of standards and expectations.  The clever lyricism of Poly Styrene, The Slits, Patti Smith and Vi Subversa spring to mind.  Not what you'd expect from men, who make up the majority of Bosses, Supervisors, Managers, Vice Chancellors, Artistic Directors, Police Officers, Prison Wardens and even Security Guards.  Since 1721 there have been over 70 Prime Ministers, but only 2 have been women.  Men make up 2/3s of MPs.  Men are most likely to be figures of authority, so it seems bizarre that punk music attracts the gender that upholds the tapestry of hierarchy and power, something at odds with the savage, subversive punk genre.  I guess it's just in our nature to like keeping structure and systems, whilst punk is about breaking rules and being DIY with your own rules.

Punk can be a screeching, guttural and a hammer stroke strike from the heart.  It's a passionate wrenching that drains the blood from a clenched fist and embodies teeth-gritting determination.  From Petrol Girls to G.L.O.S.S., from KINKY to War On Women it's music infected with a fury.  Typically, as a man, life is pretty good.  What's there to be so angry about?  I'm more likely to get a well-paid job, more likely to be heard & taken seriously, more likely to see my gender as the protagonist in films, more likely to have any art or music I make given a platform.  I'm less likely to have my arse grabbed, less likely to have abuse hurled at me in the street and less likely to have my drink spiked.  Plus I can pee wherever I like.

So with all these luxuries, there's very little to rail against.  No need to be furious, unlike women in bands who really have something to kick against.

And that's why festival stages are dominated by one type of gender, why most sound engineers and promoters are one type of gender, why gigs are mostly attended by one type of gender and it's quite unusual, even rare, to see a range of diversity in music.

But I hope things are changing, if slowly, so that conceptions around gender can change.  Don't assume that people are solely defined by their gender.

Now go check out the documentary So Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In?