Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gendered Performance and Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gendered Performance and Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article considers the relevance of geographical theories about gender roles and how gender is performed, to the situated context of a local DIY ('Do It Yourself) punk scene. It draws on an auto-ethnographic study carried out by the author between September 2008 and May 2009, which explored the themes of the body, gendered performativity and gendered spatialities. The study was based on the author's observations, reflections and conversations with other participants at live music events ('shows') in a particular region of the UK, but also revealed how DIY punk offers an example of an imagined community, crossing temporal, spatial and cultural boundaries with a sense of belonging and collective identity expressed by participants. The study illustrates the complexity of the relationship between punk ideologies and practices and the ways that spaces can simultaneously offer contradictory and negotiable opportunities for empowerment and resistance, acceptance and exclusion.

Keywords: Gender, Space, Performativity, Resistance, Auto-ethnography, Punk Introduction

'... even a subculture deliberately carved out to oppose mainstream norms and values ends up reinforcing masculinist ideals and male-defined gender expectations' (Mullaney, 2007, p.387)

This article considers the relevance of theories about gender roles and how gender is performed to the situated context of a local DIY ('Do It Yourself') punk scene. I reference literature on subcultures and gender and relate it to reflections from my auto-ethnographic research within the local scene studied. The thread running throughout this discussion is the tension between the nebulous political underpinnings of DIY punk, as a sub-culture, and my experiences of DIY punk and hardcore in a particular localised context (I will use 'DIY punk' to include hardcore in discussing my particular case study). Using the themes of the body, gendered performativity and gendered spatialities, this article explores this tension, as well as the often disconnected relationship between espousing progressive ideas (such as anti-racism and anti-homophobia) and acceptance of, or at times support for, reactionary values (particularly sexism). The demographic composition of the scene I was involved in was mainly white, heterosexual, male participants and men held dominant roles as live music event organisers and musicians (the live music events will hereon be referred to as 'shows'). I therefore focus on relationships between the roles played out by men and women, particularly on expressions of masculinity.

I begin by introducing the setting for the study followed by an explanation of the methods used in the research. I then explore the potential for DIY punk to be seen as an imagined community, acknowledging the fluidity of the temporal, spatial and cultural boundaries around punk, yet recognising the very real sense of belonging and collective identity expressed by many of the people I talked to. I use examples from my research to illustrate the complexity of the relationship between punk ideologies and practices, relating these examples to theories of gender and space. Finally, I provide examples from the literature of reclamation of punk spaces by women and feminist politics, as well as the potential for punk spaces to be read as queer spaces. This discussion draws from research that took place in a specific geographic and social location and so will not necessarily reflect experiences in all DIY punk spaces or scenes. Still, I hope that the examples provided will illustrate the complexity of the DIY punk music scene, particularly in relation to gender, and how the punk scene offers an opportunity to study the performance of resistance and gender. Consideration of the spatiality of punk shows illustrates the ways in which spaces can simultaneously offer contradictory and negotiable opportunities for empowerment and resistance, acceptance and exclusion. …

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