by Whitney Davis
Throughout the course of studying the history of Hardcore Punk in relation to Reagan’s America, many “-ists” and “-ics” were inherently discussed, such as “sexist”, “racist”, “homophobic”, etc. When approaching the creation of my own project for The Event, I knew that I wanted to focus on turning a feminist lense on HC Punk because of its notoriously anti-female sentiments and general lack of female involvement within the overarching scene found therein. Considering the recent spike in cases of women coming forward to announce sexual assault and harassment that has occurred in the last few months, particularly in relation to Hollywood male elites, the connection between today’s treatment of women in Trump’s America roughly three decades after the effect of Reagan Era politics as compared to that of those lyrically discussed in HC Punk seemed more worthy of investigation than ever.
Seeing as how it’s the end of the year, let’s use HC Punk lyrics from “GG Allin’s X-mas Song” as an example of a song found at the beginning of my project that made my feminist lense-clad eyes bleed. I’ll leave the 5th-12th days of Christmas as a lyrical surprise for any who might choos to go down that rabbit hole, but, for context, here’s what the 4th day of Christmas brought GG Allin in his X-mas song: “4 calling girls, 3 french whores, 2 pecker rubs and a virgin so very horny.” Yep, that’s gross enough to stop there and give a clear indication of the sort of lyrics that might have solidified the lack of female presence in the HC Punk scene during the 1980s.
After confirming that I would for sure have lyrical content to work with for a feminist critique, I turned to the seminal American HC Punk text to determine which band’s lyrics I would be analyzing: American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush. As an appendix, Blush included a complete discography of albums discussed within his book, which I used as a primary guide. From there, I decided that I would only analyze albums produced between the years 1978-1990; i.e., the peak years of HC Punk’s cultural influence. Because many bands mentioned in Blush’s text were not ones that lyrics could be easily found for online, my final corpus of nearly 200 albums, from which I scraped lyrics off of various sites by hand, is extensive but it does not fully express all of the existing HC Punk lyrics from my selected timeframe.
To create the word list I would be using to search for within my lyrical corpus, I began by looking up synonyms for “women” online. My search was rather eye opening, and clear groupings could be determined based on negative, positive, and neutral connotations. For example, “bitch” contains a negative connotation while “dearest” is positive. How did I determine what held a negative vs. positive connotation?: living for 26 years as a female and knowing how certain words feel. Was this a necessarily scientifically proven approach, no, but music and rhetoric aren’t either…and, let’s be honest, this is a Hardcore Punk project–rules aren’t exactly kosher. From there, I decided to also look up synonyms for female sexualized body parts like the “breasts”, “buttox”, and “vagina”. Lastly, I compiled a list of words having to do with sexual intimacy which would become a bit of a miscellaneous list, though I did create a separate list for words synonymous for “rape”. Using the qualitative text software ATLAS.ti, I then used the “auto code” function to search for any use of the words from my female terminology list previously described. For context, I would include the phrase, line, or handful of lines necessary for the word’s use to be made clear in my highlighting and coding of the lyrics when reading my code report that would include only text that had been highlighted and coded.
Needless to say, the lyrics to “GG Allin’s X-mas Song” were certainly on the more offensive end of the lyrical spectrum of my corpus, but there were many degrees of offensive found between Allin’s lyrics and the lyrics of straight edge bands like Minor Threat. Once I had highlighted and coded all of the albums in my corpus, I conducted a word frequency query with a visualization output in the form of a word cloud (as seen above). What I was honestly shocked to discover at the end of my feminist analyzation was that the most frequently used word within the text I had highlighted was “love” […really??]. Though the word cloud I produced does not include context, it was surprising to find that, regardless of connotation and context, the topic relating to women that was most frequently on the tongues of HC Punkers was, in fact, “love”.
Click on the following to see a PDF of my project’s: