This morning we were tagged on an article that appeared in No Echo in regards to the use of “female fronted” as a tag. Many years ago when we started this site, we too used to include this in our headlines. Back then we chose to do that because female involvement within hardcore and punk out here in Asia in certain pockets are pretty few and far between. But after many conversations with many many women and reading through many articles on this subject, we stopped using the tag, thus you never see that written whether in the main tagline OR within the body of the post.
Our incredibly articulate friend Vanessa Victoria also wrote a follow up sharing her thoughts further on the topic and in regards to this article specifically. Check out her insightful thoughts below.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY – start a conversation – write some comments – let us know what you’re thinking.
By Vanessa Victoria
While I recognise that in many cases many of the people who tend to use “female fronted” (ew, please use “woman/women” instead) in promotional material to describe bands could be gatekeepy/monetising men, or people trying to gain social capital via virtue signalling, I disagree with this article, and I really hate this kind of surface scratching, superficial “hot take”.
1) Author entirely drops the ball on the fact that in a boys club scene, people of marginalised identities do actually look out for spaces that are implicitly SAFE and inclusive of them, and signalling with that intention (when the band agrees or requests that) is important. This is actually a really huge criteria when vulnerable people consider whether or not to attend or participate in something. This need for visibility or more obvious signals proportionately correlates with how vulnerable and prone to being victims of violence the people looking are.
While it is also true that people should be appreciating bands for their quality of music and not solely for their members (ew also, sounds like the kind of argument that segues into “music is music and should be seperate from politics”), representation and visibility is not something you can see or achieve through purely audio alone. You can appreciate a band for its members representing a marginalised community, AND be appreciative of their music and want the best for their improvement (holding them up to non-biased standards) at the same time. Who the hell said those things are mutually exclusive.
That said, there ARE bands with women/poc/lgbtq members who DO NOT WANT their identities to be at the forefront of their band or their music. That is also totally fair. Some bands prefer to write music that do not address identity politics or their members’ personal lives. In these cases, the bands themselves have every right to request that they are not described or promoted in that manner. If you are a label/organiser/publication, the best you can do is ASK how the band feels about it. It only becomes an issue if they start demanding that all other bands do the same.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with an organiser/label/band signalling that this is a safe space for people of these marginalised communities by uplifting bands that represent them. People of privilege tend to conflate this action with “cashing in” on marginalised folks, which is not always the same thing. It definitely happens, but not every instance of a band/label/organiser signalling the participation of women/poc/lgbtq members is trying to monetize their own oppression, thanks.
2) Holding space. We can only dare claim that festivals/publications/labels who deliberately source for, or reserve opportunities for people of marginalised communities are ‘tokenising’, when we are able to address and go further into discussing the systemic power structures that cause marginalisation to begin with, and also the power structures that go behind the making of these decisions. Don’t throw the bomb in and then casually turn and walk away.
A sweeping comment like this is harmful more than informative and puts down people who are actually trying to do the fucking work.
Again I reiterate that tokenising (and by extension virtue signalling/performative allyship) is terrible and DOES HAPPEN, but to say so flippantly that ALL instances of holding space is tokenisation is purely arrogant and uninformed.
In general society (and in punk as a microcosm/mirror of it), people of marginalised identities have ALWAYS had to work twice as hard to get to the same level, or even find the same opportunities as their more privileged and visible counterparts. In this case we refer to Western, white, cishet men and in the case of this article, Western, white cis women. I mention this because the author has probably not been in a place or scenario where she needed space to be held for her in lieu of her identity as a woman in the scene. Not everyone has that privilege, so this cannot be applied to all women. If you don’t like space being held for you, then you never needed it, and it’s not for you. Good for you, truly. Our only dream is that someday there will be equal space for everyone and holding spaces would become unnecessary and obsolete, but this is not the time.
Pass the opportunity on to the people who need it; try to help organisers/labels/publications do a better job at uplifting and elevating marginalised voices better- not try to dismantle it just because YOU don’t need it.
Holding space and elevating/uplifting folks who have never received the same opportunities as you do because of gender/sexuality/economic status is important fucking work in a scene that preaches equality. IT’S ABOUT TIME.
You cannot begin to fight for equality while ignoring the existing power structures that perpetuate inequality, then get offended by the uplifting of marginalised identities as if everyone has always had equal opportunity from the start (and therefore making the holding of space “unfair”). Holding space and uplifting folks within our community acknowledges and rectifies loopholes in this system of unequal power.
What’s next, gay clubs shouldn’t exist? Women-only spaces are bad? People with disabilities should not be given priority seats on the bus? After all **we should all be treated equally*** right