Whilst reading the comments from many of our lovely AP.net users on a recent article written on Wondering Sound regarding the lack of women on the Warped Tour, I became quite surprised by the reactions that our user base was having. Responses varied from statements suggesting that it's reasonable for Warped Tour to be lacking in women as there aren't many women in the scene all the way to users stating their outright hatred of all things feminist. It was not surprising to see debate about the issue - feminism and women's rights are certainly a particularly divisive topic on the internet at the moment. However, what I found difficult to accept was that folks were more willing to attack and complain about the Warped Tour for featuring a band such as Falling In Reverse than they were about the fact that, according to the article, only 6% of the tour is female. In a scene which feeds off experimentation, open-mindedness and more than a little bit of feeling like an outsider, it's hard to comprehend how so many people could not care less about ensuring that women feel like they are accepted within our world.
An excuse used for the lack of women involved in the Warped Tour and other festivals is that female heavy bands do not make the bucks. It was suggested by users that Kevin Lyman is a businessman and he has no obligation to carry out anything that may hinder him from boarding the capitalist train to heaven. Firstly, as was rightly pointed out by the original article, just because one female orientated festival failed to bring in the dollars, it does not mean that a Warped Tour which has a suitable portion of women will lead to it being relegated to playing local bars. There's a whole host of reasons for why that festival may have failed - possibly because, y'know, punk rock isn't exactly a money maker. But also, because it's not a great idea. The way the alternative music godmakers have moulded the scene is that female bands are largely less successful because festivals and music press aren't interested in seeking them out, hosting an all female festival out of nowhere is not going to change years of bias against women. The complaint about the lack of female representation at the Tour is not a request to replace all male bands with female bands, it's not even a suggestion that 50% of the tour should be female - that would only be representative of a perfect world that lacks the sexism and negative attitudes that are somehow still prevalent in 2014. It's a complaint that only 6% of the tour are female. This is not representative of the musical landscape in any way. I've been writing about music for a few years now, I've run my own blog and contributed to five websites, as well as AP.net, all of which are highly tied in with the alternative music scene. From the musical submissions I receive every single day, I know that women make up a much greater portion of the music world than than promoters would have you believe. Of course, it is certainly nowhere near equal, however, the idea that there just isn't enough talented female musicians to be figureheads in our scene in absolutely rubbish. For some reason, be it a fear of change, apathy or actual tangible sexism, our scene is a boys' club and festival organizers and music media have no interest in changing that.
Furthermore, the concept that the Warped Tour, and festivals of its ilk, have no responsibility towards trying to make the scene a more equal, inclusive place is one that sits uncomfortably with me. Of course, it depends on whether or not you believe that capitalist ventures have any form of social responsibility to the world around. If you believe that gaining the maximum amount of money at all times is always justifiable, regardless of the negative impact it may have on society, then fair enough, however this situation equates with many others. Do you believe that a factory has the responsibility to dispose of waste in a way that does not destroy the environment despite the extra cost of it? If you do, then how exactly does this differ when we're dealing with a music festival?
Yes, I accept that there are less women involved in music and, therefore, it is more difficult to source bands with female members. However, it is the fault of the leaders of the scene that this is the state of affairs. Day after day, Warped Tour and all the various organisations that set the trends and create who becomes popular in our world choose to give the limelight to all male bands, rather than cultivate young female talent. They do this solely for money - all male bands are more likely to supported by men and are seen to look good on posters for teenage girls (precisely why bands like Falling In Reverse & Black Veil Brides are stupidly popular while an excellent emo band wearing flannels will probably go under the radar, but that's a rant for another day).
When we do have a breakthrough and a woman is actually successful - Hayley Williams being the obvious example - we are bombarded with articles about her love life, her looks, her hairstyles. We are taught not to view Hayley Williams as a musician, but as a woman. Even worse, the scene has managed to turn 'female fronted' or 'female featuring' bands as a fucking sub-genre. Apparently, every band that plays vaguely rock-y music and has a female singer is a Paramore rip off. Let us forget the ridiculous amount of male bands who have similar sounds, if we have one female fronted band in the scene per decade, that's more than enough, apparently. And, of course, the handful of bands who have female members and actually make it to the Warped Tour must play the same stage, far away from the real male musicians. The ShiraGirl Stage is a way of the scene patting itself on the back and feeling super progressive when, really, it's yet another way of suggesting that women do not have a role to play in the important parts of the festival. The ShiraGirl Stage will never, ever change the opinion of a young individual who believes that the touring circuit is something women should not participate in, as they won't look twice at the stage. How you change opinions is by giving females the chance to be in the same position as a men and by showing people that they are just as capable, if not better.
So, to answer my own question (sorry if you spent time answering it, it was sort of rhetorical), the Warped Tour does not differ from a factory that should put in a little bit of effort to preserve the environment around it. As the Warped Tour and the big names in our scene have helped to create this narrative where women aren't respected as musicians because they are never witnessed as musicians, they have the responsibility to try to stop it, rather than make it worse. The vast amount of young girls who turn up to the Warped Tour are never going to translate their passion for music into creating a living out of it, if they are constantly shown by the biggest event on their calendar that they are to never be anything more than a groupie or a fangirl. There is simply no excuse for not having a greater amount of women on the tour. The Warped Tour is a chance for young bands to get to audiences that would be completely uninterested in them otherwise. Despite what Lyman seems to believe, nobody wants him to replace his headlining acts with local riotgrrrl bands that have six likes on Facebook. However, what we ask of him is, that when he picks promising, up and coming all male bands to pay his stages, that he actually goes out of his way to choose promising, up and coming bands with female members who just won't get a chance otherwise because they're not 'pretty enough' or because our scene dictates that women aren't good enough . We ask of him to help promote social change and equality and for him to do something that vaguely resembles what exactly it was that punk stood for in the first place.
Growing up is bloody difficult. It's all lovely kids' tv and pop songs and then 'bam'!, you're 14 years old. But being 14 years old isn't just an age, it's a mandatory lifestyle choice. That acne on the side of your left cheek? The acne that resembles a black metal band logo? That exists because you've had the audacity to bless the Earth with your company for fourteen years. That feeling you get every time you talk to someone of the opposite sex? The feeling like someone has just discovered your secret stash of Spice Girls' singles and is waving them behind the back of that unsuspecting girl/boy? That's only present in you because you're 14 years old. For some people, 14 is the age that they retreat in to their basements for the rest of their lives to make an existence out of Mountain Dew and 4Chan. For others, 14 means finding new bands and discovering the beautiful world of the genres that Billboard doesn't cover. For me, 14 meant discovering The Get Up Kids. Something To Write Home About, to be precise.
I remember the first time I held a copy of Something To Write Home About in my hands. I was in a local charity shop, looking for second hand releases from The Offspring or New Found Glory when suddenly I was greeted by slightly dodgy looking purple robots and a price sticker that said €3. I had (to paraphrase Macklemore) €3 in my pocket, and had read a piece in Rocksound Magazine which mentioned Mark Hoppus' love of The Get Up Kids. So, I brought it home with me. And I fell madly in love. The sugary rush of "Holiday" and "Action & Action" fit perfectly into the pop punk that had taken over my life ever since witnessing Paramore's "Pressure" on a scout of recommended videos on Youtube. I swooned to "Valentine" and "I'll Catch You". I scribbled the lyrics of "Red Letter Day" and "Ten Minutes" all over any copybook or schoolbook that I tried to study for a more than a few minutes. I jumped around my room to "My Apology". For a year or so, Matt Pryor's soft vocals and earnest lyrics soundtracked my every moment.
Obviously, I delved into their back catalogue, but at the time Four Minute Mile was too raw for my tastes, and Guilt Show and On A Wire bored me. But then I found Saves The Day and the wonderful Stay What You Are and Brand New and Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring and Jawbreaker and Weezer and Braid and.. basically my life changed. I suddenly discovered my inner capacity for intense 'emo'-ing out and telling confused looking 13 year olds in black skinny jeans with hair that had consumed their eyes sometime ago, that My Chemical Romance was not really an emo band, became an active hobby of mine. I was a child that was incredibly proud of my ability to listen to bands that no one knew, and I wanted everyone to know about it. However, being an obsessed The Get Up Kids fan is a bit of a lonely pursuit when you live in Ireland, so I made a decision. I would be the most knowledgeable emo fan in the whole of Ireland (I was fourteen! Forgive the clumsiness of my intents.) And, y'know what? There's a possibility that, maybe, possibly, I achieved my aims.
While I write this, Empire! Empire! (I Am A Lonely Estate) is playing in the background. I have a pile of records to review including a release from Two Knights. I have Old Gray's recent LP coming in the post and the wallpaper on my laptop is the logo for Count Your Lucky Stars Records. If I were to compile my top 100 albums, Mineral, Sleepytime Trio, Christie Front Drive and Indian Summer would all have a place. I bloody love emo music. I love the way we have a genre which is so incredibly widespread, that's filled with camaraderie and passion and the way that, with the occasional exception, we all keep supporting bands who will eventually have to give up because being in an emo band will never be a sustainable career. I adore the fact that grown men and women can stand before a microphone and can sing, shout, scream every last emotion in their heart before hundreds of people. Hundreds of people who feel the exact same way. Aside from every thing else, every wave of emo embodies what it is to be the underdog. What it is to really feel misunderstood. What it is to be fourteen years old and have too much acne.
In my every day life, I know two people who listen to any of my favourite bands. Two. One of them is a hardcore Neutral Milk Hotel fan that, despite his prejudices against Jimmy Eat World, has taken Something To Write Home About into his heart. The other is someone I converse with solely because he knows who Glocca Morra is. Yet every night, I go on to the Internet and I can email Cameron Boucher of Old Gray and ask for an interview, or I can go on Reddit and discuss why I think I might prefer Merchant Ships' For Cameron over Pg 99's Document #5 (bear in mind, it changes regularly). The Internet is a place where, depending on where you're positioned, The Promise Ring are a legendary band and a new The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die release can create a shitstorm. And whilst I haven't turned into 'basement 4Chan dude' yet (note yet), it's amazing how suddenly, an interest that most people in my life, people who I truly care about, tend to ignore, can become a legitimate acceptable interest and I think that knowing someone else, somewhere else thinks Cap'n Jazz should be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, makes being obsessed with this genre feel so much more awesome.
This article isn't just me showing how many emo bands I can mention in a short period of time (however, if anyone wants to challenge me, great fun could be had). I wrote this for two reasons. First, to talk about how amazing and wonderful and brilliant and fantastic emo is as a genre, but secondly to discuss how everything anyone is interested in, is worth pursuing. Being a fourteen year old, female emo fan living in Ireland was a bit... awkward. My friends listened to Usher and Ne-Yo and all of those people and were convinced that I either I was obsessed with Fall Out Boy or I didn't know what emo was. So, I stopped talking about my musical tastes and got on with knowing everything there was to know about my musical tastes. And hey, look now! I got Tiny Moving Parts' album ahead of its release, I regularly deal with Keith Latinen, a modern emo mastermind, I get to review albums and sometimes (hopefully) people actually listen to my recommendations instead of just telling me to shut up and listen to Beyoncé.
Attack your dreams and interests and pursuits and tastes with all of the vigor of an emo band playing their last ever show. No interest is silly or obtuse or stupid. If something makes you happy, it doesn't matter what other people think of it, let it make you happy. Let yourself be 'that teenager' – it's a million times better than being one of 'those teenagers'. My passion in life is listening to sad boys with crappy guitars. And it's the best thing in the world. Your passion is too.