Punk Rock Misogyny and Gender Roles

The article states that “Punk could, and did, free women from the more restrictively gendered roles available to them in past subcultures” Can this be true even if there was still a lot of misogyny in the Punk subculture?

While punk is not the pinnacle of gender equality in a subculture it is undeniable that it gave women in the scene a lot more opportunity than they had received in the past. For this reason I believe it gave women more freedom. It gave them a chance to explore their passions and actually be accepted or even successful. Women were given a chance to make money on their own as individuals without a man or a female group. This was a liberating move in the right direction and got the ball rolling for big female artists like Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. Once a few solo female artists gained traction it was a chain reaction to stars like Madonna or Joan Jett and today female musical stars are as common as male. Though the punk scene was vastly male, it was pretty gender fluid. Men looked like women and vise versa. This blurred the gender lines and equalized the two genders even if it was only physical. The author really sums up the impact of the punk movement on gender roles.

“Even if the gender dynamic of the New York City punk scene did not deviate dramatically from that of mainstream America or traditional rock and roll, it allowed for more flexible interpretations of traditional portrays of both masculinity and femininity. Misogynistic displays of overt masculinity coexisted alongside transgender individuals in a musical subculture which allowed women unprecedented access and agency” (Kvaran, 71)

In essence, while it wasn’t equal it was an unprecedented amount of freedom that started a revolution.

 

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Hendrix as a vehicle for hip militarism

 

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Jimi Hendrix as a soldier, with his guitar (google)

During the war in Vietnam, a construction of hip militarism evolved, using rock music as a way to boost morale among American soldiers fighting abroad. The official military radio station, Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN), broadcast music of this genre from back home, largely from San Francisco where rock n’ roll was booming as a response to the war. In a way, the antiwar messages coming from many rock artists could be seen as detrimental to the war effort, but as Kramer argues, it was incongruous, creating a collage of both antiwar and simply numbing effects, and therefore was not ideologically stable enough to constitute it being banned (137). Instead, it seemed to bring the soldiers to a more happy place in the middle of great turmoil, where their social order and racial differences were blurred, as was the case among Jimi Hendrix fans.

Jimi Hendrix was extremely influential, as “a rock star with a serious point and a former GI who became a hippie” (146). Many soldiers could listen to his music and feel a deep connection with his message for peace and understand that he knew the hardships they were enduring. He made the sounds of violent warfare come alive with his guitar, and used that not to “[announce] public opposition to the war, but rather [penetrate] deeply into the subjective core of the citizen-soldier identity” (147). He bridged the gap between citizen, rock star, and soldier, and used his experiences to evoke the questioning that was so vital to making ideological changes in Vietnam and America.

As Kramer describes, “Accepting Hendrix’s countercultural music on the official airwaves marked an effort by the Armed Forces to harness the power of cohesion in Hendrix’s songs” (150), because his music was enjoyed and shared across young soldiers of different races. On the command side, this was beneficial because it raised morale and kept the soldiers wanting to fight on, together. On the GI side, what mattered even more was that they could see the effects of a changing social order back home that was reflected in the rock music they heard on AFVN.

Video: Jimi Hendrix guitar solo during a performance of Machine Gun at the Fillmore East, c.1969 (youtube)