The year in sexism has been rife with offenders. From Ariel Pink’s exhausting comments, to Devin Ruben Perez of DIIV’s recent 4-Chan outing, to a barrage of Twitter banter over whether or not Courtney Love can actually play a guitar, the way that women in music are spoken about hasn’t really changed in 2014. But that’s nothing new. Women who make rock music have always been dumped into a vat of unwarranted disparagement. What is unusual about this year is the fact that, for the first time in my lifetime, it seems like female musicians dominate the alternative punk ethos in a way that has historically been relegated to men. Anika Pyle, the lead singer of Chumped, penned a year-end essay for Vulture titled “2014: The Year Women Took Over Punk Music.” In the essay, Pyle comments on the surprising increase in attention paid to female-fronted rock bands making brash and abrasive music, momentarily sidelining the historical boys club. She discusses a variety of albums released this year, zeroing in on White Lung’s critically lauded exercise in total control, Deep Fantasy, and echoing some of the themes that I wrote about in the Deep Fantasy entry in our list of the 50 Best Albums Of 2014. Pyle points out that women have always been a part of the punk scene, but they’re often sidelined or degraded as hangers-on — always the “Influenced by…” but never the influencers.
Pyle makes a pointed critique of the lazy way in which her band, and many female-fronted bands, are compared to Riot Grrrl (which recalls Lindsay Zoladz’s excellent 2011 essay “Not Every Girl Is A Riot Grrrl“) stating that:
Riot Grrrl is often referenced as the height of “women in punk,” as if we stopped making rock music in the mid-’90s. My band, Chumped, still gets compared to Bikini Kill frequently, and while I’m flattered, I can’t help but think it’s a lazy comparison based on a very narrow scope of woman-fronted punk bands. Historically, women have been always been in the “club,” but for some reason, we’ve been a lot less visible than our male counterparts. That has changed.
Pyle is optimistic about this minor sea-change in perceptions of female artists, and she draws on her own experiences to highlight the behavior that will hopefully diminish if her own band, and bands like Perfect Pussy, White Lung, Swearin’, and a host of others can hold onto the spotlight.
Critics and listeners who have put impossible standards on women in the past are lending a more open ear. I still get reviews that start with, “You know I’m hypercritical of girl’s voices,” or, “I don’t normally listen to bands with female singers… it’s just not my thing.” I’ve encountered these kinds of sexist statements from record labels, writers, and even fans. This thinking has prevented woman-fronted bands or even bands with woman members from gaining deserved recognition or exposure for decades. While there is still plenty of ignorance out there, the increased media coverage that not only my own band but also other women’s bands have gotten in 2014 demonstrates that we’ve made at least some visible progress.
If anything, this article is a plea to revolutionize the vocabulary surrounding female-fronted punk, hardcore, and just plain loud music as much as it is a tribute to the women who have stood up to what Pyle refers to as the punk “Boys Club” in 2014. You can read the entire essay on Vulture.