September 22, 2015 | by Christian Milam

A few months ago I found myself talking to a bartender about music. This is not unusual. I’m given to talking about music anytime, anywhere. I talk about music so much that I sometimes wonder if my friends think I’m daft about other topics. I’m not, but music has and most likely will always be my favorite subject.

Like most people, I love all types of music, as long as I find it moving or interesting. But my favorite genre is hardcore. I think it’s passionate, romantic, aggressive, and misunderstood – all aspects of my personality I look for in art.

When I mentioned my love of hardcore to the bartender, he shook his head and said, “That’s funny. You don’t look like you listen to that type of stuff.”

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I laughed it off but bristled inside. “You don’t like you listen to that music” is a variance of a backhanded compliment I’ve heard many times, mostly from men. At shows I’m usually asked if I’m there with my (non-existent) boyfriend, since it’s apparently hard to imagine a woman with no visible tattoos or piercings, brown hair, and muted clothes actually enjoying the music of Wreck & Release, Dangers, or Touché Amoré on her own accord. I must be there as an accessory to a man.

Conversely, when these men find out I’m there on my own to hear the music I love, one of two things happen: I’m either made into a novelty or forced to pass a test. Since I don’t fit the mold of your “average” hardcore fan, I must be your dream girl, a total imposter, or both.

No matter how much I know (or don’t know) about a hardcore band, or how much I express or coolly contain my excitement over seeing what I consider aural therapy in person, I don’t meet the requirements of the “true” circuit. To them, I’m a precious but questionable little minx, made doubly insidious because I won’t accept the free drink offer, I tire of the quiz, and don’t want to meet their friend.

Even on the weekends, when I don my Faith No More, Jesus Lizard, or Mastodon t-shirts (relatively tame but influential bands when speaking of extreme music, I know, guys) I get sexist “Do you really listen to that music?” questions. Yes, I really do listen to that music. No, I did not mistakenly wander into the Modern Life Is War show on my way to trivia night.

Tests of sincerity in hardcore speak to a greater, long-standing cultural belief that women cannot be anything but pleasant. If we dare to express feelings outside of niceties (and therefore submission), we are told to “calm down” and stop “acting out.” It’s a subtle form of gaslighting – what are you doing here? Do you really like this? Are you sure?

Men who find the sight of a woman at a hardcore show who looks like she just got off work at her PR desk job have clearly never worked in PR. We can definitely be angry – we’re women in corporate America. And we had to trade in our eyebrow rings for business casual.

Male attendees of hardcore shows do not have this problem – I often see bearded, ink-free dudes in flannel shirts and glasses at shows. Guys you wouldn’t take a second glance at in your local coffee shop who also happen to be really into Converge are never subject to scrutiny.

Hardcore is for life. You don’t outgrow it, even if you have to grow up. It appeals to outcasts, and those outcasts include women. All types of women. We’re not there as ornaments and we’re not someone’s bored girlfriend. We need it, too, and it’s insulting to assume otherwise.

Christian Milam is a cartoon-faced writer in Houston, TX. She needs music as though it were a person, and likes writing about that, self-image, and overcoming childhood trauma. Follow her on twitter.

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