Punk may be too abrasive, too noisy for the mainstream, and for that exact reason it appeals more and more to younger crowds. It speaks for people who feel disillusioned, angry, written off, or unheard. In doing research and conducting interviews, I found that for a lot of people, finding punk is a life-altering experience. It’s a sort of lightbulb moment for a confused, messed up kid, like they’ve finally found where they belong. Punk becomes a lifestyle - even without the conformity of the punk “uniform” - which I don’t think can be said about every genre of music.
Mainstream society doesn’t have a place for punk music, or the people who listen to it. Teenagers, especially the ones with piercings and unnatural colors in their hair, are looked at as “bad kids”. It’s thought that these kids are too wild, on drugs, and drinking too young. It’s almost worse for older people in the scene because society doesn’t understand why punk would be anything more than an embarrassing phase in your life. Punk is all about nonconformity, but these teenagers who dress and look like punks are conforming, albeit to a scene that allows for more originality than the mainstream. It’s almost funny that a subculture that is about being yourself can sometimes exclude people for not looking the part.
While society discriminates against punks, there is discrimination even within this supposedly all-inclusive scene. Girls have to be tougher than the guys to fit in, and being gay isn’t really something that “fits” into this macho, mostly male-dominated punk scene. While I believe homophobia and gender exclusion is prevalent in all genres and music, and in society as a whole, it’s not something you would expect to find in a scene that is supposed to be all about being whoever you want to be, and laying your true colors out on canvas to wave as a flag of individuality. Background/Introduction
“Punk gave a generation an ideology that was meaningfully their own, one that represented a counterculture to the counterculture” (Maddern). Punk rock has been around since the 1970’s, and started, like Maddern states, as a response to the free-love, hippie counterculture of the 1960’s. Punk never sustained long-term mainstream popularity, instead mostly staying in the darkness of the underground where people can hide in the shadows and feel a part of something bigger than their everyday lives. Punk music is loud, it’s angry, it is opinionated and extremely outspoken, and it’s composed of people who, mostly, don’t feel like they fit in anywhere else. It provides a safe environment for speaking one’s mind and created an imperfect, “anyone can do it” musical style.
When people hear the term punk rock, it conjures of images of bands like the Ramones, the Clash, the Misfits, and the Sex Pistols - all male bands. Punk has gone through many reinventions, with both men and women gaining recognition - both underground praise and mainstream. It came along with a very in-your-face aesthetic - leather clothing, dyed hair, mohawks, piercings, tattoos, revealing outfits for the women. Some musicians even went as far as to mutilate themselves on stage.
“Underground music culture has always been about more than the specificity of its sound,” Maria Raha says in her book Cinderella’s Big Score, and the truth of that statement is while punk is generally played louder, faster, and grittier than other rock music, it is more than just the music. It’s about the anti-establishment, anti-mainstream, anti-unsatisfying home lives, anti-misogyny attitude. Men and women involved in the scene generally take a fighting stance for what they believe in. Punk became an attitude, a way of thinking and living. Not that punk was all political anger wrapped in noise. Bands like the Misfits created their own genre of “horror punk” with lyrical allusions to classic horror movies, and Vincent Price. Even the Ramones coined such lyrics as, “hey little girl,...