For every woman that’s in a band, there are at least 1,000 men in bands. OK, that’s probably an exaggeration – but the lack of women in bands is apparent and often discouraging, especially for younger girls in the scene who aspire to be more than just fans.
But in the greater Los Angeles area, more women are starting punk bands and becoming further involved in the music scene. A direct result of this is a local DIY gathering that aims to include some of the best female talent in punk rock.
On Saturday in Mid-City, an event called Mujeres de Punk organized its third function to date and celebrated women in punk by showcasing local artists, photographers and bands featuring female musicians.
Mujeres de Punk, which translates to “Women of Punk,” was the idea of a male Hawthorne resident who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of women in punk music.
Eddie (who asked to be identified only by his first name) does not consider himself a feminist, but said he is an advocate for female musicians and felt compelled to organize the show based on this perspective.
“When it comes to music, I like female vocalists, especially in punk because it sounds more raw,” he said.
Beyond his musical taste, Eddie said he wanted to help his female friends and propel them to move past patriarchal sentiments in punk that discourage women from making music.
“That’s what I want people to see,” he said. “I feel like if they see more women involved, they’ll be less scared. I think women have more to say because of the way they live in modern society. If more people see more women involved in something that’s supposed to be a male-dominated thing, they’ll be encouraged and start thinking differently.”
Saturday’s event achieved that and more.
The show’s musical performances did not fail to garner respect and support for all the women who played. All of the punk bands performed with immense energy, even through technical difficulties. Highlights of the night included openers Fumigados and Atrako, each which featured female vocalists.
Fumigados kicked off the night behind their lead singer Erika’s high-pitched vocals, which were feminine and exuded raw, aggressive emotion. Extra reverb on a microphone can sometimes be a pain for listeners, but in Fumigados’s case, it was the perfect garnish for a strong vocalist.
Atrako’s style was substantially different but equally compelling. Vocalist Samahara was a petite force whose physical appearance initially tricked the audience. As she humbly approached the microphone, she seemed nervous and small, but once the band got started, the diminutive frontwoman projected cacophonous and passionate screams that were unexpectedly powerful. Her body language also became as forceful, tough and large as her voice. Atrako was fast and full of rage.
The accompanying art show tackled elements of punk womanhood in surprising yet effective ways. The exhibit included pieces by talented men and women, but the thematic concerns were largely based on issues relating to femininity, sexuality, gender, patriarchal constructs and female empowerment.
The exhibit’s curator, Boyle Heights resident Guillermo Millan, said the main criteria in organizing the art portion was that it feature punk artists from Southern California. According to Millan, incorporating the women was actually the easy part.
“Punk women are making art, stitching their own clothing, starting bands, reading about alternative medicines and spiritual enlightenment, gardening, learning self-defense, fucking shit up, and showing the world that they too have the ability to make shit happen,” he said.
One of the featured artists was 25-year-old Sharnae Caceres, whose punk embroidery was the only of its kind on display. Caceres’ decorative work filters retro, pin-up girl imagery through a lens of rock and roll and S&M. Caceres said she was most excited to take part in the event because of its mission and purpose.
“I think women have more to prove in the punk scene,” Caceres said. “If it's being in a band, being at shows, being an artist, or being a writer, there's always people who are gonna see you or your name, and think, ‘Oh, it's a girl’ like it's a negative thing. I think sometimes [we] feel like we need validation from dudes to assure us that what we're doing is fucking cool. But all these girls don't give a shit, they do it anyways, and that's what makes it great.”
Ultimately, Eddie’s goal in producing Mujeres de Punk Vol. 3 was not in vain. The show merged the best of art and music, all while manifesting a positive message for women in the scene.
“That’s the idea behind the show,” he said, “showcasing the girls involved in punk. That way other homegirls can go, ‘Hey, if this person can do it, why can’t I do it,’ and kind of spark up a chain reaction of more people getting involved.”