Vending Misogyny

Women and the alternative scene

Vending Misogyny
Vending Misogyny

By Maryam Hassan

Sep 24, 2014 15:04

Rob Barbour and Maryam Hassan recently saw the same album cover on the same day. Then they saw a whole load of other things that made them unhappy. So they decided to write about it.

Here are two takes on misogyny in the alternative music scene.

Maryam is a photographer and has worked for a whole load of publications since getting herself into a pit four years ago. She’s our Assistant Editor here at Punktastic. Rob is the bassist in Fish Hook, a regular contributor with us at Punktastic, and the King of Puns.

Cover artwork by Olivier / Nolly.

Vending Misogyny

This morning I was browsing punk sites, as I do most mornings, reading up on news, watching videos etc, and I stumbled across some album artwork. I won’t mention or link to specific bands here, because I feel like giving them press is a bad idea.

The cover is of a naked woman trapped in a vending machine. She’s pressed up against it, and someone from the band is walking to the stage throwing money. Usually I tend to just ignore stuff like this, but it was on a punk website and it made me question why we give coverage to bands like this? To bands who have no respect for women at all?

Some part of the alternative scene seems to have adopted a sort of Cartman-from-South-Park attitude to life. Have you seen that episode where he goes on Jerry Springer as the crazy, out of control teenage girl and proclaims €œWHATEVA, I DO WHAT I WANT?

That’€™s how I imagine these bands are in real life. They make shirts that tell their fans to ‘fuck bitches’€, ‘€œshow us your c**t instead of your tits’ and portray women as objects because they think they are being badass and subverting the system. If you don’€™t give a fuck about what people think about you, then, in their eyes, you’re at the top of your game.

As part of my job, I occasionally find myself taking photos of bands who openly disrespect women. I used to justify it to myself by saying I don’€™t like these bands, but it’€™s work and at the end of the day I need to make money.

Now I just say no – I refuse to take photos of bands who take part in this blatant violation, and by having merch, lyrics and album-art that debases women, they are encouraging their often young or impressionable fanbase to think that things like this are OK.

Ultimately, this is why when a woman works at a show, or is in a band, or is taking photos or is promoting, there is still a common attitude that she is only there to sleep with a member of a band.

This album art, and the awful t-shirts I saw, are not something I think fit in with – or should be promoted in  our alternative music scene. This stuff also happens in punk. Whilst one of the t-shirts in question had ‘GET ON YOUR KNEES BITCH’ blazoned across their t-shirts in a ‘fuck you all’€ attempt to get attention, the punk scene is a little more low key about it.

One pop-punk band recently made some very stupid rape jokes. When they got called out on it, they proceeded to defend themselves in the ‘It was just a joke, can’€™t you take a joke?’ manner.

There is an easy solution to this. Just don’t be a dickhead. You don’t need to do this. If your band is good, your music will speak for itself, and you won’t need to desperately seek attention by acting like an awful human being.

Alright, lads? We all love a bit of banter don’t we? It’€™s all just a bit of a laugh isn’t it?

Like that time your mate Steve left his phone unlocked so you changed his background picture to a close-up of your arm bent at the elbow to make it look like someone’s arse. And remember when Alex left himself logged in to Facebook on your laptop and you managed to convince his entire friends-list that his girlfriend was pregnant?

Then there was that time we wanted to make some merch for our band that was a bit different to the usual Gildan t-shirts with single-colour screenprints on them, so we made a pair of boxer shorts emblazoned with the phrase ‘CRAZY BITCH, I LIKE THE WAY SHE RIDES THIS DICK!!!!’€™. Classic.

Wait, what? That last one? Oh, come on. It’s just a JOKE. You know, like that Dapper Laughs fella. Can’t you take a joke? What are you, some kind of feminazi or something? Besides, if a woman actually gets to see that slogan you’€™re probably already in there so what does it matter, amirite? You are such a bore. Next you’€™ll be telling me you don’t like this album artwork I’ve designed.

Oh, you haven’t seen it? It’s pretty cool, it’ll make you think. Basically it’s a dude – fully dressed (obviously, I’m not GAY, Jesus) – stood backstage looking at an adoring crowd of his fans. Then to his right, you’re gonna love this, to his right there’€™s a vending machine that he’€™s just casually tossing some money towards because he’€™s nonchalant and cool and shit. BUT – this is where it gets really clever, so bear with me – inside the vending machine, instead of quavers and fanta and all that kids€™ stuff, there’s a woman! Imprisoned! Sort of half-kneeling in a supplicant pose with a vaguely sexual look on her face.

Oh don’€™t look so shocked. It’s not like you can see her nipples or anything. No, they’re covered up with X’€™s and you can clearly SEE they’re covered up because she’€™s pushing her breasts right up against the vending machine glass, so don’t go accusing me of sexism or anything like that. It’s ART. Oh, forget it – you obviously don’€™t understand.

It’s cool though, because our army of young fans who idolise us will love it. I mean, they probably won’€™t pay that much attention to it per se, but it’ll contribute to the steady drip-drip of misogynistic culture to which they’re already exposed.

If we’re really lucky, it’ll take root on a subconscious level and help create a new generation of rock fans who think it’€™s perfectly acceptable for women to occupy involuntarily submissive roles – nothing more than sexual accessories for the adulated dudes in hoodies who’re taking their money and using it to produce shit like this.

What do you mean, ‘rape culture’? Doesn’t really affect us men though, does it? There’s absolutely no way this sort of merch creates a hostile environment around the music scene which either makes women feel excluded or pressures them to conform to some sexualised norm in order to fit in. I mean, bitches be cray right? Most of them would probably chill out if they just ‘€˜rode this dick’€™ wouldn’t they? I’€™m just saying what everyone’™s thinking. On some pants.

Putting the weapons-grade sarcasm aside for a second, there’€™s a serious point to be made here.

As Emma Watson’s recent speech at the UN demonstrated – as did the repulsive response we saw from the usual regressive corners of the internet – one of the the fastest ways we could achieve equality is if men take a stand against poisonous bullshit like the ‘ironic’€™ merch we’€™ve discussed here.

It’s no longer enough to not think like ‘those guys’€™. I know #NOTALLMEN, and not even MOST men think stuff like this is OK, but we have to start calling out this misogynistic garbage where and when we see it.

I’m not sure what kind of ridiculous world we live in where ‘Whiteknighting’€™ has some kind of stigma attached to it. But trying to act like we’re nothing but a quivering bundle of testosterone held together by beer and rape jokes is absolutely fine.

It’€™s easy to write off sexist idiocy as the work of some backwards morons, but the fact is this stuff seeps into the fabric of our scene and our society. It’€™s our role, no, our duty to take the Vanish to that fabric.