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June 17, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

Punk rock has a gender inequality problem. Hell, planet earth has a gender inequality problem. This is not news. The difference is that, in the punk scene, we’re supposed to be above that. Often, we aren’t. Even in the safest, most DIY of spaces, female musicians are routinely degraded, sexualized, dehumanized, and artistically disregarded by men in attendance. More thoughts are thought, and comments commented, on a female musician’s appearance, hair, outfit, whatever, than are ever uttered in the direction of or about a male musician. “Female-fronted” is painted as subgenre, sideshow, a distraction.

Some men become abhorrently belligerent and defensive when this inequality is pointed out by a woman, even if it’s done so in a way that’s thoughtful, innocuous, and intended to educate rather than outright ridicule. Most humans want to give other humans the benefit of the doubt, and they understand that we all grew up in a fucked up, classist society, and no matter how hard we try, certain facets of that societal upbringing are imbued into our subconscious and will occasionally, and often accidentally, slip out. I’m as guilty of it as any other dude; I won’t sit here and pretend that my thoughts on gender issues were or are always perfect, least of all in this piece. Nobody’s perfect because society is not and will never be utopian. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try harder to reach it.

But instead of listening to find out how their thoughts negatively affect those around them, these men will often throw on blinders, reacting to what they perceive to be an attack on their thought process or worse, retort with a blanket “That’s just how things are!” or “If you don’t like how I do it, do it yourself.” that, shall we say, is not a good look. You know how on Mad Men, the characters seem to talk at each other instead of to each other? It’s like that, but real life and with even more mansplaining. It doesn’t belong in our scene or any scene, and when a powerful man who wields considerable influence on arguably the most impressionable portion of our scene devolves into this brand of rhetoric, it’s awfully disheartening.

What isn’t disheartening, though, are the bands taking this unfortunate line of thought to task through their own work, be it outwardly critical, self-analytical or a modicum of each. Greys’ new LP If Anything is on the whole invigorating, filled with quick bursts of punk as noisy and scathing as they are thoughtful and intelligent. Vocalist Shehzaad Jiwani has a knack for coming off aggressively sardonic as his yells piercing through brick walls and of buzzing, yet melody-forward, guitars. It’s a fitting motif for a smart punk band, one that can appeal to listeners within and outside the scene. The album is both a comparable sonic continuation of the groundwork laid on 2013’s Drift and 2012’s Easy Listening and an evolution on their ideas.

If Anything’s centerpiece, though, is “Chick Singer.” The title alone is evocative enough, but its lyrics, even more so. The song lines up a selection of misogynistic tropes so prevalent in the punk scene, and deflates them one by one by pointing them out in such a subversively straightforward way that the words lose power in one way, but gain power in another.

Yeah it’s cool that you have a chick singer / nothing hotter than a girl on bass / Put down that heavy guitar now / we all wanna see a pretty face

Can’t get around / You being around / and doing all the same things

Yeah it’s cool that you have a chick singer / Break a nail don’t break the strings / Can you believe she won’t give me her number? / Yeah you know it’s the way they all swing

She’s good for a girl! / Good for a girl! / Good for a girl in her own little world! / Fuck you!

Whether or not it’s merely an internal dialogue made external by Jiwani, this is an important song that punks should listen to, take to heart and think about the next time they catch themselves unfairly judging someone based on their gender identity. It remains to be seen if “Chick Singer” will create more of an open dialogue between men on the issue, but it certainly can’t hurt the conversation.

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