As we navigate a patriarchal world that leaves us infuriated every day, sometimes we need a soundtrack that matches our emotions. Few things are more cathartic than blasting intense music when your emotions are overwhelming, and few genres of music scratch that itch quite like punk. Feminist punk bands have been challenging the patriarchy with fast guitars and angry screams for decades – like Crass in the ‘70s and ‘80s and the “Riot Grrl” movement of the ‘90s giving birth to bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, and Bratmobile. But it took a bit longer for room for feminism to be made in lesser-known, heavier subgenres of punk. While some are no longer active, these five contemporary bands have pushed social, political, and creative boundaries, carving out niches for themselves to express fury that’s been quietly brewing for too long.
This New Orleans-based group is as beloved for their brutal, face-melting instrumentals as they are for their Y2K-informed, unapologetically pink imagery. Referring to their genre as “Barbiegrind” and “Bimboviolence,” BRAT’s bold embrace of the bubbly hyper-feminine – including using Britney Spears samples–in a genre typically characterized by dark imagery and a tough-guy attitude makes vocalist Liz Selfish’s deep gutturals hit that much harder.
An acronym that stands for “Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit,” G.L.O.S.S. was an in-your-face trans-feminist group that grew sick of the cis, white, male dominance within hardcore punk. The band’s frontwoman, Sadie “Switchblade” Smith, referred to G.L.O.S.S. as a direct reaction to the exclusion of people of color, women, transgender people, and disabled people in music spheres and in society as a whole. Fast, upbeat punk riffs serve as the high-energy backdrop for Smith’s overtly political lyrics, which touch on topics ranging from police brutality to transgender pride. Though G.L.O.S.S. broke up in 2016, their musical and political influence is still prominent.
In the world of hardcore punk, Scowl has been dominating the last few years, going so far as to make it onto this year’s Coachella lineup. Their popularity comes as no surprise, given their straightforward, punchy riffs that will be hard to get out of your head and genuine, yet controlled rage in vocalist Kat Moss’ growls. Scowl’s recurring floral motifs – in their logo, merchandise, and Moss’ on-stage outfits – show refreshing feminine self-expression in a type of music formerly thought to be a “boys’ club.”
The HIRS Collective
The explicit, continuing purpose of The HIRS Collective, a grindcore project with ever-changing participants, is “to fight for, defend, and celebrate the survival” of LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, women, and “any and all other folks who have to constantly face violence, marginalization, and oppression.” With features from such legendary musicians as Shirley Manson of Garbage and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, the collective’s typically short, brutal songs serve as a big middle finger to our bigoted world and a comfort to those pissed off and hurt by it.
Punch is a band that sounds like their name, with almost overwhelmingly fast guitars and screams from vocalist Meghan O’Neil that are so powerful and angry it feels cathartic just to hear. Though Punch has been on hiatus since 2014, their sound and lyrical content are as impactful as ever. In addition to feminism, veganism and struggles with addiction are topics common in Punch’s lyrics. The title of their 2014 album, They Don’t Have to Believe, was derived from a speech by feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.
Heavier subgenres of punk have continued to move towards feminist ideas and inclusivity in recent years, and more artists now more than ever have been making music to scream, cry, and swing fists to that actually gives a voice to those who have been silenced and kept out of heavy music scenes for far too long.